ABC TV’s Paul Higgins and Seven Network's Jane Bunn are part of an exclusive group. They're two of the 75 weather presenters around Australia who we tune into to not only tell us about the weather we’ve just experienced, but what to expect, and why.
And, like the news presenters who precede them, we trust what weather presenters have to say.
Last night on the ABC, Paul delivered for the first time, as part of his weather bulletin, historical information related to climate change, showing that the highest minimum Autumn temperature over the past 47 years has risen 2.9°C . Across on Channel Seven, Jane presented average maximum temperatures for Autumn as part of her bulletin.
Last night's packages and data sets were supplied by the Monash Climate Change Communication Research Hub using data sourced from the Bureau of Meteorology.
"This is the first time that these kinds of big-picture 'climate' segments have run in weather bulletins on Australian television," the Hub's director, Dr David Holmes, said.
"The fact it happened on the same night is amazing, and we're humbled that our Hub has supplied the information for these packages."
"We're also thrilled that the two presenters who have taken leadership on this idea happen to be Monash alumni."
The initiative was developed over the past year by the Hub and followed a detailed survey of 750 capital city TV viewers, and weather presenters.
It found that 88 per cent of people surveyed were interested in having climate information included in TV weather bulletins.
Moreover, when surveyed, 91 per cent of the weather presenters were keen to present such information, paving the way for last night's ABC debut.
The Hub hopes other networks will come on board and is working with Leader Community News to deliver similar packages.
Dr Holmes said weather presenters were a perfect fit to deliver climate information, and the model had already proved successful overseas.
“Weather presenters are able to command quite a large and loyal following – they're heavily promoted as experts in their field and are among the most trusted media personalities,” Dr Holmes said.
“This places them in a unique position to expand on what they already do and include climate information in their nightly weather bulletins.”
Dr Holmes said Australians were increasingly noticing more and more extreme weather, and turned to weather presenters as the obvious communicators to explain the climate change context of these events.
“This isn’t an exercise designed to persuade the viewers one way or the other about climate change,” he said. “TV weather bulletins simply offer an opportunity to present factual information about climate.
“Australians have choices to make about how they address and adapt to climate change, and learning from trusted sources empowers them to make these choices,” he said.
The Hub project has been funded by the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation and the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning. It's inspired by the work of the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University, and Climate Central in the United States, which has more than 400 weather presenters delivering climate information.
The Hub sources information from the Bureau of Meteorology to graph historical trends, while the Climate Science Centre at CSIRO is partnering with the Hub to make future projections of temperature for regions out to 2050 and 2090.
The projections will be based on both high and low greenhouse emissions pathways, so that audiences can see the impact of community emissions on global trends.
The Hub is also working with Leader Community News in Melbourne to deliver climate packages based on local weather stations to its 1.6 million readers over two years to achieve 160 million unique views.
The Hub’s research has found that when climate information is localised, and repeated often to large audiences, it's no longer seen as a distant problem and becomes very meaningful to audiences.
Dr Holmes expects that the programs will help reduce the perception gap among Victorians about climate change, and help generate debate.
A recent Sustainability Victoria study found that while 78 per cent of Victorians were concerned about climate change, only 48 per cent thought that others were concerned.
Dr Holmes said this meant they were less likely to raise climate change in conversation, because they assumed others weren't as interested as they were.
“When they see easy-to-visualise graphs of local climate information on TV or in their community newspapers, which they know is also being seen by millions of others, we expect they'll be much more likely to discuss climate change with family and friends, and begin to take on climate change as a challenge in their everyday lives,” he said.
The move to have Australia’s weather presenters include climate information is part of a global trend.
The World Meteorological Organisation, an agency of the United Nations, has for several years made entreaties to weather presenters to include climate information in their bulletins.