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John Coleman, Weather Channel founder who doubted manmade climate change, dies at 83


(This story, first published Sunday, was updated Monday to include a statement from The Weather Channel.)

John Coleman, the “Good Morning America” forecasting icon who co-founded The Weather Channel, died Saturday.

The 83-year-old Coleman, in his later years, may have become best known for championing skepticism about the human role in climate change.

Considered a pioneer in weathercasting, Coleman enjoyed a 60-year career in television. He worked at stations in Peoria, Omaha, Milwaukee and Chicago from the 1950s to early 1970s. He was seen as an innovator, the first to broadcast his entire weathercast in front of a green screen.

“I remember watching him as a kid in Chicago, and was fortunate enough to get to know him as a colleague,” tweeted Tony Pann, broadcast meteorologist at WBAL in Baltimore. “He was the inspiration for me to get into this business.”

In the 1970s, Coleman became the first weathercaster on ABC’s morning news program.  “John revolutionized television weather with his Good Morning America reports where he creatively used chroma-key and actually gave highly accurate and comprehensive weather,” wrote Mike Smith, senior vice president at AccuWeather Enterprise Solutions.

Coleman started the Weather Channel in 1981, serving as its president and chief executive. He co-founded the network with Joseph D’Aleo, its first director of meteorology, and media entrepreneur Frank Batten, Sr.

“Thirty five years ago John Coleman and others founded The Weather Channel to answer a demand for around-the-clock weather information,” said the Weather Channel in a statement. “We will forever appreciate his vision that we continue to this day as the demand for severe weather coverage and hyper-local forecasting is at an all-time high.”

After Coleman’s stint at the Weather Channel, he returned to local broadcasting, working at local affiliates in New York and Chicago, before moving to affiliate KUSI in San Diego until his retirement in 2014.

Colleagues and viewers described Coleman as a gifted, high-energy and upbeat presenter, who formed a strong bond with his viewers.

“#JohnColeman had so much charisma, passion about weather that I had no choice but to join @weatherchannel way back in 1982”, tweeted Chris Edwards, now a meteorologist in Detroit.

Over the past 15 years, Coleman became a vocal doubter of human contributions to climate change and opposed actions to address the challenge. As recently as December 2017, he wrote, “There is no significant man-made global warming at this time, there has not been any in the past and there is no reason to fear any in the future.”

Why did people pay attention to John Coleman on climate change?

Coleman’s stance on climate change was far out of step with mainstream science. In 2014, the Weather Channel distanced itself from its founder on the issue. “[H]e hasn’t been with us in 31 years,” said then-chief executive David Kenny on CNN. “So he’s not really speaking for the Weather Channel in any way today.”

Additional reading: Here is an excellent retrospective on Coleman’s career from Bob Henson and his contributions to TV weather from Bob Henson, the author of “Weather on the Air: A History of Broadcast Meteorology“: Weather Channel Founder John Coleman Dies