Why Does Everyone Hate Meteorologists?
Do Meteorologists Have It Bad?
Meteorologists certainly don't have it too bad when it comes to everyday living. A meteorologist usually obtains a master's degree but many have doctorates. With such a high quality education, they definitely outrank jobs of much lesser quality and there should be a level of respect generated from all those years of education.
But yet there is something missing!
As good as they might have it financially, their levels of respect vary. Meteorologists are prone to substantial public scrutiny with some people claiming that they are useless. How can a scientist with years of education and experience by viewed by some as useless? It doesn't add up but perhaps there's a method to the madness.
One of the most common phrases I hear when people talk about weatherpersons are that it's one of the only professions where they get paid for being right 30 to 50 percent of the time.
I don't know if that phrase still applies but growing up that was the general feeling geared towards this profession. This was exacerbated anytime a meteorologist got a forecast wrong with other phrases like "they're always wrong" or "why should we listen to them". It was that general negativity directed at them that gave them a bad rap.
TV Versus Off-Screen Meteorologist
Some of the criticisms geared toward meteorologist is in part due to their on screen persona. Though TV viewership of the weather is declining, it has still managed to create a stigma against weatherpersons of today. Why is that?
The on screen persona of a meteorologist is usually viewed as a person who seems unusually perky, who may be completely off-beat, is an oddball, and is often seen as eccentric. This persona along with previous misconceptions only furthers the public's negative notions against their career.
What a lot of people don't realize is that often the weatherperson on TV is not an actual meteorologist. The most notable meteorologists of "mets" are actually behind the scenes on their super computers analyzing weather data. It's not that difficult learning how to read off the teleprompter and figure out where to point and stand with the green screen behind you. The real talent and skill is generating that all important winter weather forecast or seven day planner for your upcoming vacation.
The true persona of the meteorologist is very different from the cliched weather persona people often view today. Meteorologists are serious scientists with years of experience and they have to be experts in weather analysis, super computer data, weather modeling, and on all various sorts of weather and climate related instruments. They are no different than your everyday researcher or scientist.
However, people would probably prefer seeing the hyped up persona versus the blander scientist talk about a weather forecast. In fact we've seen dozens of funny videos involving those personas in some questionable circumstances. Even better is during those circumstances the weatherperson tends to exaggerate and become over the top and that's something we'd rather see than the opposite.
Unfortunately being eccentric and silly does no favors for meteorologists. Even though people might enjoy seeing that more, it only lessens the respect for the reals "mets" of the world.
Hurricane Katrina's Storm Surge
All Guts, No Glory
In case you didn't know or refused to believe, predicting the weather is no easy task. There are so many variables out there and so much data to decipher that it doesn't just take a few minutes to make a forecast. Even with all the tools at their disposal meteorologists are still dealt with the enormous task of putting everything together and having the guts to issue a weather forecast.
They know that issuing a wrong forecast could have deadly repercussions and intense public scrutiny. Just imagine the consequences if a meteorologist predicted a cloudy, snow free day that turned out to be a major snowstorm during the workweek.
The massive traffic jams, the potential endangerment to the public especially kids, and even fatalities would all deal the forecasting agencies a harsh blow. Of course if the inverse occurred everyone except maybe the kids wanting a day off from school would be cheering, so there's a bit of hypocrisy there.
It may not even be the forecasters fault yet they would still be trashed harshly. Given that reality it's very difficult for meteorologists to come up with the perfect forecast especially when lives are at stake. Sadly there's no such thing as a perfect forecast; some places will avoid disaster and others wont.
The sad thing is that even when meteorologists are correct they may still be blamed. For example think of events like Hurricane Katrina and the people who died. Meteorologists warned everybody of the deadly potential this hurricane could unleash yet people stayed behind and got killed. I guarantee at least partial blame still went toward the meteorologists because people died.
There's no prize for a meteorologist when they get it right, but there's always a litany of criticism when they get it wrong. You'll never hear someone say thank you to a "met" for accurately forecasting a flood to hit a particular location, but you'll hear people say they did a horrible job when their town gets hit the worst by that same flood because the "mets" were off by 10 miles. It truly takes guts to predict the weather, but they'll never get the glory for getting it right.
Not all meteorologists deserve credit because some are more selfish than others. If there's one thing a meteorologist knows is that hype garners public interest. These days meteorologists have expanded beyond the TV market to host their own websites, create personal forecasts, and by only allowing full access on their site through buying paid subscriptions. Meteorologists have learned to monopolize in this every growing technological world along with the continuous growth of social media. This has generated mixed feelings.
On one hand the public can view professional like weather models and instruments they would've never seen otherwise, but on the other hand they're exposed to unjust weather hype.
Weather hype is basically an exaggeration of an upcoming pattern, forecast, or storm. Hyping commonly occurs during the winter season when cold and snow become a significant topic of discussion. I think all meteorologists are guilty of hyping up their forecast, but a lot of that is due to their love and passion for the weather and climate.
The real crime is when meteorologists become biased and excessively hype every potential weather event even if they're proven wrong every time. They don't do it because they're passionate rather they do it to get more viewers, more notoriety, and more paid subscribers. They have to make a living somehow and attracting a lot of high paying subscribers is a good way to make extra income. Is it moral, ethical, or just? Probably not.
Those kinds of "mets" deserve to be criticized and disrespected. It would be like a server who flaunts her body to get extra tips. Just because you may be in a relatively thankless position doesn't justify immoral and unethical actions. A little bit of hype is okay from time to time but excessive hype just to gain viewership is reaching.
I will say that occasionally extra hype is warranted. During major tornado outbreaks or events like Superstorm Sandy, we need as much hype as possible to get people to respond. If meteorologists were nonchalant about deadly weather events, then local and regional officials would likely have the same attitude.
That attitude would trickle down further and affect their communities, which could then cause more injuries and deaths. There is definitely a time and place for everything and in extreme cases they can hype as much as they want.
A Changing Future
With constant improvements in technology such as weather modeling meteorologists should gain more respect from the public. The attention that climate change and global warming is beginning to get will also aid them.
However there will still be plenty of misses until the data becomes so advanced that accuracy is nearly 100 percent. Those misses will continue to be placed under the microscope and again the hits will not.
Even with people looking at weather forecasts through their phones, tablets, and iPods they still need to realize that their forecast was generated by dozens of highly skilled, professional meteorologists. If you can't thank them through an email or in person then at least acknowledge them in your head.
The weather will never go away, it drives our lives, it controls our days, and its importance can not be overstated. Yet it's still one of the most highly skilled but thankless professions because people still refuse to let go of the cliches and stereotypes.
Eventually I believe people will give them the proper respect they deserve because what they do is very difficult and everything they do indirectly correlates to our lives.