Finally, a weather service that gets real about climate change

Startup Currently’s meteorologists and writers are trained climate communicators, so forecasts include the why behind the weather.
By Mike Munsell

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the tops of campers show above floodwaters at an RV park in Florida
Camper trailers in Arcadia Florida still inundated by floodwaters a week after Hurricane Ian made landfall (Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

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Canary Media’s Climate Meets Culture column explores the intersection of energy, climate and culture at large. Canary thanks Silverline Communications for its support of the column.

It’s raining as I write this from my office in Massachusetts — I think it’s the remnants of Hurricane Ian. What’s the weather like where you live?

Sorry, I couldn’t help asking. All of my meetings are virtual these days, so weather-related small talk is just second nature.

With scorching heat waves across several continents, this summer was the hottest on record for both China and Europe, and North America experienced its hottest August of all time. Couple that with record droughts and flooding, and small talk has suddenly turned into big talk.

A few months after Canary’s launch in spring 2021, the launch of another climate-related media outlet with a yellow logo caught my eye: Currently Weather Service.

Founded by Eric Holthaus, who in 2014 was dubbed the rebel nerd of meteorology” by Rolling Stone, Currently is a weather service for the climate emergency,” as described in the company’s Twitter bio.

According to its website, Currently publishes stories from our team of journalists and contributors around the world about extreme weather and its climate context. Our stories highlight local work and experiences during the climate emergency, profile individuals doing essential work to fight climate change, and show us all the ways extreme weather ties into our everyday lives.”

I wanted to learn more about what differentiates Currently from, say, or your local news channel’s meteorologist, so I reached out to Abbie Veitch, Currently’s editor-in-chief, to learn more. Our chat has been lightly edited and condensed for brevity.

A woman with light skin, long brown hair wearing a green shirt with a floral print
Abbie Veitch, editor-in-chief of Currently

Mike Munsell: Can you tell me more about Currently and its inception? How is it different from other weather information providers?

Abbie Veitch: We realized there is a need for a weather service for the climate emergency. People were saying, I feel like I’m being gaslit by my weather service. I know what’s going on is not normal, but meteorologists are acting like it’s normal.”

We require all of our weather reporters to have training in climate and climate communications so that they’re able to make those connections to climate change. There isn’t always a climate connection to scary weather, so we talk about the science and nuance too.

A headline that reads Fueled by climate change Typhoon Noru became a super typhoon
A recent Currently headline shows how the startup frames breaking weather news in a broader climate context. (Currently)

Among our team, something we consistently talk about is not just dropping in when there’s a big storm, reporting, and then leaving, like many of the big news organizations do. We want to follow up with communities after storms. We also do solutions journalism, where we point people to mutual-aid groups, for example. And we offer a text-messaging service so you can text our meteorologists directly.

Munsell: Can you tell me more about that — do people use that feature?

Veitch: Yeah, people do. People ask different questions like, Is there a chance of a tornado?” But they’ll also ask things like, What is the best day this week to take my dog for a walk?” One of Currently’s pillars is to bring joy into the weather and the climate conversation. We spend a lot of time on the doom of heat waves and similar topics. But the text-messaging service is also a place where people can find some of that joy in what’s happening in our daily weather. And that really connects us as people.

Munsell: I assume that most of the stories you write are sort of catastrophic in nature. So if joy is a core pillar of Currently, how do you strike that balance with doomerism?

Veitch: The heat waves we’re seeing, the floods in Pakistan and India — these things are very much direct results of climate change. It’s harder to make those connections to the tornadoes that were happening earlier this year, but the connections are still there. I think we’re in this place where extreme weather is so constant — it’s just like another day for people living in 2022. But this weather is not normal, and I think we’re all feeling that uneasiness. It’s hard to catch your breath. Whether you’re in the climate world or not, you’re affected by this weather every day.

A lot of research shows that leading with doom makes people feel shut out and shut down. And there are days when the reality is just tough — there’s no sugarcoating it. We don’t want to sugarcoat it or be untruthful to readers. But finding those pockets of joy and building that community is so important. Research also shows that having a strong community helps us to feel more resilient mentally, but it also literally makes us more resilient — when an emergency happens, having a strong community will help you bounce back better.

So for us, that means we’re growing a platform that connects people and connects those communities, and it also means sharing the stories of those communities — what they’re doing and the on-the-ground solutions. A lot of the time when we think of climate solutions, we’re thinking of the big technology that’s going to come and save us, but most of the time, it’s the neighbors and the community activists who are there in an emergency.

Munsell: Do you have a message for Canary’s audience of climatetech professionals?

Veitch: I think that for folks who are already in the movement, Currently is the perfect fit for your everyday weather. We’re building a community of people that care about this stuff.

We have 20 or so newsletters where we do daily weather reports written by either a meteorologist or weather reporter based in specific cities around the globe. We also have Warmly, Zaria, which is a really cool project launched by our Managing Editor Zaria Howell, combining climate and her background in social work, which talks about mental health and climate. Eric’s personal newsletter is The Phoenix. We’d love for more folks to check us out.

Silverline Communications, the supporter of this column, is a climatetech and sustainability communications firm with deep experience in all facets of the clean economy. Learn more about how Silverline connects clients with stakeholders on social channels and beyond.

Mike Munsell is director of growth at Canary Media.