13 Things your TV weatherman won’t tell you (or will he?)

A guy with this face isn't going to lie to you!

I was alerted on a Meteorologist forum about an article that gives “13 Things your TV Weatherman Won’t Tell You.” (Here’s the link.) Can you believe everything in the article? Probably not.

#1: In many cases, the meteorologist is the highest-paid person on the broadcast, because weather is one of the top reasons why people watch local news.
INCORRECT. Salaries at broadcast stations are based on experience and tenure in the market.

#2: Looks do matter when it comes to TV weather.
PARTIALLY TRUE. Look at any popular TV show or movie. Of course on-air talent is going to be hired based on looks. However, a lot goes into making a person look better on camera. Luckily for TV weather people, we don’t have any tight camera shots!

#3: Bad weather is good for ratings. Really good.
PARTIALLY TRUE. Ratings are taken throughout the year during four months: February, May, July, and November. On May 22, 2011 we had severe weather and tornado coverage going on Channel 13 for over an hour which allowed us to get info on who was watching. We had more than twice the viewers of the station we’re normally in competition with. However, this has more to do with whether the Meteorologist in the market is established in the market, what the threat is, and how the coverage is coordinated. During the Dallas tornadoes back in April, the station that is typically the news leader was in last place because more people turned to the established weather veterans in the market versus the newer talent on the station that normally leads the ratings. Lastly, if severe weather happens during high-rated shows, ratings often dip during severe weather events.

#4: The hurricane season forecasts that come out every year predicting the year’s storm activity are almost always wrong.
PARTIALLY TRUE. Luckily I work in the Midwest and don’t have to worry about this. Personally, I think these are dumb to begin with. We all know that it only takes one major landfalling hurricane to make for a devastating hurricane season. (The same can be said for winter forecasts which we’ve done in year’s past (and weren’t very successful at it).)

#5: Once you’re under a severe weather “warning,” assume it’s going to happen.
TRUE: I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’m pretty sure I say this every time I’m on the air. I wouldn’t be cutting into programming if I didn’t assume it was going to happen.

#6: There is no legal definition of a meteorologist, so anybody can call him- or herself one and get away with it.
FALSE: One of my mentors in this business was Troy Dungan, former and long-term head of the weather department at WFAA-TV in Dallas. While he wasn’t technically a meteorologist, he had an unbelievable knowledge of the weather. Someday I hope to know 3/4 of Meteorology he has in his brain. Did he “get away with it?” I’m not sure what that really means since his contract was renewed for decades and people tuned into him religiously. And most stations refer to Meteorologists only when they have a degree in weather.

#7: We’re not very good at predicting summer showers and thunderstorms, because they’re so small.
PARTIALLY TRUE: I like to think of the atmosphere as the ocean. We’re living day by day at the bottom of the ocean with currents of air swirling up to 50,000 feet above us. The technology is not yet good enough for us to predict things on this small of a scale.

#8: The dew point–not the relative humidity–is the best measure of how humid it feels outside.
TRUE: As recent as 10 years ago, TV Meteorologists didn’t give the current dewpoint or dewpoint forecasts. However the dewpoint gives us a better representation of the water vapor in the air. Humidity also changes frequently from day to night while dewpoint remains fairly constant within an airmass.

#9: Summer forecasting is a breeze compared with winter reporting.
PARTIALLY TRUE: (Refer to #7). I gain gray hair whenever we have a weather system coming through when temperatures are right at 32°F. However, that doesn’t mean that winter forecasting isn’t accurate. More often than not, we aren’t riding that isotherm (line of equal temperature) making snowfall forecasts more accurate.

#10: Partly sunny is actually more gray than partly cloudy.
TRUE: Honestly, I haven’t uttered the phrase ‘partly sunny’ for over a decade. My reasoning? People don’t know the difference between that and partly cloudy. In addition, we try to use common-speak when broadcasting news and weather. When was the last time you heard either of these terms used by your best friend?

#11: Don’t take a shower during a thunderstorm.
FALSE: Only a few people in the world have been struck by lightning while showering in the past 20 years. And because all homes today are built with PVC pipes (versus cast iron pipes), the threat of getting struck by lightning is slim to none. Not to mention, the water pipes come from below ground, away from any lightning risk. There is a risk of being struck by lightning being on a corded telephone or being near a computer or other electronic device, especially if the power and telephone lines leading to the house come via above-ground wires.

#12. Our long-range forecasts aren’t very accurate.
PARTIALLY TRUE: Forecasts come with an increased level of uncertainty with every day beyond the current day. Beyond a week, it’s important to understand that the weather forecast is more of a trend.

#13. Watch out for phrases like “Shocking forecasts to come” before commercial breaks.
FALSE: There’s a reason we in the TV biz call them ‘teases’ however I’ve never used the phrase “shocking forecast” or ever heard it on a competing station.


Posted under humor, news, safety, science, statistics, weather, weather geek

This post was written by qni_it on June 19, 2012

5 Comments so far

  1. Lauren June 20, 2012 2:00 AM

    Awesome post! 🙂

    For #3, I watch 13 because the other guy just isn’t as nice to fans. I have more respect for a TV personality that is looking out for the fans without being a jerk about knowing more than the fans do (i.e., the isotherm definition above…had no idea what that was lol). I’m pretty sure that has to play into the ratings as well. Just because you’re not on the air, doesn’t mean no one’s keeping track of your actions.

    For # 11, I’ve been shocked while on a corded phone during a thunderstorm. I was just a teenager at the time, it wasn’t fun, and I never talked on the phone during a storm again.

    Keep doing what you do, Eric, YOU ROCK!! lol

  2. tony June 20, 2012 9:32 AM

    I can associate with #11. I know back in I think it was 94 or 95, I was talking to a friend on the phone, when a very isolated severe storms literally formed right over my area of town and lightning hit very near here and I almost got zapped. Needless to say, I got off right after that. That storm gave my house golf ball sized hail while all other parts of town got nothing. 5 mins later, I went outside and it was clear like nothing had happened.

  3. Russell June 20, 2012 4:30 PM

    I love these posts, would like to see more.

  4. Me September 7, 2017 4:50 AM

    This is not this guys story this was from Readers Digest

  5. Me September 7, 2017 4:51 AM

    BTW i know you won`t post this but i`m on to you

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