Last September, a man whose job it is to predict storms started one of his own. Tweeting his thoughts on global warming during the G-20, KDKA-TV meteorologist Jeff Verszyla wrote: "Don't believe the hype!"
Those who do believe in the phenomenon, however, were quick to put the heat on the weathercaster, and after a hail of criticism, KDKA strove to distance itself from the controversial tweets. But as a study released in March reveals, Verszyla is far from the only global-warming skeptic delivering five-day forecasts.
Climatologists, who study long-term weather patterns, almost universally believe that climate change is real, and that humans are largely to blame for it. But meteorologists -- who forecast short-term weather patterns -- aren't convinced. Researchers at George Mason University and the University of Texas found that only about half of the 571 television weathercasters surveyed believed that the Earth is warming. Less than a third thought climate change was caused by humans. (According to a poll last January, 57 percent of average Americans believed global warming was occurring, while 47 percent thought humans were largely to blame.)
"I think [meteorologists] are just very misinformed," says Michael Rosenmeier, a climatologist at the University of Pittsburgh. "They're dealing with day-to-day weather phenomena, and that's way different from long-term climate trajectories.
"There is no question that global warming is a real phenomenon," Rosenmeier says. "And [man] has played a very critical role" in creating it.
City Paper recently spoke with some of our region's TV meteorologists to get their take on global warming. (Verszyla declined to comment.) Speaking independently of their employers, here's what they had to say:
Tom Atkins -- WJET, Erie, Pa.
"Man-made global warming I don't agree with," says Atkins, arguing that some data proving greenhouse gas emissions have caused global warming are insufficient, while other data are skewed. "Mother Nature is too big of an entity to be controlled by man and his efforts. She works in cycles."
Julie Bologna -- WPXI
"I'm under the belief that the Earth goes through natural cycles every 20 to 30 years," says Bologna, noting that the global-warming debate "is more political than scientific." "I would be skeptical" that global warming is man-made.
Dennis Bowman -- KDKA
"I've been kind of flip-flopping around on the global-warming fence since the mid-'90s," Bowman says. "At first, I didn't think there was a shred of truth to the idea," but now "I think there is significant evidence to show that the Earth is warming."
Still, he adds, the Earth's rising temperatures "may just be a phase. ... As far as making any connection [to greenhouse gas emissions], I think it's still up for debate."
Dr. Dave Walker -- WTRF, Wheeling, W.Va.
Walker agrees that the Earth may indeed be warming, but "What percentage of global warming is caused by human beings? It's miniscule." He adds, "I generally don't subscribe to all the exaggerated scare-mongering techniques of people like Al Gore."
Walker says he "questions the reliability of surface-temperature records." Echoing conservatives' critiques that are dismissed by scientists, he says, "There is a problem with the data."
Demetrius Ivory -- WTAE
"To be honest, I have a degree in meteorology. I am not very qualified to discuss global warming," Ivory admits. "Climate scientists know so much more. ... I can tell you what the temperature is going to be for the next five days. I can't tell you what the temperature of the Earth was 3 million years ago -- unless I Google it.
"I'm just trying to get through the next seven days," he adds. When it comes to global warming, "you have to let the experts fight it out."