If you are like me (which I seriously doubt) you have been asking yourself why there are suddenly so many Meteorologists on television lately. It comes to mind because local television stations devote an extraordinary amount of time to the weather. So much so, that it is often the lead story, especially when there is snow in the forecast. On our local ABC station, Action News weeknight meteorologist Cecily Tynan gets top billing. She majored in journalism and politics at Washington and Lee University in Virginia.
For those non-local readers, in the Philadelphia area, the mere mention of the word snow (as in "Snow Flurries", "Snow Showers", or even the dreaded "Chance of snow flurries or snow showers") drives the locals into a frenzy that would only be rivaled by a full-out nuclear holocaust. Local grocery stores face exhausted supplies of milk, eggs and bread; as if we fear being unable to make French Toast when housebound.
What I've noticed is that the local weather people have been introducing themselves as "Meteorologist [insert name]" much in the same way as a doctor would use the term "Doctor [insert name]". It seems to me to be a bit smug, since I place the television meteorologist on the same level as the Subway Sandwich Artist rather than my local General Practitioner, who may hold my life in his hands. I wondered about it so much that I looked into what it takes to be a TV Meteorologist. It's not much, as you could imagine.
The American Meteorological Society [AMS] Seal Program consists of at least 12 semester hours of study in the atmospheric, oceanic, or related hydrologic sciences from an accredited institution of higher learning, and a $600 fee. We're talking about four 3-credit courses in a related science and some money. So, you can bet that the boys at your local TV station have jumped at the chance to have any street reporter with an interest in science fill-out an application and take some night courses, like Cecily did, for the priviledge of calling herself a Meteorologist.
That isn't meant to take away from people like Stephanie Abrams of the Weather Channel, who has a real B.S. in Meteorology, or any other real science major. The point is, that local television has seen a need to include the title "Meteorologist" when introducing people like Carol Erickson, a respected veteran local TV reporter who suddenly acquired a title. It does, however, make me wonder how people like Stephanie feel about local reporters calling themselves something that it took her four years of college to acquire. Or maybe they're all as happy as clams to be drawing that fat TV paycheck every two weeks? It's probably that.
You never hear titles added to the sports guy or the news anchor. The only titles presented in the introductions are for the Meteorologists. I wonder?
You would also think, with the wealth of information available to these pseudo-scientists, that the forecasts would be more accurate. There are satellite fly-overs, Doppler radar and more technology than they have at NORAD, and the best these people can do is guess with applicable percentages. For instance, this weekend was supposed to be rainy and generally lousy. They told us that as recently as Thursday, but the forecast has changed, and will probably change a few more times between now and Sunday.
By the way, what's the difference between Partly Cloudy and Partly Sunny? And why do snow flurries matter? If it isn't going to accumulate, I don't need to know about it. For all I know, the flurries could be ashes from the local incinerator.
With the fancy title and the AMS Certification, we expect more. High expectations produce greater disappointment when they are wrong. I think they would benefit from a little less pomp and a lot more circumstance. We really don't need to hear the title Meteorologist every five minutes, but we do need to hear an accurate forecast. It wouldn't matter if it was coming from the AMS member, the Subway Sandwich guy or a chimp, as long as I knew whether or not to wear a wool coat or a pair of shorts.