Contrary to popular belief, TV weathermen don’t have their forecast made by someone else. Instead, they must start from scratch and formulate the entire forecast all on their own. This can be quite a difficult task, especially when severe weather is threatening.
Typically, a TV meteorologist will arrive at the station that he works at a few hours before he has to go on the air. For example, if the station airs a newscast at 5 PM, he will have to get there around 2 PM, or even perhaps even earlier if he has to forecast a big storm.
As soon as sits down, he gets right to work. Among the first things that he will look at are computer model simulations of what the atmosphere will look like over the next 7 to 10 days. This computer guidance helps him to get a gauge on what the weather in his forecast area is going to be like over the next week or so.
After that, he will check multiple other sources to fine-tune this initial idea. He might read a discussion by the National Weather Service, or perhaps take a look at a severe weather outlook issued by the Storm Prediction Center. This allows him to get multiple viewpoints on the forecast, something that may influence his own thoughts.
However, perhaps the biggest factor in his forecast his own intuition and background knowledge. On-camera meteorologists almost always have a college degree in the subject, and most also have years of forecasting experience. This is especially true in larger cities like New York, Boston, or Chicago, where years of experience on television is usually a prerequisite to being hired.
When the weatherman prepares his daily forecast, he taps into this knowledge of the atmosphere. This allows him to pick out the most important piece of all of the data that he looks at, thus ensuring better accuracy in the forecast.
By the time a TV meteorologist has looked at all of the necessary, it is usually about an hour from show time. Now, it is time for him to prepare the graphics to present his forecast.
Graphics are one of the most important aspects of the delivery of his prediction, because they help the viewers to better understand what he is saying. So, he must make sure that he produces visually appealing and informative graphics.
Most of the graphics come from basic templates loaded into software housed on the station computers. The job of the meteorologist is to input that day’s forecast into the various templates, and then arrange them in the way that he sees fit. A typical weather segment will contain about 10 graphics, so he will generally need about an hour or so to finish them.
Once he is done with this, all he has to do now is put on his microphone and apply makeup. High definition television can be quite harsh on appearances. He is now ready to go on the air.
During the presentation part of his job, which typically lasts only about 3 minutes or so and is seen by thousands, the weatherman takes all of the information he has acquired and translates it into an easy to understand monologue which flows with the graphics. Also, unlike the anchors, he does not use a pre-written script. Everything is improvised on the spot.
When he is actually on the air presenting his prediction, you will see him standing in front of his graphics on your television screen. In reality, the weatherman is actually standing in front of a blank blue or green wall. The graphics are then electronically inserted behind him.
In order to gesture towards them, he must coordinate his motions using TV screens on either side of him, which show him what the viewers are seeing. This requires a lot of coordination, and can be difficult to master. But, most weathermen have usually gotten the hang of it by the time they get a job in television, so more often than not you will see an impeccable performance.
After he finishes up with this, the meteorologist will return to his office to make a few changes for the next show, either to accommodate for new information or simply to avoid saying the exact same thing over again.
In this technology-driven day and age, he will also have other responsibilities to fulfill during this time. For example, many stations require their personalities to update the station website, as well as social media, like Facebook and Twitter. In addition, he must respond to dozens of viewer emails and phone calls.
This usually keeps him busy in between the broadcasts, and it isn’t until after 8 hours or more of hard work that he gets to go home. A meteorologist working the typical evening broadcasts at 5 PM, 6 PM, and 11 PM will be at work from 2 PM until Midnight with perhaps a 2 hour break in the evening.
So, the next time you see a TV weathercast, remember the hard work that has gone into it, and think about what it would be like if you didn’t have anyone to tell you the weather.