Meteorologist resigns, citing PTSD from threats over climate change coverage
When Iowa meteorologist Chris Gloninger got an email notification last June, it read: Getting sick and tired of your liberal conspiracy on the weather. Whats your address, another asked Gloninger a few days later. We conservative Iowans would like to give you an Iowan welcome you will never forget. The emails arrived relentlessly in Gloningers inbox for another month, the Iowa Capital Dispatch reported . The sender accused the award-winning meteorologist, who spoke frequently about the effects of climate change, of being a conspiracy theorist and a worthless Biden puppet. Another told Gloninger to go east and drown from the ice cap melting. Gloninger, the chief meteorologist at Des Moines news station KCCI, shared some of the messages on social media in July and said they had taken a toll on him. Im trying to put it behind me, Gloninger told The Washington Post. But at the same point, I think it brings awareness to what journalists face day-to-day bringing the news. The episode ultimately led the meteorologist to a career-altering decision. Gloninger is departing KCCI and his career in TV news in July, he announced Wednesday, citing family health issues and post-traumatic stress he suffered after receiving the threats. KCCI did not immediately respond to a request for comment. My #climate coverage has garnered negative feedback. But last month I received the first threat, followed by a flow of harassing emails. Police are investigating. Its mentally exhausting & at times I have NOT been ok. If youre facing this & need someone to talk to, Im here. 1/ pic.twitter.com/SGbZfEr1uT Gloninger grew up in New York and became inspired to pursue meteorology after experiencing Hurricane Bob in 1991 as a second-grader, he said. As a reporter, he covered Hurricanes Sandy and Irene, and launched a weekly program on climate change with NBC10 Boston. In 2019, Gloninger won a regional Emmy there for an environmental project. Pushback on programming related to climate change was constant, particularly after Gloninger moved to Iowa and became KCCIs chief meteorologist in 2021. Gloninger said he developed a thick skin and focused his broadcasts on trying to demonstrate the practical ways climate change could affect his viewers. Its great to see that aha moment, Gloninger said. So Ive always been wanting to try to educate but to also have a conversation. In that spirit, he replied with a conciliatory message to the first harassing email he received on June 21, 2022. It didnt lead to a dialogue. Gloninger was at a barber shop when the second, more threatening, email appeared in his inbox. His stomach sank. He thought about his wife alone at home, so he rushed back and called the police. The email that asked Gloninger for his address and promised an Iowan welcome from conservatives also mentioned Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, appearing to reference the armed man who was charged with attempted murder that month after being arrested near Kavanaughs home. To Gloninger, it felt more menacing than past messages he had received. The emails kept coming, which further alarmed Gloninger. He shared screenshots of them in a July tweet. I dont want to be the news, Gloninger said he recalled thinking. I wanted to bring awareness to the fact that its not just me, its other climate scientists, scientists, journalists. When messages from the same sender continued, he worried the sender was obsessing over him. He said he saw a therapist for PTSD and lost focus at work. I was not sleeping, Gloninger said. I had bags under my eyes. Police identified a 63-year-old man in Lenox, Iowa, who admitted in August to sending the emails, the Iowa Capital Dispatch reported . The man was sentenced to pay a fine, but Gloninger said he still struggled to reengage fully in his job. His difficulties were compounded by health issues within his family. The decision to step down wasnt easy, Gloninger said, but he added he was grateful for an 18-year career in news and the support of his station. Having a dream since you were in second grade of being a TV meteorologist? Gloninger said. Yeah. Im going to miss it. I just hope that this is even more fulfilling than the last 18 years, my next chapter. Gloninger shared the news of his departure on air Wednesday evening, wearing a tie with bands of light blue stripes a nod to warming stripe graphics that illustrate rising average temperatures across the globe. Gloninger did not share his new position, but he said hes dedicated to helping solve the climate crisis. I take immense pride in having educated the public about the impacts of climate change during my career, Gloninger wrote on Twitter. Now, I will devote my full-time efforts to finding sustainable solutions and fostering positive change.