Anyone who regularly tunes into WattsUpWithThat.com, the popular climate-science blog operated by Anthony Watts, will never make fun of TV weathermen again. Watts - who was a TV meteorologist for 25 years - provides a steady diet of smart, always interesting and sometimes deeply complex scientific information and opinion about global climate change. Watts is also the founder of surfacestations.org, a project that for nearly two years has been quality-checking each of the 1,200-plus weather stations of the U. S. Historical Climate Network (USHCN) to see if they are set up and maintained properly. So far, Watts and his volunteers have checked about 820 of the weather stations, which have been in place for about 100 years and are the source for the country's official average annual temperature. Watts has found that temperature data from nearly 70 percent of the stations is of questionable accuracy because the stations do not adhere to the USHCN's own quality-control guidelines. I talked to Watts April 16 by phone from his office in Chico, Calif.
Q: Why do you do your blog WattsUpWithThat?
A: Well, it's just an extension of what my life has been up until the last few years. I was a broadcaster on television - a meteorologist - for 25 years. I look at the blog as really no different. I did a daily broadcast each day in television. A blog is really just a daily broadcast in a different form.
Q: Who is your target audience?
A: I never really thought about a target audience. I took the same philosophy from broadcasting. I made it to reach as broad an audience as possible and the demographics that I get from it tell me I am doing that job successfully. I've got everything from people with high school educations to people that are Ph.Ds who are reading and commentating and sometimes even submitting articles.
Q: Sometimes it gets pretty deep - lots of scientific charts and data.
A: It does. But that is to be expected because of the broad audience we have. My job is to try to make everything understandable, even for people who are not in tune with some of the more technical details of climate.
Q: Have you become more politicized since you began blogging? Or are you primarily still a man of science?
A: Well, my main interest always has been the science. I am still of the belief that you should let the data tell you what the real story is. As far as the blog goes, the only thing I can say that I've become a little more critical of in terms of politics is that we have some people now who should be sticking to science, such as Jim Hansen (head of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, going out and advocating things such as civil disobedience (at coal-fired power plants). That concerns me.