Contrarian reader Peter Barss waxes philosophical about the primal draw of radio-storms and weather-porn:
It ‘s exciting to sit in our warm, safe living rooms listening to dire warnings of impending weather doom. It’s even more of a thrill to turn on our flat screen TVs and watch weather gals and guys get whipped by wind-driven snow as they stand outside yelling into their microphones so they can be heard over the howling “weather bomb.”
We live in a society that is soft and luxurious. One of the luxuries we indulge is the illusion that if we just do everything right we can avoid all of life’s unpleasantries. Obey weather warnings and no one will be hurt on the highways. Wear pink T-shirts and bullying will go away. Warning your kid every ten minutes on her cell phone will keep her out of the clutches of the perverts hiding in the bushes.
While society at large presumes nothing bad will happen if we just do the right things, there’s something primal in us that needs a thrill, a threat of danger. We manufacture dangerous situations and enjoy them vicariously. After we’ve stocked up with groceries and turned up the heat, we can slump back in front of our TV and get our adrenaline rush without ever getting wet or cold.
After the storm we can watch hockey players beat each other up, race cars smashed to smithereens, and ordinary people humiliated on “reality shows.”
Exaggerated weather drama and all the rest of it satisfies our need to flee or fight while we snuggle under a warm blanket several steps removed from any real danger.
Most of the listeners who responded to my debate with CBC manager Andrew Cochran about the network’s (in my view) inflated coverage of weather are just fine with the CBC’s weather treatment.
This doesn’t surprise me. Some people like being frightened about weather, just as others like being frightened about crime. Lurid coverage of crime by some media has led to a sharp increase in the public perception of personal risk from crime even as crime rates have plummeted. I see a parallel with public perception of weather risk.
Two listeners added interesting points to the debate.
Geoffrey May of Margaree said forecasts have become more extreme because weather has become more extreme—a result of climate change. Maybe Geoff can supply confirming data, but my subjective impression supports his view. Let me be clear, however: It’s not detailed reporting of occasional serious storms that I object to; It’s inflated reporting of routine storms, as if they were serious. What Oran sports reporter Bill Dunphy deliciously termed, “radio storms.”
Rosemary Algar of Cape North, a listener who shares my annoyance at weather hyperbole, pointed out a subtle result of our current timorous approach. We are teaching our children, she said, that at the first sign of inconvenience, it’s OK to stay home and disregard our responsibilities to work and school.
Worse still, it’s school officials who are delivering that message.
Climate change deniers like to seize on instances of unusually cold weather to debunk the scientific case for climate change. This video, from the Norwegian infotainment program Siffer, explains the fallacy.
Water regulates climate, predominately storing heat during the day and releasing it at night. Water in the ocean and atmosphere carries heat from the tropics to the poles. The process by which water moves around the earth, from the ocean to the atmosphere to the land and back to the ocean, is called the water cycle.