11 Behind-the-Scenes Secrets of TV Meteorologists (2023)

The first weather forecast to hit national network television was given in 1949 by legendary weatherman Clint Youle. To illustrate weather systems, Youle covered a paper map of the U.S. in plexiglass and drew on it with a marker. A lot has changed in the world of meteorology since then, but every day, millions of families invite their local weatherman or weatherwoman into their living room to hear the forecast. Here are a few things you might not know about being a TV meteorologist.

11 Behind-the-Scenes Secrets of TV Meteorologists (1)

On-camera meteorologists might look as if they’re standing in front of a moving weather map, but in reality, there’s nothing except a blank green wall behind them. Thanks to the wonders of special effects, a digital map can be superimposed onto the green screen for viewers at home. TV monitors situated just off-camera show the meteorologist what viewers at home are seeing, which is how he or she knows where to stand and point. It’s harder than it looks, and for some rookie meteorologists, the learning curve can be steep.

“Some people never learn it,” says Gary England, legendary weatherman and former chief meteorologist for Oklahoma’s KWTV (England was also the first person to use Doppler radar to warn viewers about incoming systems). “For some it comes easily, but I’ve seen people never get used to it.”

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Stephanie Abrams, meteorologist and co-host of The Weather Channel’s AMHQ, credits her green screen skills to long hours spent playing Nintendo and tennis as a kid. “You’ve gotta have good hand-eye coordination,” she says.


Green is out of the question for on-air meteorologists, unless they want to blend into the map, but the list of prohibited wardrobe items doesn’t stop there. “Distracting prints are a no-no,” Jennifer Myers, a Dallas-based meteorologist for Oncor,writes on Reddit. “Cleavage angers viewers over 40 something fierce, so we stay away from that. There's no length rule on skirts/dresses but if you wouldn't wear it to a family event, you probably shouldn't wear it on TV. Nothing reflective. Nothing that makes sound.”

Myers says she has enough dresses to go five weeks without having to wear a dress twice. But all the limitations can make it difficult to find work attire that’s fashionable, looks good on-screen, and affordable. This is especially true for women, which is why when they find a garment that works, word spreads quickly. For example, this dress, which sold for $23 on Amazon, was shared in a private Facebook group for female meteorologists and quickly sold out in every color but green.

Since their feet rarely appear on camera, some meteorologists take to wearing casual, comfortable footwear, especially on long days. For example, England told the New York Times that during storm season, he was often on his feet for 12 straight hours. So, “he wears Mizuno running shoes, which look ridiculous with his suit and tie but provide a bit of extra cushioning,” Sam Anderson writes.

And occasionally female meteorologists will strap their mic pack to their calves or thighs rather than the more unpleasant option of stuffing it into their waistband or strapping it onto their bra.


“In the field when I’m covering snow storms, I go to any pharmacy and get those back patches people wear, those heat wraps, and stick them all over my body,” explains Abrams. “Then I put on a wet suit. When you’re out for as long as we are, that helps you stay dry. I have to be really hot when I go out for winter storms.”

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Your local TV weather forecaster is ad-libbing from start to finish. “Our scripts are the graphics we create,” says Jacob Wycoff, a meteorologist with Western Mass News. “Generally speaking we’re using the graphics to talk through our stories, but everything we say is ad-libbed. Sometimes you can fumble the words you want to say, and sometimes you may miss a beat, but I think what that allows you to do is have a little off-the-cuff moment, which I think the viewers enjoy.”


Part of a meteorologist’s job is to break down very complicated scientific terminology and phenomena into something the general public can not only stomach, but crave. “The trick is … to approach the weather as if you're telling a story: Who are the main actors? Where is the conflict? What happens next?” explains Bob Henson, a Weather Underground meteorologist. “Along the way, you have the opportunity to do a bit of teaching. Weathercasters are often the only scientists that a member of the public will encounter on a regular basis on TV.”

Wycoff’s method for keeping it simple is to pretend like he’s having a conversation with his mom. “I’d pretend like I was giving her the forecast,” he says. “If my mom could understand it, I felt confident the general audience could as well. Part of that is also not using completely science-y terms that go over your audience’s head.”

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Professional meteorologists spend a lot of time debunking bogus forecasts spreading like wildfire across Twitter. “We have a lot of social media meteorologists that don’t have necessarily the background or training to create great forecasts,” Wycoff says. “We have to educate our viewers that they should know the source they’re getting information from.”

“People think it’s as easy as reading a chart,” says Scott Sistek, a meteorologist and weather blogger for KOMO TV in Seattle. “A lot of armchair meteorologists at home can look at a chart and go ok, half an inch of rain. But we take the public front when it’s wrong.”


People plan their lives around the weather forecast, and when a storm rolls in, locals look to their meteorologist for guidance on what to do. If he or she gets the path of a tornado wrong, or downplays its severity, people’s lives are in danger. “If you miss a severe weather forecast and someone’s out on the ball field and gets stuck, someone could get injured,” says Wycoff. “It is a great responsibility that we have.”

