A CAREER PERSPECTIVE
METEOROLOGIST JEFF HABY
INTRO BROADCAST METEOROLOGY
Along with storm spotting and weather forecasting, one of the primary reasons a person gets interested in weather is broadcast meteorology!
The broadcast meteorologist is often the face and personality that people turn to for weather information. This 10 part series of posts of
hints will focus on various aspects of broadcast meteorology. Below are all 10 postings:
Post 1: Introduction to Broadcast Meteorology
Post 2: Broadcast Meteorology Skills
Post 3: Broadcast Meteorology Education
Post 4: Broadcast Meteorology Influence
Post 5: Broadcast Meteorology Workplace
Post 6: Broadcast Meteorology Career Path
Post 7: Broadcast Meteorology Challenges
Post 8: Broadcast Meteorology Viewer Wants
Post 9: Broadcast Meteorology Rewards
Post 10: Broadcast Meteorology Future
Broadcast meteorologists and weather broadcasters are employed at local TV stations, national media outlets, National Network morning shows,
Cable/Satellite weather outlets, radio stations, and online outlets from weather businesses. The majority of these positions are at local
TV stations scattered across the country in locations called DMAs or “Designated Market Areas”. Currently there are about 210 DMAs in the
United States. They are ranked from 1 to 210 with 1 being the largest market meaning it has the largest number of potential viewers
that could watch TV in a certain geographical market. The long standing #1 market is New York City. Typically, a market will have
several network owned stations. This is especially true for large and medium sized markets. Smaller markets will have only 1 or
2 stations. Major networks include ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX. Each of these local network stations will tend to employ several weather
broadcasters. The main slots being morning/noon slot, chief meteorologist slot and weekend/fill-in slot. Combining 210 DMAs with each
DMA typically having 2 or more stations and each station having multiple weather broadcasters, the number of broadcast meteorologists
and weather broadcasters is several hundred in the United States. This has generally been the case for the past several decades. Despite
predictions for a reduced need for weather broadcasters, the number of weather broadcasting positions remains in the many 100s.
Radio stations that use weather broadcasters tend to use weather broadcasters part time from the local TV market or from a national media outlet. A
national media outlet is a business that forecasts and broadcasts weather information for many different locations
across the United States.
The highest paying positions in weather broadcasting tend to occur in large TV markets, chief meteorologist positions, severe weather
markets and nationally followed weather positions. Post 6 will discuss the career path many weather broadcasters take.
The next posting, Post 2, will focus on the skills that a typically broadcast meteorologist obtains. These are the skills that are important
for doing the job well and skills that are important for promotion and advancement through the career path of broadcast meteorology.
BROADCAST METEOROLOGY SKILLS
Broadcast meteorology combines passions in weather, communications, technology use, and reporting. There are several education tracks
that a weather broadcaster goes through before and during their career and this will be explained more in posting 3. One of the primary
skills of a weather broadcaster is developing a “following”. Many of these skills take significant time to develop and are a product
of personality matched with experience. By developing a following, this means the broadcasts are enlightening, entertaining and professional.
These qualities attract viewers and followers to the weather broadcasts and their social media posts.
Meteorology skills and communication skills are important, thus many weather broadcasters have degrees in areas such as meteorology,
journalism, communications and electronic media. These areas are often combined by obtaining multiple degrees or using minors. For
example, majoring in meteorology and minoring in communications. Internships at TV stations also add valuable experience and they
look good on the resume’.
Weather Broadcasting skills in meteorology vary from effectively communicating the National Weather Service (NWS) forecast to
developing individual forecasts. Typically a combination of both of these is put into practice. For example, a weather broadcaster
will look over the NWS forecast but also tweak the forecast or change it based on their own judgment. Being able to forecast
involves skills in understanding forecast model tendencies, learning from past weather situations, reading weather charts
and having experience observing the local weather tendencies. Learning meteorology and weather forecasting is not a requirement
for all weather broadcasting positions but advancement into larger markets and higher paying positions is more difficult
without it. Many weather broadcasters seek seals or certification from the National Weather Association (NWA) and the
American Meteorology Society (AMS). These seals and certifications require that certain classes be completed. Passing tests
and tape evaluations are also required. These seals and certifications look good on the resume’ and help the weather broadcaster
develop a professional following.
