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The Age of Misinformation

by James Spann     •     Medium

I have been a professional meteorologist for 36 years. Since my debut on television in 1979, I have been an eyewitness to the many changes in technology, society, and how we communicate. I am one who embraces change, and celebrates the higher quality of life we enjoy now thanks to this progress.

But, at the same time, I realize the instant communication platforms we enjoy now do have some negatives that are troubling. Just a few examples in recent days…

I would say hundreds of people have sent this image to me over the past 24 hours via social media.

Comments are attached… like “This is a cloud never seen before in the U.S.”… “can’t you see this is due to government manipulation of the weather from chemtrails”… “no doubt this is a sign of the end of the age”.

Let’s get real. This is a lenticular cloud. They have always been around, and quite frankly aren’t that unusual (although it is an anomaly to see one away from a mountain range). The one thing that is different today is that almost everyone has a camera phone, and almost everyone shares pictures of weather events. You didn’t see these often in earlier decades because technology didn’t allow it. Lenticular clouds are nothing new. But, yes, they are cool to see.

No doubt national news media outlets are out of control when it comes to weather coverage, and their idiotic claims find their way to us on a daily basis.

The Houston flooding is a great example. We are being told this is “unprecedented”… Houston is “under water”… and it is due to manmade global warming.

Yes, the flooding in Houston yesterday was severe, and a serious threat to life and property. A genuine weather disaster that has brought on suffering.

But, no, this was not “unprecedented”. Flooding from Tropical Storm Allison in 2001 was more widespread, and flood waters were deeper. There is no comparison. In fact, many circulated this image in recent days, claiming it is “Houston underwater” from the flooding of May 25–26, 2015. The truth is that this image was captured in June 2001 during flooding from Allison.

Flood events in 2009, 2006, 1998, 1994, 1989, 1983, and 1979 brought higher water levels to most of Houston, and there were many very serious flood events before the 1970s.

On the other issue, the entire climate change situation has become politicized, which I hate. Those on the right, and those on the left hang out in “echo chambers”, listening to those with similar world views refusing to believe anything else could be true.

Everyone knows the climate is changing; it always has, and always will. I do not know of a single “climate denier”. I am still waiting to meet one.

The debate involves the anthropogenic impact, and this is not why I am writing this piece. Let’s just say the Houston flood this week is weather, and not climate, and leave it at that.

I do encourage you to listen to the opposing point of view in the climate debate, but be sure the person you hear admits they can be wrong, and has no financial interest in the issue. Unfortunately, those kind of qualified people are very hard to find these days. It is also hard to find people that discss climate without using the words “neocon” and “libtard”. I honestly can’t stand politics; it is tearing this nation apart.

Back to my point… many professional meteorologists feel like we are fighting a losing battle when it comes to national media and social media hype and disinformation. They will be sure to let you know that weather events they are reporting on are “unprecedented”, there are “millions and millions in the path”, it is caused by a “monster storm”, and “the worst is yet to come” since these events are becoming more “frequent”.

You will never hear about the low tornado count in recent years, the lack of major hurricane landfalls on U.S. coasts over the past 10 years, or the low number of wildfires this year. It doesn’t fit their story. But, never let facts get in the way of a good story…. there will ALWAYS be a heat wave, flood, wildfire, tornado, tyhpoon, cold wave, and snow storm somewhere. And, trust me, they will find them, and it will probably lead their newscasts. But, users beware…