WFLA’s Jeff Berardelli is one TV weatherman who doesn’t shy away from climate change

WFLA Chief Meteorologist Jeff Beranelli
WFLA Chief Meteorologist Jeff Beranelli

With the start of Hurricane season just 10 days away, WMNF WaveMakers with Janet & Tom on Tuesday (5/21) discussed the forecast and the impact climate change is having on severe weather with Jeff Berardelli, chief meteorologist for WFLA TV.

Berardelli is the rare TV meteorologist willing to speak out directly and often about the impact climate change is having on hurricanes and our weather in general. Hurricanes are more intense and more frequent because of human-caused climate change, he said. And this season is shaping up to be particularly intense.

Berardelli has been a TV meteorologist for 25 years–including stints in Miami, West Palm Beach, and Buffalo, New York. This is his second stint in the Tampa Bay area, returning here after working for CBS News in New York City. Jeff has a degree in atmospheric sciences from Cornell University and a masters degree in Climate and Society from Columbia University. Welcome to WaveMakers Jeff.

Berardelli partnered with faculty and students at Columbia to study a frequently asked question: Why has the Tampa Bay area not been hit by a major hurricane in more than a century? It’s not just good luck, the study found. Because hurricanes start either to the east of Florida off the coast of Africa or to the south in the Caribbean, the steering winds simply blow hurricanes in other directions. It would take a big shift to send a hurricane into Tampa Bay, Berardelli said.

That doesn’t mean it can’t happen and it likely will, he said. If it does happen, a major hurricane’s storm surge would be devastating because of so much coastal development and the geography of the bay itself, he said.

Forecasters are predicting this will be one of the most active hurricane seasons in history, with 25 named storms, 12 hurricanes, and 6 major hurricanes.

That is largely driven by climate change, Berardelli said. Things are getting off to a rough start, with temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico and around the Florida Keys hitting temperatures normally not seen until August. Hurricanes get bigger and more intense as water warms. And the impact on coral reefs this year could be worse than the devastation seen last year.

Berardelli says he feels a moral and scientific obligation to address climate change directly.

“People can disagree but I don’t get my information from people I get it from scientists who study it,” he said. “Just because it’s become partisan….doesn’t change the facts about it….There’s no other reason that can possibly explain what’s going on.”

Hear the entire conversation by clicking the link below, going to the WaveMakers archives or by searching for WMNF WaveMakers wherever you listen to podcasts.

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