How can I help my audiences understand climate change issues?

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Among climate and meteorology professionals, it may be so obvious as to sometimes be taken for granted, but it’s important to communicate that climate science and meteorology are in fact separate and distinct disciplines. Here’s an everyday analogy: Climate informs us on what wardrobe to buy, weather on what clothes to wear on a particular day.

Short-term weather events likely have little or no direct bearing on long-term climate trends, which becomes more clear at larger time and space scales. One way to convey this distinction would be to take a few seconds at the start of each month to report the previous month’s climate trends (departures in monthly temperature and precipitation). Many U.S. cities have experienced a year or more of above-average monthly readings despite the passage of cold fronts and warm fronts. This would help convey to viewers that climate evolves even as day-to-day weather trends come and go.

Staying abreast of new research via one’s professional organizations and widely respected scientific sources on climate change also can be key. Following are a few links to agencies and professional organizations respected for their scientific expertise on climate change issues:

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

IPCC responses to “Frequently Asked Questions

American Meteorological Society Statement on Climate Change

Home page of the National Academy of Sciences, with links to climate change publications and reports

American Geophysical Union Statement on Climate Change

Understanding Climate Change: From Global Warming to Regional Effects.” University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR)

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