Meteorology skills by themselves do not make a successful broadcast meteorologist. Communication skills are also important such as
communicating what to do in cases of severe weather. One way to get a strong following is to be a trusted source that people go
to in the case of severe weather. Also, it takes significant practice to look comfortable and with fluid motions on the chroma
key wall while delivering a weather broadcast. Some universities have courses that help develop this skill while many students
learn this skill while working an internship at a TV station. The same can be said for the skills in learning to make computerized
weather graphics. There are several different graphics systems that broadcast meteorologists use to make and sequence the weather
graphics for their show. Many weather broadcasters are employed also as reporters, especially at smaller market stations and
beginning positions. Thus reporting skills are important to develop before starting a career in weather broadcasting.
BROADCAST METEOROLOGY EDUCATION
Some people develop a passion for broadcast meteorology in high school, some people develop the passion while in college and some develop
the passion after college. This timing will influence the college of choice and the courses taken in college. If the passion is developed
before college then the choice of college will include factors such as the college providing training in both meteorology and
broadcasting. If the passion develops while in college, a student can transfer to another school, pick a different major
or minor, add an online program to their education or add additional courses to their program of education. The passion
can develop after college. For example, a journalism degreed reporter at a TV station can develop a passion for the work that
is done by the broadcast meteorologist at the station. This can cause these employees to enroll in an online school where they
can supplement their education with meteorology courses.
The top jobs in broadcast meteorology are chief meteorologist or lead morning meteorologist positions at a strong station in a big or
medium market, especially in a market with severe weather. Many of the meteorologists that rise to these positions have the following
on their resume’ before reaching these positions:
1) meteorology degree or equivalent
2) journalism/communication/electronic media courses
3) at least 3 years full-time experience in broadcast meteorology
4) AMS certification or NWA seal of approval
5) reporting experience
6) significant experience using weather graphics systems
7) storm spotter certification
8) school visits, public appearances to promote the station and weather education in general
9) a strong following on Facebook or Twitter
10) an interesting and professional personality
11) development of personalized local forecasts using forecasting knowledge
Thus, it is important for a student to make the 11 items above as goals while in college and during the career as a weather broadcaster. It
will take considerable effort, education and experience to reach these goals but they are worthwhile in obtaining since employers of
broadcast meteorologists at the top jobs look for these qualities.
The weather broadcasting internship at a TV station is a critical step in helping a student decide if they have a passion for broadcast
meteorology or not. Thus, it is important to gain an internship as early in the process as possible in order to get a sense of the
skills that are needed to be an excellent weather broadcaster. This will help a student decide if they still have a passion
for broadcast meteorology.
BROADCAST METEOROLOGY INFLUENCE
Weather forecasts are available from the National Weather Service (NWS) and private forecasting companies. These forecasts are readily available
online and through cell phone apps. Channels are available on cable and satellite that have continuous weather coverage. Why are broadcast
meteorologists needed at TV stations throughout the nation? What influence do these broadcast meteorologists have on the general public?
The answers to these questions will be addressed next.
Clearly there must be some elements in place that convinces networks to retain shows with news coverage, sports coverage and weather coverage.
For decades now, the structure of TV stations having morning, noon and evening news broadcasts has been in place. Three elements are
important to the continuing use of newscasts. These elements are local coverage, personality, and the ease of getting the information.
A broadcast meteorologist should keep these three elements in mind. Without them, many more viewers would get weather information
from other sources more often.
When a viewer tunes into a weathercast, they typically are going to be interested in the weather and expected weather for the city and
nearby cities that the viewer lives. In cases of severe weather, viewership can grow dramatically during these events. Thus, a powerful
weathercast in cases of severe weather can build followers for future weather broadcasts even on future typical weather days.
Two qualities help grow viewership which are professionally delivered weathercasts combined with an interesting personality. In many
ways a weather broadcaster is a famous person. Entertaining and educational weathercasts are a positive quality that helps grow viewership.
Being an expert in severe weather situations is also critical.
It is the case though that people can still get all the weather information they need instantly online and through a smart phone while a
TV broadcast is shown live only at certain times. A reason why people still tune into the local broadcast meteorologist is through the
ease of getting the weather information and due to tradition. People that grew up watching weather broadcasts on local TV stations are
going to be comfortable and conditioned to getting weather information in this way. Also, the weather broadcaster can explain the
weather in ways that is not done online or that would take too much effort to get online. It can be easier to relax in the chair
and have the weather explained by a meteorology authority without having to click around online and read through forecasts. Many
broadcast meteorologists make their own forecasts, thus many viewers trust these weather broadcasters more than a general
forecast posted online.
