Is this Why The Public Is Sometimes Annoyed By TV Weather Coverage?

I had a great time watching the 5pm newscasts on other stations since we’re late due to football.

-4 live shots on one station, all showing partly cloudy skies branded as “WINTER STORM” coverage.  Uggh, no wonder the public gets irritated with us!  Where is this WINTER STORM? And is 1″ (give or take an inch) of snow showers a winter storm?

– Same thing over at station #2, but it’s BREAKING WEATHER (what does that mean?). 

Then the weather people get on both stations and tell us there is no storm coming but some snow showers with light accumulations.  All of the weather folks (including me) appear to pretty much have the same forecasts.  That’s why I told the newsies here not to call it a STORM, unless it’s the mountains they are referring to. 

It’s as if the news department isn’t even communicating with the weather team.  Because of this, I really appreciate that my co-workers and especially management here at FOX12 will take our opinions into consideration when forming news coverage of weather.  Sure, hype and get excited if something significant is on the way, but don’t get viewers thinking something is coming that isn’t.

Some inside baseball here:  this afternoon a producer asked me if WEATHER ALERT (branding) was okay.  I said:  sure, nothing will be going on other than a scattered flurry or two during our evening newscasts.  But we want people to be ALERT for some light snow or icy spots on roads by morning.  I think that’s perfectly reasonable.

Of course now that I’ve worked myself into a lather over it, we’ll probably get 5″ of snow!  Hopefully not.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

63 Responses to Is this Why The Public Is Sometimes Annoyed By TV Weather Coverage?

  1. Runrain says:

    Snowing hard here in Bothell this morning. Little flakes to big flakes. 1-2″ and enough to sled on in the yard.

  2. Great blog Mark! My fiance and I always joke about the urgency that the other stations have with labeling a little snow as a big storm, and then we usually find that only an inch or two of snow has happened. I am hoping for 5 inches, been waiting for snow for weeks now!
    THANK YOU for keeping it REAL! 🙂

  3. PDX Weather Nut says:


    Seems like it’s just about ratings. The possibility of snow always brings more viewers to watching TV news here.

    Disappointing that the NWS has seemingly blown another snow forecast. Maybe it’s the old NWS jinx?

  4. Snowhound says:

    “Is this Why The Public Is Sometimes Annoyed By TV Weather Coverage?”

    I enjoy weather coverage that doesn’t insult my intelligence. With that said, let’s just say my intelligence is insulted most of the time when the weather turns like this.

    There is one thing though that I won’t be able to deal with, Mark. We’re going to have some serious issues if a minute of the Packer game is interrupted tomorrow with some live news reporter showing me what snow looks like.

  5. Brad says:

    00z GFS looks really good out to 48 hr. Indicates 1-3 inches of snow overnight for Clark Co..snow showers into Tues.

  6. EA_TTD says:


    In all seriousness, why are you discounting the NAM? Not questioning the call but curious to your rationale.

    • chris s says:

      Ya count me in that category as well, wanting to know why the nam is being discounted?.

    • Mark Nelsen says:

      Because it is the only model showing it so cold and such a strong northern stream through Tuesday. The GFS, GEM, ECMWF and our RPM all agree (at least up through this afternoon) on a quicker warmup and stronger westerly flow. If they are wrong and the NAM is correct though, what a snowstorm and/or ice coming up late Tuesday and early Wednesday!

    • EA_TTD says:

      Appreciate it, Mark. Thanks. Figured it may be because it was an outlier but didn’t they (NCEP?) do an upgrade on it recently to improve its performance? I know in the Midwest, they rely on it a lot for its short range (24-48 hr.) accuracy.

      If it is right, move the timing up to Tuesday morning, will ya? That’ll cancel my flight to Atlanta and I can watch it with everyone else!!

    • Mark Nelsen says:

      You’re right, the resolution was increased last Summer I think. We’ll see. We’ll know in about a half hour if the 00z GFS decides to start tracking things farther south.

    • Brad says:

      Doesn’t look like it. I only have 00z out to 84 hour, but looks pretty consistent with earlier runs.

    • Brad says:

      96 hour has a double barrel low extending from the NW tip of WA out west several hundred miles. Well north of the NAM.

  7. Wendy-Silver Lake says:

    There’s a whole lotta snow out there!!! Starting to pile up quite nicely. 🙂

  8. Andrew (Portland....Sylvan Highlands ~800 feet) says:

    Snow is only a few minutes from the south metro area now, should pick up a nice coating of white here, currently 31.

  9. AlohaWeather says:

    I’m getting a light mix now…

  10. Tigard 225' says:

    Road surface is white over coast range under this shower:

  11. RobWaltemate says:

    Well, that is why I don’t watch the other stations Mark! I would hate to see what they would call a real winter storm.

  12. Joshua in Lake Oswego says:

    My temp has gone up more than 1 degree in the last 45 minutes. What gives? Bummer!

  13. Dave in South Salem says:

    The radar shows a good bunch of moisture headed for the Metro area right now. No such luck for me…

    • Tigard 225' says:

      It may disappear before it gets here. The coast range precip shadow is in effect. Last year in a similar situation, we had to wait until the showers were coming up from the SW for them to make it to PDX…. I don’t know if we’ll see a SW flow this time around.

    • Dave in South Salem says:

      I dunno looks like it just hit newberg, could be a GOLU moment for you in Tigard soon.

    • Tigard 225' says:

      Fingers are crossed. I’ve managed to learn how not to get my hopes up until it gets here and then I just enjoy. Thanks for the hope!

  14. Andrew (Portland....Sylvan Highlands ~800 feet) says:

    Down to 31 here now, might end up quite a bit colder tonight than what most people were predicting.

