News Media Coverage of Seasonal Forecasts: The Case of Winter 1982–83

William E. Riebsame Department of Geography, University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyo. 82701

Search for other papers by William E. Riebsame in
Current site
Google Scholar
PubMed
Close
Restricted access

Public interest in the 1982–83 winter forecast was heightened by antecedent press coverage of the possible effects of a solar luminosity decline and the El Chichon eruption on the climate. During the late summer and fall of 1982, several private climatologists and “folk forecasters” issued statements calling for an exceptionally cold winter, especially in the eastern United States. The National Weather Service (NWS) forecast, issued on 29 November, contradicted these early, dire predictions by calling for warmer-than-normal winter temperatures in the East. The NWS forecast was carried by slightly more than half of the U.S. daily newspapers, but by only a few weekly newspapers. The reporting was generally quite accurate, although some problems emerged in headlining and in using maps along with stories. The apparent controversy between official and private forecasts was mentioned in virtually every news article. Communication problems such as those surrounding the winter forecast should be of as great a concern to forecasters as is basic accuracy: both affect forecast usefulness.

Public interest in the 1982–83 winter forecast was heightened by antecedent press coverage of the possible effects of a solar luminosity decline and the El Chichon eruption on the climate. During the late summer and fall of 1982, several private climatologists and “folk forecasters” issued statements calling for an exceptionally cold winter, especially in the eastern United States. The National Weather Service (NWS) forecast, issued on 29 November, contradicted these early, dire predictions by calling for warmer-than-normal winter temperatures in the East. The NWS forecast was carried by slightly more than half of the U.S. daily newspapers, but by only a few weekly newspapers. The reporting was generally quite accurate, although some problems emerged in headlining and in using maps along with stories. The apparent controversy between official and private forecasts was mentioned in virtually every news article. Communication problems such as those surrounding the winter forecast should be of as great a concern to forecasters as is basic accuracy: both affect forecast usefulness.

Save