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NASA image of Superstorm Sandy

Climate out of control

TV meteorologists talk about climate change: An interview with Paul Douglas, plus four local TV meteorologists

OW: Do you make mention of climate change during your forecasts?
TT: I generally don't, mainly due to the format. I have about two and a half minutes to give the weather for the next few days to over 3 million people in our coverage area.

Tom Sorrells
meteorologist, WKMG Local 6


Orlando Weekly: Do you believe our planet is undergoing a significant climate change?
Tom Sorrells: That's kind of a loaded question. But I do believe our planet has warmed in the last 50 years. I believe it goes through phases and we are currently riding a warm phase.

OW: Why do you think there is such a controversy over climate change?
TS: I think there is inherent controversy over most things we don't have a clear understanding of. … There also stems a huge fight over measures to fix the problem if it is really being caused by our lifestyle.

OW: Do you think a lot of people deny climate change?
TS: The term 'climate change' doesn't actually mean global warming. The phrase 'climate change' has been hijacked by some people and now has come to mean warming in most conversations. But back to your point, it doesn't bother me when people express doubts or deny change. It bothers me when people insist that they know the answer and know it for certain.

OW: What issue relating to climate change concerns you the most?
TS: The issue that gets my attention the most is rising sea levels [and] possible droughts in areas that usually produce huge amounts of food.

OW: Are there holes in theories concerning climate change?
TS: I think both sides in this debate come to the table with research numbers and stats and models that are convincing in the moment. But there are holes in both sides. ... The word 'theory' implies [that] it's unproven. Can't get a much bigger hole than unproven.

OW: Are super storms like Sandy and other extreme weather systems something we are likely to see more frequently?
TS: No, I don't think so. Sandy was a nasty storm, but to tie Sandy to any global-warming agenda is irresponsible. Stronger storms than Sandy have smashed the East coast before. The problem with Sandy was the angle [in which] it hit the coast. The flooding was enormous.

OW: Do you mention climate change during your forecasts?
TS: I try very hard to never mention it in my regular weathercast. ... the topic is so very political and angers so many, that if you don't totally agree with some people, then you are labeled by one side or the other as a nonbeliever, not credible, misinformed, a denier, a believer, etc. It's a dangerous game. I did a piece on possible connections to global warming in my hurricane special a year ago and got overwhelmed with angry email ... from both sides of the issue. At the end of the day, I think much of our changing climate will produce "global weirdness" instead of global warming. Sandy was weird but not unprecedented. Sometimes if a record high is from the 1930s or 1940s I will point out, "Wow ... that was hot. That was before global warming!"