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Weather Communications

When you think about the weather, you normally think about the person on television giving the weather report. While that is true, there seems to be a “secret door” not many people know about that shows the underlying factors of why the TV meteorologist is saying what s/he is saying. There are a lot of people who have degrees in meteorology who work on the weather models for the TV meteorologist to look at. There are also those who have degrees in meteorology that create graphics for the TV meteorologist to use on-air. On top of that, there are a few meteorologists who solely focus on something as simple as the wording of the forecast. These meteorologists analyze how the public and clients make decisions based off how the forecast was worded.

Imagine the TV meteorologist always coming on air and saying something such as “associated surface cyclogenesis will drive a cold front southeast across the Lower Great Lakes and OH Valley. The primary focus for storm development will be along the remnant outflow/differential heating zone ahead of the front with the storm mode expected to be linear. Tornado threat should be minimized due to the lack of 0-1 KM shear.” As a student meteorologist, this is music to my ears. Conversely, to a normal person, they’ll be lost by the third word and will most likely switch the channel and watch the newest episode of Game of Thrones.

"It’s often been said that we have been in the communications business, but our biggest challenge is communicating. From government officials to private forecasters, everyone has a platform to communicate to the public." – Jennifer Narramore, Meteorologist and Tornado Talk Podcast Co-Host, Episode 36: I’m Warning You!

Episode 36 of the podcast Tornado Talk hits the hammer on the head of the nail with this subject. Co-Hosts and Meteorologists Dan Holiday and Jennifer Narramore interviewed 3 professionals in the field of meteorology, along with random people they came across while on the streets. They asked a series of questions, from “what is a significant weather advisory?” to “do you blame the meteorologist if the forecast busts?” to “what is the difference between a watch, warning, and advisory?”. The responses were mixed among the public that was interviewed; some participants had no idea the answer to a few questions, while some hit the jackpot with their answer(s).

If you had to take away one thing from this article, take away the fact that the TV meteorologist isn’t providing the forecast single-handedly. As mentioned in the beginning, there are a lot of different positions in the field of meteorology to better help you, as the viewer, understand if it’s going to rain on your outdoor event, or if you’re going to be in the clear with a cloud-less sky.

Author: Brandon D. Molyneaux