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Dave Epstein

Summer is officially here — time to show your stripes for climate change

A public art exhibit on Boston Common in 2013 depicted potential solutions to climate change. Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff/File/Globe staff

Not only is today the first day of summer, it’s also the day that many television meteorologists from around the world unite to show data about climate change. You may see the hashtag #ShowYourStripes active on social media today.

Why are TV meteorologists doing this? The answer is simple; you likely interact with your local TV meteorologist more than any other scientist, so the community is a logical group to disseminate information to the public about our changing climate.

The trend toward warmer temperatures is evident in most states in the USA. (Climate Central based on Ed Hawkins warming stripes)

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The climate stripes project was developed by Ed Hawkins, a climate scientist at the University of Reading, England. In these images, the stripes show how temperature have changed since the mid to late 1800s. Blue represents a colder-than-average year while red represents a warmer-than-average one and the deeper the color, the more extreme the change.

Whether you’re looking at small areas like Massachusetts, or larger ones like the entire globe, there’s no denying the temperature is getting warmer. Check out your favorite area of the planet.

Annual average temperatures for Massachusetts from 1895-2018 using data from UK Met Office.Graphics, lead scientist: Ed Hawkins. Data: Berkeley Earth, NOAA, UK Met Office, MeteoSwiss, DWD
Annual average temperatures for the globe from 1850-2018 using data from UK Met Office.Graphics, lead scientist: Ed Hawkins. Data: Berkeley Earth, NOAA, UK Met Office, MeteoSwiss, DWD

Over the past decade, TV forecasters and meteorologists have become less skeptical about the human influence on the climate. In recent surveys, the number of television meteorologists who support the theory of man-made warming has risen. I would even put myself into this category.

There is certainly still research and debate as to what a future world will look like, how fast the atmosphere will warm, how quickly sea levels will rise, and what will happen to the intensity of storms, including those of extra-tropical and tropical origin. However, the hypothesis that humans are influencing the climate has now become a widely supported theory. The influence on our climate by us is significant, not zero. Period.

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According to a recent survey in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, TV weather forecasters’ views are rapidly changing. Edward Maibach, Raphael Mazzone, Robert Drost, and Teresa Myers George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia (BAMS October 2017 American Meteorological Society

Because everything is so politically charged now, many in the meteorological community are perhaps reluctant to talk a lot of climate change for fear of appearing politically motivated — that’s certainly not the role those of us in this industry should be playing. Our role is to put out data and let those of you who consume it decide how you want to use it. Climate theory should not be researched, reported, or read with a political lens.

Challenging data and theories from scientists by other scientists is what makes theories stronger, but disagreeing with data for the sake of disagreeing or because it doesn’t feel real is a meaningless gesture. This is why peer-reviewed science is so important and climatologists across the world are constantly checking each other’s data to be sure it’s valid.

Global temperatures continue to warm over the past several decades.NOAA/Climate At A Glance

Every instance of extreme weather is not always going to be related to climate change. Weather happens, and it’s been happening for millennia. But by looking at longer-term trends, such as the warming of the planet, hopefully sound public policy will emerge to mitigate this change.


Follow Dave Epstein on Twitter @growingwisdom.