You know those guys on television that give to the seven-day forecast for you to plan your week? Well, as one of those aspiring to become a broadcast meteorologist, I have been preparing myself for the reality of being a public figure. That means working my appearance, cleaning up how I talk, and having answers ready for the most popular questions people ask in my field.
Here are ten of the most popular questions meteorologists will get:
1. What's the weather like at [insert location here]?
Contrary to popular belief, meteorologists do not have radar and satellite built into their brains. It takes time to develop accurate forecasts for different locations, and often unless some major event is happening, your local meteorologist is not going to know the weather in some town 1000 miles away. Also, there's an app for that.
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2. How much money do you make?
Most if not all television personalities have to start at the bottom and work their way up. We don't get to start out on top like Al Roker or Jim Cantore, just like almost anyone else doesn't start out as CEO of a Fortune 500 company. The ladder is steep, and the pay is lower understandably, but if you work hard and persevere, you can get to the top.
3. What's it like to study meteors and other space stuff?
Just because our field is called meteorology, doesn't mean that we study meteors. However, that doesn't mean that those on television don't need to know about other sciences. Often times, the television meteorologist is the only person on camera with a scientific background. That means you'll be called on to talk about weather, climate, biology, astronomy, and many other sciencey subjects.
4. What's the degrees today?
Common misuse of weather terminology is an easy way to get under the skin of some meteorologists. Degrees are the units for which temperature is measured. You wouldn't ask someone what type of street (place, avenue, boulevard, etc.) you're going to when you want to know what address you need.
5. What's the weather gonna be like next month? How about in three months?
While some weather sources will put out very long forecasts (see AccuWeather's 45-day forecasts for more), often times models and data cannot accurately project the weather out that far. As a simple experiment, look at your area's seven-day forecast and track to see how much the forecast changes for days six and seven as they approach.
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6. Can't you say it's not going to rain today?
Just because we are forecasting rain doesn't mean we control it. Or vice versa. Meteorologists are only as good as the forecasts they create, and the information they use to create them. We are all at the whims of the atmosphere and its processes. The forecasters are just the ones who try and understand it.
7. Are you actually friends with the news anchors?
I have never been in an actual news setting where I've had to work with anchors. However, it is important to build a strong relationship with your colleagues on air because if not, the audience at home can tell.
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8. Are we going to have a day off from school (or work) tomorrow?
A favorite question from our friends in the Northeast (and sometimes here in Mississippi). Meteorologists are often not the people who make the call to cancel classes or close roads and businesses. We only provide the information that people in positions of leadership and authority need to make those decisions.
9. Why did you lie about the rain? It never even sprinkled...
Meteorologists would never intentionally lie to public about a forecast. The weather is a very challenging element to forecast, with many variables in play at once. With that said, one slight change in that can have very big impacts on temperature, precipitation, and other details that people care about. It is always tough to explain that uncertainty.
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10. What's it like to be wrong 90 percent of the time and still have a job?
At the end of the day, we are paid to present the forecast for the weather over a period of time we can feel fairly certain over. With that said, we can be wrong, and we can be right too. There's a reason why computers have not replaced the TV meteorologists, and that's because humans can quantify uncertainty in these scenarios.
Hopefully you're now more prepared for your next encounter with a local meteorologist.