Over 40 years ago, I decided that I was going to be a meteorologist. I couldn’t even pronounce the word, but at the age of 5 I announced to my mum and dad that I was going to forecast tornadoes when I grew up.
Of course, at 5 years old all I cared about was the excitement. After all there is way more to weather than forecasting tornadoes, right?
Yes, but not as much as you might think. For most of us, it all comes back to staying on top of severe weather. Our goal is keeping you and your family safe.
There are other aspects to it, of course. Most of us get a real kick out of watching how the atmosphere works. It’s truly an amazing display of how nature is able to keep everything in balance. Forecasting what nature’s next balancing act will be is fun and exciting. Getting it right means people can plan their day. People know what to wear.
Being in a position where you deal with the public all the time, makes it especially fun because explaining it to people adds a whole new dimension to the job. It helps me see weather through different eyes. I used to give talks to school-age kids all the time. Talk about interesting questions!
But, when it comes right down to it, the main reason why we do what we do is to give people the tools to stay safe during dangerous weather.
Here is the mission statement from the United States National Weather Service;
“The National Weather Service (NWS) provides weather, hydrologic, and climate forecasts and warnings for the United States, its territories, adjacent waters and ocean areas, for the protection of life and property and the enhancement of the national economy. NWS data and products form a national information database and infrastructure which can be used by other governmental agencies, the private sector, the public, and the global community.”
In 1994, I was doing TV weather in the US. One night, we had several tornadoes rake across my viewing area. One particular tornado flattened a local town, killing an elderly couple in the process. That changed my whole attitude toward weather. I was no longer young and idealistic. I was a veteran with a battle scar, and that battle scar was painful. Two people died on my watch. Someone just lost their parents, their grandparents, their friends. Maybe if I had gotten the warning on the air a bit faster, they might not have died. Maybe if I had explained things better during my 6pm newscast, they might have been more prepared. Maybe none of that would’ve made any difference, but I took it very personally.
From that day on, the mission statement I quoted above took on a brand new meaning. The whole focus of my relationship with Ma Nature changed.
Ask any weather forecaster why he or she does what they do, and they will probably give you the same answer.
“..For the protection of life and property”
Homepage image/ Howard Joseph on CBS affiliate WKBT-TV, La Crosse, Wisconsin, USA (1995)
By WeatherWatch.co.nz Analyst Howard Joseph
You can follow Howard on Twitter at www.twitter.com/hjosephwx
on 1/10/2012 2:15am
Well said Howard. Very little time is actually devoted to forecasting on TV. Half of the 5 mins is taken up telling us what we have already had which is a complete waste of time.
They shaould spend far more time on the weather ahead
on 1/10/2012 2:23am
Hi Dave – couldn’t agree more! That’s why our nzherald.co.nz weather videos focus on what is yet to happen, rather than now (unless we have a storm).
on 1/10/2012 12:26am
Very intersting Howard – and check out that photo of you on the homepage! 🙂
We have a way to go at better communicating weather in NZ – I hope we one day we can convince TV3 or TVNZ to run tickers during major weather events – at this stage it isn’t being driven by the govt or anyone, so we’ll continue to push it. Have already helped radio and online get better weather news – so TV is next!
on 1/10/2012 1:25am
Completely agree, but I would go a bit further than that. Since TV is primarily Digital, an EAS system can be deployed based on the TV towers and the region it covers.
When a severe storm is detected a message can be broadcast to the region affected.
The Severe Thunderstorm Warnings are nearly all ignored by the Media atm which is disgusting…..