Open Letter to The Weather Channel: I Miss Your Meteorology

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Those were the days. The Weather Channel on-air meteorologist Marny Stanier presents regional current temperatures in September 1990. Marny Stanier was with the company from 1987 – 2003. Before she was at The Weather Channel, Ms. Stanier was a weekend meteorologist for WAVY-TV, the NBC affiliate in Norfolk, Virginia, my hometown. Screen capture: The Weather Channel.

Dear Weather Channel,

I’ve been a fan since the very…very…very beginning.

Okay, at least since my parents got basic cable TV for the first time in the mid-1980s. As an aspiring meteorologist, it’s the natural first choice when no one else had claimed our one TV set.

I have memories of the little advertisements in the upper corners of the screen as one or two of your on-air meteorologists would stand for up to ten minutes SOLID, reviewing maps, discussing weather patterns and inundating us with PURE METEOROLOGY! The local forecasts were available with every commercial break, and in between local forecasts and commercials were simple weather charts: cold and warm fronts, high and low temperatures, and perhaps the occasional pollen count, autumn leaf color, or mountain snow level maps.

It was glorious for my aspiring weather weeniness.

Those were the days. In fact, I’d like to remind you of those days with this video of your very first half hour on the air from May 1982 (starting at 30:00).

In 2000, you decided to introduce long-form programming. In other words, longer shows that involved weather, but didn’t provide the viewers forecast information (except for “Weather on the 8s”). Atmospheres was a one-hour-long recap of the past week’s significant weather, providing you a chance to drill down deeper into what led to a significant event.

Storm Stories was next, premiering in 2003. Storm Stories featured significant weather events complete with testimonials from those who experienced and survived the events. Don’t get me wrong, Storm Stories was interesting and fun to watch. Jim Cantore’s enthusiasm for educating the public on weather’s power and awe can command anyone’s attention.

Then Storm Stories gave birth to It Could Happen Tomorrow, When Weather Changed History, Beyond the Forecast, and Epic Conditions. All weather-related, but it began a trend of migrating away from current weather presentation.

I’m betting advertising dollars drove the changes. After all, which advertiser wouldn’t want to have viewers for 30-60 minutes at a time, right? Similar things were happening at CNN’s Headline News.

NBC Universal bought you 2008 and that started a revolution in programming and outreach. Your social media presence took off, and you now have a leading edge in tablet/smartphone capabilities. You are my favorite weather app on my iPad. We saw an integration of NBC’s incumbent weather personalities into some of your key morning programming, such as Wake Up With Al with Al Roker and Stephanie Abrams. We now see quite a bit of NBC news integrated into your programs also.

You have hired an amazing complement of “weather experts,” such as Dr. Greg Forbes for severe thunderstorm expertise (one of my favorite meteorology professors in the early 1990s!) and Bryan Norcross, who has incredible experience with hurricane forecasting. He is known in meteorology circles as the NBC-affiliate on-air meteorologist in Miami during Hurricane Andrew in August 1992. They do a great job on the air and I wholeheartedly trust their opinions.

Not all of your changes have been positive. There’s a lot of blatant NBC-integration, such as news headlines — not just weather news — during their morning programming. Also, some of the sports forecasts will have the meteorologist insert his opinions on the football or baseball game for which he’s/she’s forecasting. And there are some just-plain-STRANGE stories on your website.

Two things have happened in the past year that are particularly bothersome to me.

1. Long form programming is starting to drift precariously far from weather-related topics. Most prime time programming on your network is now dedicated to such programming. At first it didn’t seem so bad with shows like Twist of Fate, Weather Caught on Camera, and Hurricane Hunters. But some strange ones are beginning appear, from Iron Men to the upcoming series Prospectors. I get the feeling you are drifting down the same ridiculous path as networks like Bravo, The Food Network, TLC, and E! Again, it seems like advertising dollars are driving your choice in long form programming, but for a purist like me, it’s incredibly frustrating.

2. This naming of the winter storms thing is garbage. Let me guess: You gave a nifty nickname to a winter storm in the 2011-2012 season and used it on Twitter, Facebook, and on the air, right? Was it #Snowpacalypse? #Snowmageddon? Was there a group of execs sitting around afterwards brainstorming how to “cash in” on that hashtagging? Let’s brainstorm an alphabetical list of names!

It’s disappointing that you, and by extension, NBC Universal, did this on your own. I’m not sure if you attempted to get buy in from other private and public weather information providers, but without the rest of the community, it’s just tacky!

The unilateral naming conventions for these winter storms, while it may seem genius from a business standpoint, is a bad idea. I understand that as a business, you now can cash in on the public looking for hashtags such as #Draco and #Saturn and getting presented with mostly your forecast products, which gives you the edge…especially considering your biggest competitors, such as AccuWeather, won’t use the names.

But how much of the general public do you think assumes that the National Weather Service and FEMA are using these products also? For certain things, I feel strongly that we need to give way to the government authorities for live-saving emergency preparedness information — sounds socialist, I know, but they are the ones providing aid when Americans need it, not private corporations. (This is particularly true for hurricane forecasts, and I understand and appreciate the inter-agency cooperation that goes into issuing evacuation orders.)

Please don’t tell me I’m the only one who thought of this when The Weather Channel named the winter storm that impacted the U.S. the weekend before Valentine’s Day “Orko”. How convenient that he’s sitting in the snow, right? Image: Wikipedia Commons.

Another bad idea? The choices of many of the names. Among us geeks over here, some of the names you’ve chosen are absolutely hilarious. Click on each name to see what came into my mind!



Nemo? The New York Times got in on the fun with this one.




I’m not sure how many people share my views on the long form programming or the habit of naming the winter storms, but I just wanted to get that off my chest. I’d love for you go to back to good old fashioned weather forecasting…I might be in the minority wanting this, and I’m sure the business model prohibits 24 hours of pure science these days, but it’s right there in your name: “The Weather Channel.” Let’s stick with the weather.

Thank you.


GeekMom Patricia

What do you think of The Weather Channel’s names for the storms? Brilliant? Or an epic fail? Don’t be shy, let us know!

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