In summary, there are several reasons why weather broadcasts continue to be shown on local TV stations. These reasons include local
coverage of weather information, the personality of the weather broadcaster and the ease of getting weather information from a weather
broadcaster on TV. These three elements should be kept in mind throughout a weather broadcasting career. It is important to be a weather
authority (especially during severe weather), have entertaining broadcasts (especially on boring weather days), focus on local
weather information, and make it relatively straightforward for the general public to understand what is being talked about.
BROADCAST METEOROLOGY WORKPLACE
There are many aspects to being a broadcast meteorologist that are not seen on TV. Many of these include graphics development, weather data
analysis, school visits, promotions, web postings, communication with the public, and appearance preparation. With experience, these become
routine but each day has its unique challenges!
A weather graphics system includes the graphical and weather displays that are seen on TV. These include items such as the current conditions,
forecast temperature/precipitation graphics, radar, satellite, pictures and weather maps. These maps are sequenced on the computer and the
weather broadcaster often clicks through each image while delivering the presentation. Generally there is a strict time limit that the
presentation must be completed in, thus the weather broadcaster decides how much time to put into each graphic in order to explain it
best. In some cases each graphic is preprogrammed to be displayed a certain amount of time before moving to the next graphic.
Many weather broadcasters do their own forecasting supplemented by weather data and other weather forecasts. What this typically involves
is the weather broadcaster looking over current weather charts, weather forecast models, satellite/radar data, and National Weather Service
(NWS) products. The NWS forecast is looked at as a guide. Tweaking or changes from the NWS are done as seen fit for the local area. It
may also be the judgment that the NWS forecast is good as is. It is not always the case that the NWS forecast needs to be studied but it
is a great starting place when developing a forecast or a good forecast to compare to after developing a forecast. When it comes to severe
weather, the structure is often the weather broadcaster relaying the NWS warnings to the public and adding explanatory value to the
warning such as where the severe weather is taking place while showing it on radar and explaining what to do in certain severe weather situations.
School visits, public appearances and promotional appearances are part of the job of being a broadcast meteorologist. These help develop
and add to having a following for the station and the weather broadcaster. The weather broadcast is sometimes done at a location other
than the station studio in order to promote an event or to have station exposure at an event.
Since the weather broadcaster is a public figure, it is important to look professional. A broadcast meteorologist will have a professional
wardrobe of clothing and use make-ups to maximize appearance on TV. This takes time to do before each show and is important for maintaining
a professional appearance. A professional appearance helps with confidence and helps in gaining respect from the viewers.
Communication with the public is also part of the job. This includes answering email, phone calls, social media postings and questions
while on school visits and promotional visits. Being able to remain professional in this aspect of the job is a challenge since
expectations from the public can be high and unreasonable at times. Being able to provide current and updated postings with viewers is
important for maintaining a strong following on social media.
BROADCAST METEOROLOGY CAREER PATH
Students generally get a meteorology and/or communications degree and weather broadcasting intern experience before starting a full time
career in weather broadcasting. One big difference between applying for a weather broadcasting job as compared to other jobs is that not
only is a resume’ needed but also a resume’ tape is needed. Often the resume’ tape is made during an internship, as a favor from a TV
station or during a broadcasting practicum course. The resume’ tape is a critical component to a job application thus significant time
and energy should be put into making a good one. Every weather broadcaster has their own unique career path. This writing focuses on
general tendencies that occur on a typical career path.
The first job in weather broadcasting is typically gained at a small or medium sized market station or part time at a larger market
station. Often this first job will combine weather broadcasting and reporting. Thus, it is important to emphasize reporting skills
on the resume’. This first job is important for gaining experience. Some weather broadcasters will stay at a smaller market station
for many years once a chief meteorologist position is obtained. Typically though, a small or medium sized market is either a
stepping stone to a higher paying job in a larger market or ends up with the weather broadcaster deciding they want to go on
a different career path. Thus, the small and medium sized stations often have a somewhat higher turnover as compared to large
market stations. Often a person will gain a first job at a small or medium size market station and stay in that position for
2 to 5 years. Once the contract is up at this first job then the person will have their sights on moving up to a higher market
since valuable experience has been gained in this first job.
