Maybe I Should Have Stayed In Bed?

When station managers are forced to make cuts, hefty anchor salaries are a tempting target.

I came back to work today. Maybe I should have stayed in bed?

Yesterday, Miles O’Brien (a nice guy I know… but barely) was let go at CNN after nearly 20 years. Today NBC-Universal announced 500 layoffs–about 3% of the company. A note from a union rep says Boston TV stations are offering contract renewals with 20-25% salary cuts!

The union that represents our photographers and technicians began contract negotiations today and has already called an emergency meeting for tonight. That can’t be good news. Anything’s possible when your company’s stock, once in the twenties, closed today at $1.31.

All this comes on top of Brian Stelter’s sobering story in Sunday’s Times.

“Across the country, longtime local TV anchors are a dying breed. Facing an economic slump and a severe advertising downturn, many stations have cut costs drastically in the last year, and veteran anchors, with their expensive contracts, seem to be shouldering a disproportionate share of the cutbacks. When station managers are forced to make cuts, hefty anchor salaries are a tempting target.”

We’re not alone. Our lead story today was layoffs at AT&T. Pratt & Whitney laid off a slew of employees earlier this week.

Certainly the financial meltdown our country… no… the world is suffering is a major cause. But TV in particular and all media in general are being killed by the Internet! Though few Internet media endeavors are making money they are still undercutting old media.

Craigslist and Yelp are a print publisher’s worst nightmare. Journal-Register, which publishes the New Haven Register and a few other Connecticut dailies saw its stock close at 3/5&#162. I could buy the entire company with what’s in my 401-K if I were also willing to also take on about $650 million in debt.

Hundreds–maybe thousands of jobs in old media will be lost to companies that employ handfuls.

Any time you watch YouTube or get the forecast somewhere online you’re not watching TV. I get it. It’s tough not to be a Luddite under these circumstances. As the Times article says,

“On the Web, users can assemble their own newscast from an around-the-clock buffet of options, making anchors seem somewhat superfluous, especially to younger viewers.”

Like I said–maybe I should have stayed in bed.

Global Warming Skeptic

The problem is, the more I understand, the less I am willing to buy into the Global Warming theories. That’s especially true of the global scale models used in the forecast, and the shortcuts they have to take.

I am a non-believe in the James Hansen Goddard ISS/NASA theories concerning global warming. They receive lots of press, and Hansen is an excellent advocate.

I interviewed him in his little office at Columbia University in Morningside Heights around 20 years ago. He made a good case, accompanied by graphs and charts and his famous colored dice.

I tried to explain forcings and chaos with colored dice. One die represented normal climate for 1951-1980, with equal chances for warm, average and cool seasons. The other die was

The Climatic Skeptic In Me

Wednesday morning on CNN, Miles O’Brien and meteorologist Chad Myers, chatting.

O’BRIEN: Let’s check the forecast now. Chad Myers, you’re a little bit of a skeptic on global warming, I know.

MYERS: No, I absolutely believe that CO2 is heating the atmosphere, but also, some of these thermometers that we’ve had out in the plains for years or in the cities for years are getting surrounded by more buildings. So you get more buildings, you get more asphalt, you get more heat, so the thermometers are different. The whole — metro areas are getting warmer, where, in fact, maybe you just see — if you put that same thermometer out in the middle of a cornfield in Nebraska, maybe it wouldn’t be too much different. We’ll have to see. You know, I know that this is happening; it’s just a matter of how much it is, that’s all.

O’BRIEN: So, there’s a little bit of global paving, too, along with global warming?

MYERS: Well, there you go.

Myers comments got a quick rebuke on and spilled over to a weathercaster bulletin board I often read.

Like Chad Myers, I’m “a little bit of a skeptic on global warming.”

Here’s what I posted in the conversation after someone said, “This is a scientific issue, not a political one.”:

That one sentence cuts to the core of this controversy. Of course it’s a political issue. If it were a scientific discussion, we’d be hearing positive as well as negative implications to warming. Even in dire global warming scenarios, there are many beneficiaries.

If this were a scientific discussion, not political, graphs of CO2 levels would start at 0 ppm, not 310 ppm&#185. Starting high on the graph makes the increase look much more severe.

It seems, based on my limited contact with colleagues, that operational forecasters tend to be skeptics on the long range implications of additional CO2 in the atmosphere. I first noticed it at the “Million Meteorologist March,” when many of us were invited to the White House (excellent baked goods) to hear Al Gore speak about global warming. Most of the operational mets I spoke with that day were skeptical.

If you forecast the weather on a daily basis, you’re likely skeptical about the worst of the global warming predictions, because you’ve been burned by models and then chastised by viewers. Research mets don’t get that dose of forecast reality.

Last year I flew to Florida to see my folks. The plane stopped in Tampa on the way to PBI. As I looked out the window, I noticed the sky covered in cirrus clouds. As I looked closer, I realized they were contrails which had become diaphanous. They just hadn’t mixed out under the very weak upper flow.

I picked up my cellphone and called a friend – my expert on NWP. How, I asked, are these man made clouds taken into account in the models? They aren’t.

In fact all our short range models and certainly the multidecadal climate models, make assumptions, guesses and estimates. There’s just not enough data to properly initialize everything.

Tonight, based on the 12z runs, the models will have over predicted much of Connecticut’s temperatures by 5-10 degrees. And that’s just a 24 hour forecast!

In the meantime, I’m sure tonight many people in Fairbanks are saying of global warming, “Bring it on.”

PAFA 270653Z 00000KT 1/4SM R01L/3500V4500FT FZFG FEW001 BKN004 M43/ A2981 RMK A02 SLP123 T1433

That’s -45f with .25 mile visibility in freezing fog.

