Our daily weather reports, cheerfully presented with flashy graphics and state-of-the-art animation, appear to relay more and more information.
And yet, no matter how glitzy the presentation, a key fact is invariably omitted. Imagine if, after flashing the words "extreme weather" to grab our attention, the reports flashed "global warming." Then we would know not only to wear lighter clothes or carry an umbrella, but that we have to do something about climate change.
I put the question to Jeff Masters, co-founder and director of meteorology at Weather Underground, an Internet weather information service. Masters writes a popular blog on weather, and doesn't shy away from linking extreme weather to climate change:
Meeting a target of keeping global temperature from rising above 2 degrees Celsius is still possible, according to 30 leading climate and energy experts.
The authors, who include former U.K. government scientific adviser Sir Bob Watson, conclude that staying under 2 C needs "immediate, urgent action" at the highest levels of governments. The Tackling the Challenge of Climate Change report was presented at Ban Ki-moon's UN climate summit in New York.
Few people deny that humans are releasing immense amounts of so-called "greenhouse gases" -- notably, carbon dioxide -- by burning fossil fuels. Nor is there dispute about the physical process by which these gases trap some of the infrared radiation (also known as "heat") reflected into the atmosphere from the Earth's surface, preventing this radiation from escaping into space.
The simple version of the climate change story is that increasing amounts of greenhouse gases mean that more outgoing infrared radiation is trapped, and more can be re-radiated back to the Earth's surface, increasing its average temperature.