In a week when people from Auckland to Invercargill have marvelled at the country’s most widespread snow dump in decades, none have been more excited than Philip Duncan. Head forecaster at WeatherWatch.co.nz, the 33-year-old rates the chilly blast as the site’s biggest moment since he established it in 2005.
This piece was written by Kate Newton and featured in last Saturday’s Dominion Post
What’s this week been like for you?
It’s been huge. It’s been a mixture of being excited about the weather and concerned about farmers, because I know that it’s the worst possible time for some of them.
How did you get into forecasting?
Forecasting is something I’ve always loved – as a kid I always loved it. In 2005, when I was working at the Radio Network, we got together and thought weather was something there was a market for. I’m not a meteorologist but we [WeatherWatch] use meteorologists.
What is it about weather that excites you?
I think it’s the fact that it’s really hard to predict – I like that. I enjoy that I don’t really know what’s going to happen in two weeks’ time. I couldn’t handle living somewhere like Arizona or Alice Springs, where it’s the same every day. If it’s a storm in Auckland, I love to get out there and take a few photos.
Describe a typical day at the office.
My day’s kind of crazy – the first thing I do in the morning is write a news story about what the day’s going to be like. We go up to Albany to do [a TV slot] and then I come back home again and get back to writing WeatherWatch stories. We’ve got quite a few people out there who rely on us. Recently it’s been 6am to midnight.
What’s your favourite kind of weather?
My favourite weather would be a thunderstorm – but I never seem to be in the right place for them! The power of weather is the thing I love the most – the weather humbles me. You realise that these things are so huge and so dangerous that the weather is something that you have to respect.
How much of the time do you think forecasters generally get it right?
I think we get it right a lot of the time. The public aren’t shy about telling you when you get it wrong, and I don’t like getting complaints – if we get a forecast wrong I take it really personally. I know that other forecasters have that problem as well. I like to tell people that we don’t actually make the weather – we only predict it.
What are your interests outside of weather?
I love travelling. I haven’t had much chance to do that over the last few years but I try to go somewhere [in New Zealand] for work if I can every month or two. Otherwise, I’m pretty content with just sitting and watching The Daily Show or Family Guy and relaxing with a nice wine.
What keeps you awake at night?
Everything! I’m the most anxious person I know. For example, the relationship between WeatherWatch and MetService is strained at times and I worry about what they think of me – I’ve got a great deal of respect for the meteorologists there.
What’s the last book you read?
It was Nightfall by Nelson De Mille. It’s about the TWA 747 that blew up just after it took off from New York. Fascinating book.
If you could share a meal with four famous or well-known people, who would you invite?
Bill Clinton would be one. Augie Auer – I knew him a little bit and I wish I could have got to know him better. Seth MacFarlane from Family Guy and Jon Stewart from The Daily Show. With those people you’ve got intelligence and you’ve got humour.
– The Dominion Post
on 23/08/2011 2:29am
If you like John Corey in Nightfall try Plum Island its a cracker he features there too. Love Nelson De Mille books one of his best is Up Country all about the VietNam war sounds boring but it races along at a million miles an hour.
Missed all the cold weather as I was in Fiji great to be able to keep up with it on WeatherWatch.
on 23/08/2011 1:36am
As usual you guys are doing a great job. By the way, an example of why we out here in punterland doubt Metservice so much is they have changed their forecast for Saturday in the Coromandel by 180 deg today from NE to SW. Big difference if you are a fisherman. Between morning and lunch someone has finally got it right.
on 23/08/2011 12:16am
And another good one of his was ‘Cathedral’ which tells the story of an IRA hostage situation at a church in New York city.
What s it with weather people and dodgy interagency relationships?
on 23/08/2011 12:27am
Sounds like another good read – will write that one down John.
And haha, I don’t know the answer to your question!
on 22/08/2011 11:15pm
If you enjoyed Nightfall, you have to read Mayday which was co-written with Nelson de Mille – scary! Thanks heaps for all your hard work and thanks for the snow in Palmy!
on 22/08/2011 11:35pm
Hi there, a few people have told me about that book – sounds rigth up my alley! Thanks again for suggesting – will definitely get a copy. Problem is finding time to read!
Thanks for the support too – glad you got some snow in Palmy North!