Is Strange Weather in the Air? A Study of U.S. National Network News Coverage of Extreme Weather Events

Abstract

This paper asks whether extreme weather events are becoming more discernible. It uses the Vanderbilt University Television News Archives to determine if annual coverage given to heat waves, droughts, hurricanes and floods has increased on the network news between 1968 and 1996. An index of extreme weather events shows a clear trend toward increased coverage, especially since 1988. However, the different types of extreme events do not receive equal coverage: for example, annual peaks for droughts contain about twice as many stories as the peaks for heat waves. The data further reveal that there is no association between coverage of climate change and the overall coverage of extreme events. While extreme events have attracted more stories in the U.S., there has been no increase in the coverage devoted to extreme events in foreign countries. The possible effects of shifts in TV coverage on the public salience and understanding of climate change are discussed.

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Ungar, S. Is Strange Weather in the Air? A Study of U.S. National Network News Coverage of Extreme Weather Events. Climatic Change 41, 133–150 (1999). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1005417410867

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Keywords

  • Climate Change
  • Heat Wave
  • Extreme Event
  • Clear Trend
  • Foreign Country