Climate Change Reporting Brings Burnout and Threats for Weather Experts in the Midwest

Climatologists and meteorologists face hostility and resistance while communicating climate change in the Midwest, leading to burnout and threats.

The task of reporting on climate change has become increasingly challenging for weather experts in the Midwest. As they attempt to connect the dots between weather patterns and climate change, they often encounter pushback from viewers and face threats to their personal safety. This article explores the experiences of meteorologists and climatologists in the region, shedding light on the toll that climate change reporting can take on individuals and the importance of finding effective ways to communicate this critical issue.

A Hostile Environment

Chris Gloninger, a chief meteorologist at KCCI in Des Moines, Iowa, experienced the backlash firsthand. Initially expecting some resistance from viewers, Gloninger quickly found himself at the receiving end of harassing emails and threats. The negative feedback escalated to the point where Gloninger’s safety was compromised, leading to the need for security measures. The threats took a toll on his mental health and well-being, ultimately prompting him to leave Iowa and pursue a consulting job focused on climate solutions.

Exhaustion and Burnout

Martha Durr, a former state climatologist in Nebraska, also faced exhaustion and burnout in her role. Instead of focusing on scientific research, Durr found herself playing the role of a therapist, helping people navigate their emotions surrounding climate change. Despite her efforts to empathize and highlight local impacts, she encountered resistance and combative attitudes. After nearly eight years in the position, Durr decided to step away, feeling she had nothing left to give.

Appreciation for Climate Change Reporting

While the negative voices may be loud, surveys indicate that a majority of Americans appreciate climate change reporting. Ed Maibach from the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University highlights that 90% of Americans are open to learning about climate change. Trusted sources, such as meteorologists and climatologists, are particularly valued in conservative communities. The notion that climate change reporting is impossible in red states is a misconception that undermines effective communication on the issue.

Success Stories

Jim Gandy, a retired TV meteorologist from South Carolina, was the first to participate in the Climate Matters program, which aimed to explain local climate change impacts to viewers. Despite living in a deeply conservative state, Gandy’s reporting was well-received, demonstrating that climate change can be discussed anywhere. Melissa Widhalm, who presented climate science to communities in Indiana, also found that most people were willing to engage in conversations about climate change. By humanizing the impacts and focusing on local relevance, she was able to bridge the gap and foster understanding.

Navigating Pushback

Meteorologists and climatologists in the Midwest and Great Plains have learned to navigate pushback and resistance. Devan Masciulli, a meteorologist in Illinois, encounters pushback on social media but remains focused on the science. Trent Ford, an Illinois climatologist, adjusts his framing when speaking to different groups, tailoring his message to be more effective. Despite receiving threats, Ford feels supported and safe in his role.


Climate change reporting in the Midwest presents unique challenges for weather experts, who often face hostility and resistance. Despite the negative voices, surveys indicate that the majority of Americans appreciate climate change reporting and value trusted sources. Success stories from meteorologists like Jim Gandy and Melissa Widhalm demonstrate that effective communication is possible, even in conservative communities. While burnout and threats can take a toll on individuals, the importance of continuing this work is evident. By finding ways to bridge the gap and foster understanding, weather experts can play a crucial role in addressing the climate crisis.






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