Weatherz School: Behind the scenes of broadcast meteorology

You’re used to seeing the forecast on the news, but what goes into assembling that forecast? Let’s pull back the curtain on the whole process.

A couple of hours before the newscast begins, we pull up the latest weather data. Before looking into what the weather will be, we want to check in on what’s happening right now.

That means pulling up the latest satellite, radar, and observations of the atmosphere from the surface up to jet level. Once we have a good idea of the current conditions, we can move onto the forecast.

We look at data from multiple forecast models that each provide a possible weather scenario. The farther out you look, the more models tend to show conflicting forecasts.

There are many paths for the forecast to take, but each step depends on the path beforehand. Despite all of the possibilities, a single model only gives you one solution. One small deviation could make a big difference. The closer to the event day, the fewer possible paths there are. Even so, there isn’t one clear solution.

As meteorologists, we take that variability into account, and apply our understanding of the atmosphere to make our own customized forecast. That room left for interpretation is why the forecast can sometimes look different from one source to another.

Once we have our forecast together, we update the data in our system and customize the graphics for our newscast. Then it’s time to do the weather segment.

The magic happens on the green screen. This replaces anything the color green with our graphics, so you won’t find much green in a weather person’s closet.

A meteorologist doesn’t read off of a teleprompter. When we look at the prompter, we see what people at home see. We have monitors on either side of us so we can turn profile to the camera and still see where we’re pointing.

That’s what’s going on behind the scenes when you’re watching the weather.