||Everyone Talks About The Weather, But Only The
Weatherman Gets Paid To Do It
by Mad Dog
I understand that weather forecasting isnt
an exact science, but its not right that my horoscope is more accurate than the
||Being a TV weatherperson has
got to be the best job in the world. Sure, being an ice cream taster at
Ben & Jerry’s, the head of human resources for the Acme Porn Flick
Company, or Leonardo DiCaprio are also good career choices, but they
don’t afford you the luxury of screwing up 365 days in a row while not
only keeping your job but getting a raise, which means you can buy all the
tax-deductible silly ties and hairspray you want. And as a weatherperson
you’ll want plenty.
Think about it, if doctors, airline
pilots, and dry cleaners had the same success rate as TV weatherpeople
there would be a major uprising. Well, except maybe from morticians,
Amtrak, and clothing manufacturers. But for some reason weather
forecasters are exempt from the normal guidelines of job performance.
Maybe, as in kindergarten, “plays well with others,” “shares,” and
“goes potty by himself” really are the most important personal
I understand that weather forecasting
— formally known as meteorology, from the Greek for “meatier
paycheck” — isn’t an exact science, but it’s not right that my
horoscope is more accurate than the 3-day forecast. We can put a man on
the moon, create computers that do thousands of calculations per second
while costing less than a big screen TV, and put cherries inside chocolate
without the juice leaking out, yet we can’t say with better than a 25%
probability whether it will rain six hours from now. This just isn’t
some countries they’re doing something about it. Last month the head of
the Romanian National Meteorology Agency was fired for predicting warm
weather on days when — whoops! — the temperature dropped to a record
minus 36C and the Black Sea froze. In Russia, the mayor of Moscow says
he’ll fine weather forecasters who blow it. This came after the city had
its heaviest snowfall since record-keeping began in the 19th century but
— whoops again! — the weather forecasters hadn’t been able to
predict when it would hit or how much snow they’d get.
don’t care about isobars and inverted fronts, we want to know if we need
to carry an umbrella and wear a jacket. But somewhere along the line
weatherpeople were told that their viewers have the IQ of a remote control
with a dead battery.
It’s not as if TV weatherpeople are stupid. Quite the contrary.
Remember, they’re the ones with the cushy job, not you and me. Most of
them went to college to study meteorology, which means they spent five or
six of the best years of their life taking courses like Silly Weather
System Names 201, Inane Banter 405, and Advanced Clowning Techniques. See,
they figure that if they’re entertaining enough it will take our minds
off the rain that’s about to wash away our house and car when just a few
hours ago they said it would be sunny and warm for the rest of the week.
They joke around, draw cute pictures on their weather maps, and generally
act as if this is a steppingstone to getting a late night talk show. After
all, it worked for David Letterman.
all this they manage to show off some of the latest technology, including
satellite photos, Doppler radar, computer imaging, and those weather maps
that zoom around like bad video games, making you glad you copped those
airsickness bags from the plane even though you thought they were doggie
bags for your mini-pretzels. Yet for all their weather charts, reporting
stations — that’s right, get those elementary school kids to do your
work for you! — barometers, hygrometers, anemometers, and divination of
chicken entrails, they still use professional help, though maybe not the
kind we think they should be getting. Every TV station subscribes to
several weather forecasting services, like the National Weather Service,
AccuWeather, and Madame Gloria’s Psychic Hotline and Spanish
Delicatessen. The weatherperson’s job, actually, is to cull through
these and, using some of that college education, choose which forecast
they think will be right. So it turns out that not only is their forecast
usually wrong, so is their choice of which forecasting service to believe.
Remind me not to listen to their stock tips.
They could take a tip from the English, where the daily weather predictions in the
newspaper include such true-life phrases as "bright start, then outbreaks of
rain" and "freshening southeast winds."
forecast isn’t the only part of their job that’s difficult. Night
after night they have to try to find something new and fresh to say. Face
it, there are a limited number of weather conditions — sun, clouds,
rain, snow, sleet, hail, and wind — and between a 0 and 100% chance of
each happening. Since we’ve long heard all the possible permutations,
they’re stuck trying their damnedest to get excited about things like a
heat wave in August and a cold snap in January. Excuse me, but isn’t
that what happens in August and January?
is a science, and as with all sciences, it’s can be very technical. So
another part of the weatherperson’s job is to translate that jargon into
language we all understand. Face it, we don’t care about isobars and
inverted fronts, we want to know if we need to carry an umbrella and wear
a jacket. But somewhere along the line weatherpeople were told that their
viewers have the IQ of a remote control with a dead battery, which is why
they make up new weather words (thunderboomers), create their own
catchphrases (Frank’s Frigid Front Flows Freely), and generally act like
Willard Scott, which wouldn’t be so bad except they act like him during
his pre-weatherman days as Bozo the Clown.
take a tip from the British, where the daily weather predictions in the
newspaper include such true-life phrases as “bright start, then
outbreaks of rain” and “freshening southeast winds.” Don’t these
sound infinitely more refined? Though to be honest, the writer could have
been wearing a red rubber nose while typing them for all I know.
we should quit griping about weatherpeople — or at least I should —
and just learn from them. “There’s a 50% chance of getting that
hamburger the way you want it,” would really take the pressure off fast
food workers. And personally, being able to say “Doppler radar indicates
this article will be partly funny with a chance of light drivel followed
by periods of clearing and gusts of hot blustery air” would really get
me off the hook. Now if I can only find a way to make the silly ties and
hair spray tax deductible.
©2005 Mad Dog Productions, Inc. All
These columns appear in better newspapers across the country. Hold
them over your head so you don't get wet on those sunny days the weatherperson told you