On his fourth day in office, former television weatherman Rep. Eric Sorensen (D., Ill.) boldly declared himself the "Chief Meteorologist and climate communicator in Congress." There’s just one problem: Sorensen isn’t technically a meteorologist.
Though Sorensen worked for nearly two decades as a television "meteorologist" in northern Illinois before winning a House seat in 2022, there’s no record he ever obtained the necessary credentials or certifications to claim the title. Federal standards dictate one must earn a Bachelor’s degree in meteorology in order to become a meteorologist. Sorensen only obtained a minor in meteorology from Northern Illinois University, the Quad City Times reported in 2021.
Going by Sorensen’s own standards, the freshman Democrat’s lack of a Bachelor’s degree in meteorology means the public shouldn’t trust his assessment on climate issues. Sorensen belittled a Facebook user in October who correctly noted that the climate has warmed and cooled throughout Earth’s history, saying: "Interesting assessment. Where did you get your BS in Meteorology?"
"This kind of stuff is tiring, but it will never wear me out. I am proud to be the only Meteorologist in Congress, but who should be next?" Sorensen said in a post on Twitter, which included a screenshot of the interaction.
This kind of stuff is tiring, but it will never wear me out. I am proud to be the only Meteorologist in Congress, but who should be next? #science #STEMeducation #PeopleOverPolitics pic.twitter.com/G99gJQOUPR
— Eric Sorensen (@ERICSORENSEN) October 4, 2023
Sorensen’s lack of scientific credentials and his history of mocking his own constituents could prove damaging as he faces a tough reelection campaign in 2024. Sorenson scraped by with a 4-point victory in his purple district in 2022, and Republicans are looking to take his seat back next year.
Sorensen also lacks credentials from the American Meteorological Society, which certifies television weathermen without degrees in the field as legitimate meteorologists if they undergo additional training and testing. The society’s certification is a mark of "professional distinction and recognition," and is meant to inspire confidence in the general public that a weatherman’s forecasts are reliable.
Sorensen is notably absent from the American Meteorological Society’s list of past and present certified broadcast meteorologists.
It’s highly unethical, though not illegal, for television weathermen such as Sorensen to falsely present themselves to the public as a legitimate meteorologist, according to former New York Times ethicist Chuck Klosterman.
"It’s unethical for a weathercaster to purport that he or she is a meteorologist, even if she can warp the professional definition to stay within the technical boundaries of legitimacy," Klosterman wrote in 2013. "This is a title that should be defined by peers. You should not call yourself a meteorologist unless other meteorologists agree that the designation is valid."
It’s not clear if Sorensen has obtained certification from any other professional society or undergone any continued education program to justify his claim to be a meteorologist. His office did not return a request for comment.
Sorensen’s lack of credentials hasn’t stopped him from asserting more than 20 times on social media that he is the only "meteorologist" in Congress.
"After 22 years in TV, I’m now the only Meteorologist in Congress!" he posted on Twitter in March. "Time to blind them all with science."