&#185 – Here’s the graph I was talking about.

Global Warming

I watched Miles O’Brien’s CNN documentary on global warming this past weekend. Miles and I met at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena a few years ago. I’ve always enjoyed his space oriented science reporting. I was more than a little disappointed in this particular documentary&#185.

I knew where it was going as soon as I heard:

But now the scientific debate is largely over. There is overwhelming consensus that the threat is real, that humans are at least part of the cause, and that something must be done.

Maybe I missed the memo. I don’t think the debate is over, and I know I’m not alone in thinking that.

This all goes back to my view that the concept of global warming is being treated as both a scientific and political concept. I don’t mind hearing about the science, but most of the time it is a partisan political story, but portrayed as a scientific one.

Ask yourself, have you ever heard anything positive about global warming? In a true scientific discussion all the effects would be presented, not just the bad ones.

In any weather change scenario there will be winners and losers – but we only hear about the losers. You never hear about how much you’ll save in heating bills or how farmers in the Northern Plains and Siberia will get a longer growing season.

Is that a big deal? I’m not sure. But I’m sure growing season changes, or less need for heating oil in the industrialized world has to have more impact than what happens on Tuvalu – an island of a bit more than 10,000 people, that Miles spent lots of time on.

Among the operational, or forecasting, meteorologists I know, or whose opinions I read in online chat rooms, most are skeptical about the whole concept. Meteorologists involved in research or theoretical meteorology are more likely to be enamored with the concept.

Recently, one of the skeptics wrote on

Here are just a few things I deal with or have dealt with in forecasting: We still cannot find and correct the cool bias in summer and warm bias in winter of the Great Lakes within forecast models. I have computer models showing me highs today and this weekend in the mid to upper 40’s with a wind off 33 degree lake water. We know the lake temp. It is factored into the models, even our local meso models, and still it cannot forecast an accurate temp. The Great Lakes, I believe, have been here as long as modern Meteorology.

He’s right. Temperatures are very tough to forecast, even when we have a total understanding of the initializing conditions. We’re not aways right, even when we don’t need to make assumptions, as we do for most global warming scenarios.

The whole concept of global warming throws many variables into the mix. It’s not just the greenhouse gases, but also the offshoots of any warming, like cloudiness or increased water vapor in the atmosphere. Many of the individual variables are working against each other. Many are not properly or totally accounted for.

I’ve told this story here before. While sitting on an airplane, waiting to take off from the Tampa Airport, I looked at the sky. It was overcast.

When I looked closer, I realized the clouds were airplane contrails that had become diffuse with the weak upper air winds over Florida. These ‘clouds’ were unpredicted. They certainly changed the heat budget below them.

How did the computer models we use for forecasting handle them? I asked a friend, someone familiar with numeric weather prediction. His simple answer was, they’re not taken into account at all.

I am not doubting that greenhouse gases can make a difference, or that the greenhouse concept is, by itself wrong. Get into a parked car on a warm sunny day. That’s greenhouse warming at its finest!

All I’m saying is, there are lots of people speaking with total clarity about a subject on which, in my opinion, the jury is still out. And, they’re doing it using forecasting techniques that only see part of the picture.

&#185 – CNN provides online transcripts for many of their shows, including this documentary.


I woke up early (for me) Wednesday, turned on the TV and saw SpaceShipOne fly to space and back. Very impressive. It looks likely this entry from Burt Rutan will claim the $10,000,000 Ansari X Prize. That’s something I first predicted back in May – though it didn’t take a genius to come to that conclusion.

OK – it cost more than $10,000,000 to develop the ship, but that’s not the point. This venture has commercial potential beyond the X Prize itself.

I watched on CNN because I think Miles O’Brien is not only knowledgeable but he’s connected and often has information others do not. I thought sitting him with Burt’s brother Dick, an aerospace legend in his own right who piloted the first non-stop round the world unrefueled flight, was a bad idea. Either Dick’s mind was somewhere else (excusable under the circumstances) or he just doesn’t have the right makeup for TV.

The plane took off, tucked under another Burt Rutan flying contraption. In this regard it was similar to the early X-15 rocket plane, launched from beneath the wing of a B-52. At about 50,000 feet SpaceShipOne was released and within seconds its rubber burning engine was pushing it toward the heavens&#185.

A minute or so later SpaceShipOne, moving vertically, began to roll. I’ve seen a number of different figures but it was at least 16 revolutions, maybe more.

Watching the roll, I assumed I was watching a disaster in the making. I knew there was no reason for the ship to corkscrew itself into space. Any second I expected to see a wing break off or parts begin to disintegrate.

Obviously none of that happened. On the ground, pilot Mike Melville said it was probably something he had done. I don’t believe that for one second.

With the backing of Richard Branson, SpaceShipOne is the prototype for space tourism. It’s not good for business to say your rocket ship is unstable or difficult to control – but it surely is.

Rutan will figure a way to get around this problem for one more flight, win the prize, and modify this design into a more stable model for commercial work. SpaceShipOne will go to the Smithsonian before it can hurt anyone.

This is a great program. The government’s space program is so top heavy, so money laden, that it has discouraged anyone else to get into the business. Rutan and people like him will change that paradigm.

Under different circumstances I would be very upset about the post-flight claims concerning the spinning. Today, I’ll let it pass.

&#185 – I have read and like to say it’s a tire burning engine. Dave Brody, former Executive Producer of Inside Space (a show I hosted under his tutelage) on the SciFi Channel and now in a similar position at, says it actually burns condoms – a much more romantic thought.