The next step for the weather broadcaster is applying for jobs in larger market stations. During the later stages of the first job, the
weather broadcaster likely has fulfilled the requirements for the National Weather Association (NWA) seal of approval or the American
Meteorological Society (AMS) Certified Broadcast Meteorologist (CBM). Along with an updated resume’ tape, these are both important
credentials for gaining employment in a larger market. A weather broadcaster may stay in this higher market position for several
years as the morning or chief meteorologist while some will look to move to an even higher market after gaining another several
years of experience.
Weather broadcasting is a rating driven job thus job security relies on gaining a strong following. When working at a local station
that is #1 in the market it is important to keep that #1 rating each year. When working at non #1 stations it is important to make
some gains on the ranking within the local market. A strong broadcast meteorologist can help increase ratings thus these stations
will look for broadcast meteorologists that can increase the ratings.
The next posting will focus on the challenges of having a career as a weather broadcaster.
BROADCAST METEOROLOGY CHALLENGES
As with any job, broadcast meteorology has its unique challenges. It is a job for the most part that requires the applicant to be flexible
about where to work since there are several positions in each state throughout the United Stated. To advance, it typically requires
making moves throughout the country over several years. With only certain positions open at any one time, it can be difficult to
work in a favorite market. One important component to try to work into a contract is to have the ability to take a position in a high
or higher market station if a position comes open while under contract. Generally, weather broadcasting positions require signing an
employment contract. It is common to try to limit this contract to 2 years when getting an entry level position so that there is the
flexibility to make a move after 2 years of experience.
The hours worked during the day can be challenging since they are worked at times most other people are off work. The morning shift
requires arriving to work at 2 or 3 in the morning and the afternoon/evening shift requires working during the evening hours. This
can make it difficult to have family time during the day and the sleep schedule will be different from other family members. Broadcast
weather is not the typical 9 to 5 job.
Another challenge is dealing with the common feedback that results when a forecast is missed. Some of this feedback can be unreasonable
and negative, thus the weather broadcaster needs to be able to handle criticism and negativity in as positive of a way as possible.
Time management is an important skill. There is only a limited amount of time to look over weather data and put a forecast together. With
experience, less time will be required to look through the wealth of weather data to put a forecast together. Along with the forecast,
time needs to be budgeted in producing weather graphics, posting on social media and on online pages, and preparing to go live on TV.
Being a weather broadcaster requires public exposure. Thus a person has to be very comfortable with public speaking, being seen in public
and being talked about on social media. Communication skills are critical to having a successful career in broadcast meteorology.
School visits, reporting and public appearance are a common part of the job.
Additional challenges to keep in mind include having to fill-in for another weather broadcaster in the case of sickness or vacation
since the number of weather broadcasters is limited at a station, making the weather broadcast interesting on relatively
boring weather days, having very effective broadcasts when severe weather strikes, describing the weather in understandable
terms and preparing the public well for the weather ahead.
BROADCAST METEOROLOGY VIEWER WANTS
Now we shift gears to try to get a sense of the viewer’s perspective of the weather broadcaster. Viewers have differing levels of weather
knowledge and expectations. The weather broadcaster has to strike a balance between those that have a strong technical knowledge of the
weather and those that have a general knowledge about the weather. If the weathercast is made too technical, this risks tuning out a
significant portion of the audience due to the weathercast being confusing. If the weathercast is too watered down, this risks looking
unprofessional. One goal of the weather broadcaster is to both teach something about the weather to those without technical knowledge
while at the same time being very informative to those with technical knowledge. It is possible to keep a wide variety of viewers
interested in the weathercast. One art of weather broadcasting is striking this delicate balance.
One viewer want is to know where the severe weather is and what to do. Severe weather has an immediate influence on viewer’s lives. Viewers
want a weather broadcaster that will show where the severe weather is, explain how much of a threat it is, and explain what they should do.
It is critical that the weather broadcaster have a strong on air presence and give a high degree of explanatory value when discussing
severe weather. Some viewers will be frustrated with the severe weather cut-ins when it impacts a show they are watching but there
are also a large number of viewers that are turning the station on specifically to find out about the severe weather threat.
Another viewer want is to know the basics about planning for the day or the next day. The basic information that is wanted is what
temperature pattern to expect and what precipitation if any to expect. This should be explained throughout the weathercast (beginning,
middle and end) since this information is critical to why the weathercast is being viewed. Many dressing decisions are made directly
on this information thus it is critical that this information be explained well and often to the public during the weathercast.