Conversely, England says when things get dangerous, some people are reluctant to listen to a forecaster’s advice because they don’t like being told what to do. He relies on a little bit of psychological maneuvering to get people to take cover. “You suggest, you don’t tell,” he says. “You issue instructions but in a way where they feel like they’re making up their own minds.”

11 Behind-the-Scenes Secrets of TV Meteorologists (3)

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“I would say that within three days, meteorologists are about 90 percent accurate,” Wycoff says. “Then at five days we’re at about 60 percent to 75 percent and then after seven days it becomes a bit more wishy-washy.”


The competition for viewers is fierce, and local meteorologists are all rivals in the same race. “When you’re in TV, all meteorologists at other competitors are the enemy,” England says. “You’re not good friends with them. They try to steal the shoes off your children and food off your plate. If they get higher ratings, they get more money.”

“There’s always the running joke: ‘I wish I could be paid a million dollars to be wrong 80 percent of the time,’” Sistek says. “I wanted to have a contest for who can come up with the best weatherman insult, because we need something new! Let’s get creative here.”

A version of this story originally ran in 2015.


Why do female meteorologists always wear dresses? ›

On Tuesday, March 14, you might notice female meteorologists across the country sporting similar dresses, or wearing blue. The fashion statement is a way for them to unify and spread a message: They want to encourage more women to go into STEM fields.

How do meteorologists see on green screen? ›

The weather presenter stands in front of a big green screen, and points as if they can see the map. In reality, the presenter is simply pointing at a green canvas. The television company then apply a 'chroma key' filter to replace everything that is green with another image – in this case, the weather map.

Do meteorologists read from a teleprompter? ›

Well, Meteorologists do not read from a teleprompter! We assess and analyze weather data all day long. We build our OWN forecasts and build every graphic you see on tv. WE ad-lib our entire report every day.

Why do weather people use green screens? ›

This allows another image, which can be just about anything you can imagine, to show through. For example, when a meteorologist stands in front of a green screen, television producers use the chromakey special effects technique to isolate the particular shade of green used on the green screen.

Why do female newscasters wear sleeveless dresses in the winter? ›

There's a reason why the women of TV news have embraced sleevelessness while treading carefully in matters like cleavage (sexy weather reporters aside). Bare arms read as a kind of smart-sexy, a look that women in positions of authority can pull off.

Do news anchors pay for their own clothes? ›

In many cases, the anchors are responsible for purchasing their own clothing. But Albanese recounts a different experience styling a "host on a leading network for her own show," for which she had a daily allowance of $2,200.

Do the people on the Weather Channel wear their own clothes? ›

On the Reddit thread Myers went on to dispel some of the myths around female weather presenters. Most have to purchase their own clothes and don't rely on a wardrobe department. They also do their own hair and makeup.

How do news reporters know the weather? ›

They collect and share data to help improve forecasts. Some of the tools they use include barometers that measure air pressure, anemometers that measure wind speed, Doppler radar stations to monitor the movement of weather fronts, and psychrometers to measure relative humidity.

Where do they film the Weather Channel? ›

The Weather Channel is most often filmed inside a studio near Atlanta, but some people working there sometimes go out to the place where the storm or weather is happening to film it.

Do weathermen lie? ›

When it comes to weather, in general, the accuracy rate for a 24-hour forecast is about 95 percent. For a three-day forecast: about 86 percent. And for a five-day forecast: about 75 percent. So, comparing that to baseball, football, and basketball, the accuracy of a meteorologist is much better!

Why do news anchors hold iPads? ›

Consumer tech is making it possible. Local anchors keep iPads and iPhones handy during newscasts to scan social-media streams and do quick research. Reporters hop on their PCs to do interviews for their stories via Skype instead of going to the trouble of booking a studio and requesting a satellite uplink.

How much does a local news meteorologist make? ›

Salary Ranges for Tv Meteorologists

The salaries of Tv Meteorologists in the US range from $26,721 to $706,326 , with a median salary of $129,532 . The middle 57% of Tv Meteorologists makes between $129,532 and $320,511, with the top 86% making $706,326.

Where do meteorologist get their information? ›

Observational data collected by doppler radar, radiosondes, weather satellites, buoys and other instruments are fed into computerized NWS numerical forecast models. The models use equations, along with new and past weather data, to provide forecast guidance to our meteorologists.

How do TV weather maps work? ›

Ask The Meteorologist: How Does The Green Screen Work? - YouTube

What is chroma key? ›

The Chroma key technique is the process by which a specific color is removed from an image, allowing that portion of the image to be replaced. This color can be any solid color, most commonly blue or green. Chroma keying can also be used as a verb for the act of removing a solid color from an image.

Who is the highest paid news commentator? ›

Anderson Cooper is the richest news anchor. His current net worth is $200 million.

Do the ladies on Fox news wear their own clothes? ›

The simple answer at that station is yes, the news anchors choose and wear their own clothes. Executive Producer Carl Bilek reported that the station does have a stylist/wardrobe consultant who reviews with them which colors, patterns and textures translate the best for high-definition cameras.

What do female news reporters wear? ›

On-air news reporters dress professionally, often in suits and corporate clothing. However, if you work as a field reporter, you dress appropriately for the weather, while still maintaining a professional look.

