NYC Weatherman Quits TV to Save Europe From Climate Change

On the afternoon of June 1 in New York, meteorologist Mike Favetta was celebrating his last day working for local 24-hour TV station News 12 at his favorite spot in the Bronx’s vanishing Little Italy. As coworkers toasted his 10-year career, Favetta saw his final segment air on a wall TV. On another, he watched President Donald Trump announce his decision to pull the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement.

The timing was accidental. Favetta’s last day at News 12 had been set six weeks earlier. But the striking coincidence only hardened Favetta’s resolve. He was taking his meteorological training to Europe—Milan, to be precise—where the climate is more favorable to helping companies understand how global warming affects them.

It took Favetta himself a long time to look seriously into climate change. When he first asked one of his professors at Kean University’s meteorology program about the issue in 2003, he was told there wasn’t a lot evidence to back up the theory of manmade warming. 

In retrospect, Favetta said, the professor hadn’t been keeping up with the scientific press. After pursuing his own research, his thoughts finally tipped in 2016, after reading scientific articles such as this one, and the skepticism relented. “From a pure science perspective, this is undeniable. It’s like DNA evidence.”

Favetta founded his consultancy Weather Prep in 2014. The company focuses on private-sector weather and climate research, something he’d dabbled in before. In 2010, he became the event meteorologist for the New York City Marathon, briefing organizers before and during the headline event and at smaller races such as the Brooklyn and Staten Island half-marathons.

Looking toward his move to Milan, Favetta chose to illustrate how climate change affects a key part of Italy’s culture and its economy. 

Recent years have brought volatility to Italian agriculture. Olive oil prices have spiked due to drought. Production in 2016-2017 was estimated to drop 58 percent over the previous year, to 200,000 metric tons, according to a recent U.S. Department of Agriculture alert. The country produces about a quarter of the European Union’s olive oil, second only to Spain in volume.

Some premium Italian agriculture products—olive oil, wine, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese—can carry legally protected designations guaranteeing their geographic origin, which itself is a proxy for local soil chemistry, grass strains, dairy tradition, and other factors. These quality guarantees may become more difficult to make as change comes to Italy’s climates. 

These are the kinds of issues that Favella will confront on the Continent.

In Milan, Favetta says Weather Prep will collaborate with Centro Epson Meteo, a private weather-and-climate forecasting research company that offers greater computing power for more complex modeling. This spring he met Raffaele Salerno, Centro Epson Meteo’s chief executive officer and chief scientist, at an annual conference for meteorologists in Turin. Whether or not they know it, companies in agriculture and other sectors need help from weather and climate experts, the two agreed. Companies “should know about what will happen in the future,” Salerno said, so they can adjust accordingly.

Between weather hits one day this spring, Favetta spotted newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron’s invitation to American scientists to come to Europe, where their work will be taken more seriously.

“Yeah,” Favetta said to himself. “This is the right move. I’ve got my ticket. Here I come.”

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