Traverse City Record-Eagle

Northern Living

March 3, 2013

Meteorologists tell story of weather drama

TRAVERSE CITY — Weather and weather talk aren’t what they used to be. Neither is forecasting.

Hurricanes, superstorms, tornados and blizzards are more accurate than ever because of new and faster weather computers, area meteorologists said.

And talk about the weather appears to be on the rise, too, thanks to Facebook, Twitter and smart phones.

“Climate change” is a phrase many TV meteorologists avoid because it has become as controversial as “global warming.” However, melting glaciers, Hurricane Sandy and other extreme weather in recent years also may have something to do with online chatter and tweets.

“It’s one of those topics that’s hard to feel lukewarm about, “ said Justin Arnott, a meteorologist at the Gaylord National Weather Service office, which tracks the weather in 25 counties in northern Michigan, including two in the eastern Upper Peninsula.

Not many years ago, massive weather maps and forecast data adorned National Weather Service office walls across the nation, Arnott said. Now weather data is digitized and fed quickly into computer model programs that help meteorologists forecast brewing storms and wild weather earlier and with more detail. Computers that once took up entire rooms fit on desktops today.

These days, TV and radio meteorologists devote part of their work day to Facebook posts and tweets about forecasts, temperatures, wind chills and snowfall accumulations.

Katie Dupree, a meteorologist at TV 9&10 in Cadillac since 2011, started her meteorologist Facebook page after viewers sent friend requests to her personal page. She posted only weather updates at first, then occasionally added a few non-weather posts. This week, that meant a recipe for northern Michigan-style pasties she made on her day off.

“People like it when you post random stuff,” she said. “They see you on TV and feel like they know you. And it’s a great way to get storm reports early. I just put out a shout and ask for people to get back to me. I get a lot of feedback on the weather.”

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