BOULDER, COLO.—During the course of the devastating heat wave that struck Texas in the summer of 1980, climatologist Stephen Schneider estimates he fielded 25 calls from reporters trying to fathom the situation. When corn belt yields fell some 40% in 1983, Schneider, who is Senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) here, got that many phone calls in a month. And when severe drought struck the southeastern United States n 1986, queries came in a rate of 25 per week. But during’the summer of 1988— when drought, the greenhouse effect, and a reported hole in the earth’s ozone layer all made prime-time news—things got out of hand. “Last year,” says Schneider with a slight sigh, “it was more like 25 a day.”

For Schneider, who has worked at NCAR since 1972 and now directs its interdisciplinary climate systems section, the whole thing has become an annoyance, detracting...

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