  15. Tigard 225' says:

    I have a feeling that the NAM is erroneous but it still looks great in its 00z version…

  16. stevied (North Portland) says:

    uhh….00z NAM is awesome so far.

  17. pappoose in scappoose says:

    There are lots of folks who tune in to the news to see what’s up with the weather. It’s obviously a no-brainer to us, that the roads may get dangerous….but…I know people who have no clue. No doubt the news to these people that the roads could get hazardous, will get blown out of proportion. But I think they should be told anyway.

    I don’t think you can say it too much.

    But…I’m glad it does get over-blown. Creates all kinds of funny reports from the reporters on the scene (no scene) for me to laugh at. Hahaah!

  18. WhiteEagle - Garden Home/SW Portland says:

    I feel your pain, Mark. In a past life I was a weather producer at a TV station in DC, which is almost as panicky about snow as we are.

    During the morning meeting one day we realized we were having a sparse news day, other than a weak clipper system which may bring 0-1 inch. The news director essentially ordered us to forecast 2-5 inches so it would be a bigger story and they could lead with it. Our chief met and the news director got in a tussle over it, but as you know, the news director is the boss. We ended up with a few flurries and egg on our face, but our ratings were us that night so the news director claimed victory. How short sighted.

    I am a scientist at heart and I just couldn’t live with the sensationalism and decided to get out of media…handed in my resignation two weeks later, though the news director begged me to stay on and even offered me a morning spot on camera and a 40% raise. My weather career has since treated me very well and I am very glad I chose the path that I did.

    You are a very lucky guy to have the management team you do, you seem to appreciate that! And it shows in the work you and your team produce 🙂

    • WhiteEagle - Garden Home/SW Portland says:

      p.s. I was relieved to find out 6 months later that the news director got fired, but unfortunately not before he fired our chief met of 15 years and replaced him with a good looking non-meteorologist.

  19. o.c.paul says:

    Wow, it’s so ironic you should post this. I just finished watching KATU do FOUR remotes that all said, “nothing is happening”. Maybe they should do that kind of reporting every night. (because most nights, they could) It was like watching a MadTV bit.
    And about the five inches of snow…I so hope you are wrong and we get it Mark.

  20. Brad says:

    First Strike 2012! Flakes at 11.

  21. The first light snow shower is entering Forest Grove, my temp is at 36°F

  22. Wendy-Silver Lake says:

    Muxpux…incoming!!! Let me know what you get out of it.

  23. flurball says:

    I’m not in approval at what they do for ratings but you can’t put lipstick on a pig as they say. What will FOX 12 do now that they have the Rose Festival contract? They might have Mark with roses in his teeth while doing the forecast with Stephanie doing a raindrop test on a lawn chair chained to a parking meter. No insults intended here. It’s a ratings business and it’s just of matter where you want to interject your opportunity when it is optimum. Weather, Blazers, Mt Saint Hellens, etc. If you’re not doing it now, you’re apt to be doing it later.

    • Mark Nelsen says:

      You might not be too far off on that for sure. But I’m referring specifically to weather forecasts and the perception of what’s coming versus what is really in the forecast.

    • flurball says:

      Agreed Mark. I knew I was expanding it a bit, but had to say it. Go Blazers…….. Errrrrrrr…………Rose Festival 🙂

    • oldwxwatcher says:

      You make a valid point, flurball. After all, there is a certain station here – ahem – which often leads its newscasts with BREAKING NEWS stories that are hours old and were not hyped to the same extent by the other stations. It’s the ratings game at work.

    • Mark Nelsen says:

      Mmm…hmmm. I’m only giving credit (and taking responsibility) for the weather product. Nothing else.

  24. germantownsummit1000' says:


  25. Andrew (Portland....Sylvan Highlands ~800 feet) says:

    Down to 32 here with clear sky’s.

  26. snodaze says:

    Mark, why are you bringing politics into the thread?…

    That’s all I’m going to say…

    • snodaze says:

      That said however… I like your take… pretty much straight up garbage you must deal with day to day (with days like this).. ??

    • JohnD says:

      Yeah I pretty much have to agree…about the politics aspect that
      is. But admittedly about Mark’s rant too.
      Mostly all I care about is the snow.
      And you know what?–It is ALWAYS my policy that when the
      snow FINALLY comes, I forget about the cognitive BS and simply
      enjoy the ephemeral, rare experience–AND TURN OFF ALL

    • snodaze says:

      And you know what?–It is ALWAYS my policy that when the
      snow FINALLY comes, I forget about the cognitive BS and simply
      enjoy the ephemeral, rare experience–AND TURN OFF ALL


      Yeah… I’d buy that for a buck… 🙂

  27. timmy - scappoose says:

    make it snow mark!

  28. archivest says:

    Thank you. I avoid the other stations’ “Storm Team Coverage” for all the reasons you mentioned. I know the over hype drives people I know away. It gets so padded out it makes your skin itch like an allergic reaction.

  29. anyone know the address for sending photos to Mark??

  30. pbo9 says:

    Thanks for the pragmatism. It really is appreciated.

  31. Joshua in Lake Oswego says:

    You’re the best in the biz Mark! We all know that all television is driven by ratings, but it is in poor taste to purposely mislead people.

  32. test…wordpress and i are having some issues…

  33. Ionosphere says:

    We appreciate the measured and thoughtful approach!

  34. brandy says:

    that’s exactly what i was thinking mark! when i watched those other stations. glad to see someone else was thinking the same thing. all this weather hype and were not supposed to get much snow,

  35. IceCold says:

    I love Mark the best! #1

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