Viewers want someone they can view as an expert in the field of meteorology. Being an authority figure is important to gaining a strong
following. You want to be the person that the viewers in the market think of when severe weather and changes in the weather are taking
place. Getting to this point requires months of solid and informative weathercasts. Be an entertainer and informer during boring weather
and an authority figure during severe and changing weather.
Other viewers needs include:
1) a focus on local conditions and weather in the city the person lives
2) a weather broadcaster that is involved in the local community
3) the expected weather for specific community events
4) a strong on air presence, professional appearance, a voice that keeps attention
5) a weather broadcaster that often has a unique perspective and a personalized perspective (not saying exactly what
other forecasters are saying)
BROADCAST METEOROLOGY REWARDS
Broadcast meteorology is often the face of meteorology. The weather broadcaster is the face of weather information and the weather broadcaster
has significant public exposure. People that appreciate exposure and have a passion for communication with others will find this
aspect of broadcast meteorology rewarding.
One reward of broadcast meteorology is being able to monitor the weather on a daily basis, forecast that weather and communicate that weather.
This is the perfect job when it comes to combining passions in weather forecasting and communication with others. In many markets, the
weather is changeful and this keeps each day at the TV station unique. There can be something different and interesting to talk
about each day. One of the favorite topics of conversation and opening lines of conversation for many people is the weather! The
weather is on many people’s mind and the weather broadcaster gets to talk about it in detail!
Even with all the public exposure, while at work there is significant time for being able to do work on your own and make your own
decisions about what to place on some of the graphics, what numbers to place in the forecast and what to focus on during the
weather broadcast. One can go from working on his or her own for part of the day to being seen by multitudes
of people later in the day.
There are awards that weather broadcasters can win such as Emmy awards. Awards like this recognize greatness in television
broadcasting and media. These look great on the resume’ and provide great recognition for the hard work and positive results
from weather broadcasting.
Other rewards of weather broadcasting include:
1) saving lives and property when providing severe weather information
2) teaching others to understand more about weather, the interactions with teaching school kids on school visits
3) getting the opportunity to dress in nice professional clothes each day, especially if a clothing allowance can be worked into the contract
4) helping the community
BROADCAST METEOROLOGY FUTURE
In this final posting on broadcast meteorology we take a look into the future of weather broadcasting. Just like a long
term weather forecast, future tendencies are not for certain and the more specific one gets then the more difficult it is
to make a correct prediction. This writing will focus mostly on general tendencies but will also include some specifics.
Computer technology, computer speed, and availability of information will all continue to increase rapidly in the future. Computerized
weather forecasts and weather data will continue to expand as a resource of weather information that people get. There will be more
of an emphasis for watching TV broadcasts online and using online eyewear. Short recordings of online weather forecasts from weather
broadcasters will be popular for the general public. Instead of watching the entire weather broadcast, viewers will have the
option to view the online recording for the current weather, forecast for the next 24 hours and/or the extended forecast.
Radio weather broadcasts and televised weather broadcasts will continue to be followed resources of weather information by the general
public in local markets. An emphasis on local weather, hearing/seeing a weather authority and the ease of getting weather
information from a person will continue to be important reasons why people will continue to tune into these weather resources.
However, social media, online weather postings, smart phone apps and online broadcasts will continue to expand as places
that many people get weather information. Thus, a weather broadcaster will more heavily provide information for these resources
in addition to their radio and television shows.
Improvements to forecast model accuracy and speed will continue. It will become more and more difficult for a human to significantly
outperform these computerized forecasts. Forecast accuracy will increase and extended forecasts will be more reliable. The explanatory
value and personality of a human explaining the weather and the weather forecast will continue to be important to the general public.
Thus, computers replacing human TV broadcasters is not in the cards just yet. However, there will be a rise in the popularity of
computer animated graphical people (computerized digital avatar) that can deliver online weathercasts when provided with the typical
weather data that a weather broadcaster uses. Over time, these will become more and more sophisticated. The digital avatar
weathercasts can be updated continually as new weather data comes in.
Additional future possibilities and expansions of technology include:
1) increased sophistication of 3-D viewing
2) increased availability and immediate availability of severe weather footage
3) smart phones, smart watches, and smart eyewear replacing weather radios and sirens as the primary means of disseminating warnings
4) weather forecasts will be updated more frequently since forecast model runs will be updated more frequently.