2014 GSA Annual Meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia (19–22 October 2014)

Paper No. 213-1
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM


DONER, Lisa A.1, MCGARRY, Mary Ann2, PERELLO, Melanie2, DAVIS, P. Thompson3 and FOLEY, Kathryn3, (1)Environmental Science and Policy Department, Center for the Environment, Plymouth State University, 17 High St., Plymouth, NH 03264, (2)Center for the Environment, Plymouth State University, 17 High St., MSC 63, Plymouth, NH 03264, (3)Department of Natural & Applied Sciences, Bentley University, 175 Forest St, Waltham, MA 02452-4705, ladoner@plymouth.edu

Television news broadcasts are a primary source of information for the public on recent and ongoing climate changes. Unfortunately, despite new evidence that broadcast meteorologists have advanced training in meteorological and atmospheric sciences (Szymanski et al, this session), large disparities persist in their perceptions of climate change. One explanation is that meteorology students lack interdisciplinary training in bio- and geosciences, from which much of the evidence about climate is derived. Here we examine this idea, by measuring the academic preparedness of meteorology students to communicate climate information. We surveyed first-year and senior undergraduate meteorology students in 10 programs across the United States using national standards for assessing knowledge on scientific processes and climate literacy (ntotal=139, nseniors=78, nfirst years=61). A majority of students indicated that college courses were their most reliable source of climate-related information, in comparison to the media or Internet, for example. Respondents show fairly high literacy on some climate topics, such as glacial ice cores and sea ice extent as proxy climate indicators, but deficiencies appear in understanding causes and consequences of climate change, such as the affect of aerosols, feedbacks from melting permafrost, and the role of CO2 in ocean acidification. Surprisingly, 88% of all respondents indicated no concern about climate change and its impacts. Survey results indicate specific areas of climate science where curriculum revision may improve climate literacy in meteorology programs. In 2010, the American Meteorological Society made curriculum recommendations to improve coverage of climate topics; it seems clear that these measures are, thus far, inadequate. To assess student and faculty confidence in communicating climate change topics to the public, we held a workshop at the 2014 Northeast Storm Conference. This workshop included a self-assessment of preparedness to talk to the public about specific topics before and after a formal presentation by a renowned climate scientist. Many participants remarked on the importance of details in the presentation in clarifying their understanding and over 50% indicated an increased sense of preparedness following the workshop (n=83).
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