Do news anchors do their own hair? ›

While some anchors like Dokoupil are doing their own makeup for the first time, others who started out in local news are tapping into leftover hair and makeup experience from early in their careers.

What is Savannah Guthrie's salary? ›

Savannah Guthrie's annual salary for her work on the Today Show is $8 million per year. Savannah Guthrie is best known for hosting the NBC News show Today, a role she has carried out since 2012. She had previously gained notoriety as a journalist and a co-anchor for various networks, including MSNBC and CourtTV.

Who dresses the Weather Channel? ›

Weather Channel on-air staffers are being outfitted by Lands End gear because of a new two-year partnership. Staffers include, left to right, Mike Bettes, Alex Wilson, Jen Carfagno, Chris Bruin and Chris Warren.

How much do news anchors make? ›

The salaries of Tv News Anchors in the US range from $15,166 to $407,998 , with a median salary of $73,257 . The middle 57% of Tv News Anchors makes between $73,261 and $184,050, with the top 86% making $407,998.

Who makes the Weather Channel jackets? ›

Nobody understands weather like the meteorologists at The Weather Channel. Through rain, sleet, snow and blistering heat, they're in the thick of it. So it's no surprise that they chose Lands' End, a company with 50 years of outerwear expertise, to make sure they had high quality gear for every season.

Who is the best meteorologist in the world? ›

By Krisy Gashler. Alan Sealls '85 holds a trophy made by colleagues after users on Reddit declared him the “Best Weatherman Ever.”

Do TV meteorologists make their own forecasts? ›

They create their own forecasts

Most weathercasters you see on the news are fully degreed meteorologists who create their own forecasts in-house before each broadcast and deliver the forecast off-the-cuff without using teleprompters.

How do weathermen predict the weather? ›

Forecasting Tools

This involves using tools such as satellites, radar, and surface maps. Meteorologists look at patterns in the atmosphere, beginning with general patterns, then narrowing it down to the more specific details. We've all heard of satellites and radar, but you might not be familiar with surface maps.

Does The Weather Channel use green screens? ›

Over the years, the green-screen TV weather reporting we now see every day replaced static maps. In the case of most TV weather broadcasts, not much else has changed: The meteorologist stands in front of a map and explains the forecast.

What does red dot on weather com mean? ›

Kate White. The red dot means that will be the most intense part(hours) of the storm.

Who is the new girl on The Weather Channel? ›

Jen Carfagno wanted to be a pilot earlier but interest in weather made her meteorologist. She has been working for The Weather Channel from starting.

Which weather model is most accurate? ›

Types of Weather Models

The ECMWF is generally considered the most accurate, just slightly so, than the American system. However, they do provide access to weather predictions worldwide.

Why is the weather man always wrong? ›

This is because the computer programs (called weather models) that calculate the forecasts don't have data from the future, so they have to rely on assumptions and estimates to make the predictions. The atmosphere is constantly changing, so these estimates become less reliable the further into the future one projects.

How often are weather predictions wrong? ›

The Short Answer: A seven-day forecast can accurately predict the weather about 80 percent of the time and a five-day forecast can accurately predict the weather approximately 90 percent of the time. However, a 10-day—or longer—forecast is only right about half the time.

Do news anchors read teleprompters? ›

Anchors don't master everything they say. In fact, most of the time, they may not even be aware of the news that they read on air. The desk writes the news or the script for them which is reflected on a small TV like screen called the teleprompter. So basically, anchors read from a teleprompter.

Do news anchors write their own scripts? ›

Anchors rarely write anything. Instead, they copy-edit what in-studio producers and writers have written for them. They are responsible for every story in the show.

Why do news readers hold paper? ›

He wanted to know why we have paper and laptops on our desk. We maintain paper copies as a back up. Some anchors prefer to read off of paper more than the teleprompter, so it could come down to preference for some. Every page is recycled at CTV and reused so there is no waste.

What is Al Roker salary? ›

The outlet reports Roker's NBC salary stands at $10million annually. His most recent contract is a five-year $50million deal that covers his duties on both The Today Show and The Weather Channel.

What's the difference between a meteorologist and a chief meteorologist? ›

Many people depend on meteorologists to predict dangerous weather. A chief meteorologist oversees a team of scientists who are responsible for producing weather reports. Typically, someone wishing to become a chief meteorologist must successfully graduate from high school and complete an undergraduate degree program.

Is it hard to become a meteorologist? ›

Being a meteorologist is a difficult job. You have to have excellent communication skills, especially if you want to work in broadcasting. You must have strong math, science, and computer skills since you will use those on a daily basis. You will have to learn how to work in a team.

Do TV presenters get a clothing allowance? ›

Some television presenters – those expected to look good while not wearing the same outfit too often – are also given generous allowances, though details are hard to come by, not least because such allowances often form part of salary negotiations.

Who dresses the Weather Channel? ›

Weather Channel on-air staffers are being outfitted by Lands End gear because of a new two-year partnership. Staffers include, left to right, Mike Bettes, Alex Wilson, Jen Carfagno, Chris Bruin and Chris Warren.


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