Frank's Blog - Yes, Finally
Weather Porn - 26 March, 2016
The world has obviously changed a lot since I was a kid. One of those changes has been in the development of television weather forecasting.
When I first became aware of the television weather report, I was in my late teens. This would have been the early 1970s. I remember having to
watch the local news for a school project and there was the weather report. A happy smiling woman would stand in front of a map and tell me what
was happening out the window. Then she would tell me if the next day or two would be clear or rainy. Then we went to sports. It was over in a
couple of minutes.
Something happened while I was in the military and missing a lot of television. The weather became "important." First, there was "weather radar."
Then there was "Doppler radar." Then there was "super Doppler radar." Then multiple super Doppler radars. Then there was wind shift radar
and tornado radar and all sorts of radar. The part of the nightly local news program that was "weather" came to account for about a third of the
program. The happy, smiling woman got canned, apparently, and was replaced by a serious-looking older guy in a serious-looking blue suit, so
that he would not fade into the green screen "weather board."
Weather reports stretched out from a couple of days, to a few days, to a week and now, a third of a month in some places. The weather guy
predicts what the temperature for the next day will be, and then pays people money if he was off by more than a degree. If the weather is going to
be "bad," the "weather team" is called in and then several serious-looking people in suits, as well as a younger staffer in more casual clothes who
is sent out in the "weather van," begin to do an almost constant tag-team of doom.
What happened? I don't know for sure, but I suspect that there were two causes. First off, I suspect that, in today's litigious society, news
programs began to get hit by threats of lawsuits (and maybe even lawsuits themselves). It happened to both the federal government and the
Weather Channel. People sued because someone relied on a weather forecast that was either incomplete or wrong. So far, the people suing
have lost the cases, but as more and more weather broadcasters announce that they are "the most accurate," sooner or later a jury is going to
hold them to it.
Secondly, and I personally suspect this is more the reason, the people in charge of local news broadcast realized that the part of the show that
almost everyone cared about was the weather. Some kid got shot last night? Unless you knew him, it is just sad trivia. Bad traffic on the
Whatsamatta Bridge? If you are heading that way, you probably aren't simultaneously at home watching the news. The local high school lacrosse
team got beat? Even the parents of the kids don't care about that one. But the weather affects everyone. It falls on the righteous and the
So, if people really care about the weather, give them more of it - and then put your most television advertising between the part where the weather
forecaster tells you what happened today and the part where he tells you what is going to happen tomorrow. Once the guy has gotten done telling
you about how correct LAST night's forecast was, then you will be more than willing to sit through half a dozen car commercials and ads for local
injury attorneys to find out what tomorrow will be like.
Of course, the weather forecaster never tells you exactly what is going to happen. He tells you what might happen, and he even gives you a
percentage chance. Of course, one of the big jokes in modern society is when the weather forecaster tells you that there is a 60 percent chance
of rain, does he mean that there is a 60% chance that it will rain somewhere or a 100% chance that it will rain over 60% of the area or what?
Whatever he means, the bottom line is that it might or might not rain where you are tomorrow.
Of course, if it actually IS raining, particularly if the rain wasn't predicted to be "this" bad, then we get the full court press. This is where the young
staffer in a foul weather jacket and a baseball cap with the station's logo is sent out and told to stand in the rain somewhere, preferably with a lot of
water in the background, so that everyone can see that the weather is "bad" and that we should all be happy that we are inside watching the news
(and the commercials) instead of being out there in it. Now is when the "weather porn" really starts. The breathless staffer trying to shout over the
roar of the rain and the howl of the wind, the concerned looking weather anchor back at the telling her to "stay safe" as the program shifts back to
the "weather center" where the older but still virile "science forecaster" brings up all sorts of maps and graphics to describe how the wind "might"
start turning near this particular intersection, which "might" lead to a funnel cloud, which "might" touch down and wipe out all humanity at that spot,
so you "might" want to turn off the television and go hide in the basement, but first, you "might" want to watch this commercial for a car dealership
that "might" want to sell you a used car.
Much like real porn, there is a lot of breathless imagery, a lot of sizzle, not a lot you can do to join in and an underlying commercial message.
Watch us and we will keep you safe. The fact that even a really destructive tornado would probably only affect two or three hundred people if it
touched down is not mentioned. More importantly, if a tornado actually was going to touch down, your best bet would be to get to somewhere safe
and accept the consequences. The frowning weather forecaster on television is not going to help you nearly as much as being in a small room
with no windows would.
Of course, today we have far more resources than just the local evening news. We have the Weather Channel on cable, the Weather
Underground on the computer and Weather Bug on our smart phone. It used to be that the only way you knew what the current temperature is
was by going down to the local bank and looking at their "time and temperature" display. Now, you can see what the temperature is to a tenth of a
degree for a dozen locations around you. Your car might even tell you what the exterior temperature is, while you are driving past the building that
used to be the bank, before it went on-line. You can, with a dozen clicks, get three or four forecasts about what the weather will be in your area
and all of them will agree to a certain extent and disagree more than that.
So, what's the best solution to weather porn? First, get past the idea that you need that much information about the weather, particularly weather
more than two days in the future. Even if you knew with 100% certainty what the weather was going to be like a week from today, all you could do
is plan around it. You can't change it.
If you are planning to go on an ocean crossing, you have two options. Wait for the weather to be perfect or accept the weather that you have.
Either way, you are going to live with the results.
By the way, I understand that there are some Internet sites where buxom young ladies do the news and weather forecasts in the buff. I have to
wonder if this is weather porn porn, or just porn. Either way, it seems to me that anything that gets rid of the sleazy personal injury ads is
worthwhile, even if I am forced to look at buxom young ladies naked. It's a high price to pay, but I am willing to pay it.