Kudos to NBC's Williams for Acknowledging Unfulfilled Hurricane Forecasts

NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams ended his newscast from Amman Thursday night with "a confession." Williams acknowledged: "We got something wrong. It wasn't just us. It was everyone in the news media and the folks in the federal government who are supposed to be the experts at predicting hurricanes. You may recall the dire predictions." Williams showed a clip from May of himself worrying about whether New Orleans was "ready" for another hurricane. He then reminded viewers of how the forecast was for "between eight and 10 hurricanes and half of those would be major, we were told, meaning at least Category 3."

Williams pointed out: "Well, the season officially ended today back home, and we are happy to report, what did happen, turns out, wasn't even close. There were only nine named storms, not 16 of them. Five hurricanes, none of them making landfall in the U.S. And only two of the storms, Gordon and Helene, were strong enough to be called anything close to major."

Now, will other journalists -- who eagerly hyped the dire forecasts for the first hurricane season after Katrina -- follow Williams' lead?

Dan Gainor of the MRC's Business & Media Institute penned a commentary this week, "Hurricane Hype Clouds Warming Debate: Despite wild weather predictions and warnings about global warming, media must watch quiet season blow by," with a look back at some of the media hype.

The MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video for the recognition by Williams at the end of the November 30 NBC Nightly News from Amman, Jordan:
"Finally tonight, we have a confession. We got something wrong. It wasn't just us. It was everyone in the news media and the folks in the federal government who are supposed to be the experts at predicting hurricanes. You may recall the dire predictions. It was earlier this year, the night of May 31st. We were broadcasting from New Orleans that night on the eve of the 2006 Atlantic storm season. And this is how we opened the broadcast that night."

Williams, from outside in New Orleans on May 31: "Good evening, and we are indeed back in New Orleans tonight because this is the eve of the start of the 2006 hurricane season. Along the way, we hope to answer the question: Are they ready for another one?"

Williams, back on live: "Well, the point was our country just couldn't afford another awful hurricane season. And the predictions, you'll recall, were dire. According to those government forecasters, as many as 16 different named storms were potentially headed our way -- between eight and 10 hurricanes and half of those would be major, we were told, meaning at least Category 3. Well, the season officially ended today back home, and we are happy to report, what did happen, turns out, wasn't even close. There were only nine named storms, not 16 of them. Five hurricanes, none of them making landfall in the U.S. And only two of the storms, Gordon and Helene, were strong enough to be called anything close to major. The reason, those forecasters say, the El Nino effect, a warming of ocean waters that makes a big difference in all that tropical storm activity. And for the record, by the way, long-term forecasting is an inexact science. And those forecasters are there when it counts and when we need them. Besides, it gave us something to talk about for just a moment other than this very troubled part of the world."
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center