Heidi Cullen

Climatologist, 37

Feb 29, 2008
Outside Magazine
Heidi Cullen

Heidi Cullen photographed at Tishman Speyer Park, in Atlanta

In 2003, when Heidi Cullen started as the first-ever mainstream-media reporter to cover climate change, she didn't set out to politicize the way the world views weather. She didn't have time. The Weather Channel gave her 90 seconds a few times a week to try to make long-term climate issues relevant. For many viewers, and even a few meteorologists she worked with, that was 90 seconds too many. "They'd say, 'We can barely get a weeklong forecast right, so how can you predict what will happen 50 years from now?'" says the plain-talking scientist, who has a Ph.D. from Columbia University in climatology and ocean-atmosphere dynamics. "But that's bullshit! We know that there are nearly 6.7 billion people on the planet that spill out 7.2 gigatons of carbon dioxide. If we continue to spew at the same rate, the climate is going to get a hell of a lot warmer and a hell of a lot more expensive to deal with." Meanwhile, the Weather Channel's 87 million viewers started paying attention. In October 2006, the channel launched Cullen's show Forecast Earth, the first weekly television program dedicated to climate change. In January, the show was expanded to an hour. Now that she's getting some airtime, Cullen's goal is pretty basic: "I'm reaching out to people who watch and say, 'This is freaking me out; I don't understand the weather anymore.'"

Filed To: Culture

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