Why Can’t National Media Get A Weather Story Right?


It drives me nuts.  Why do the national media (the news networks) make up weather forecasts AFTER a major event?  It happened again today with the Houston flooding.  I ran across this in a news script in two of our shows (now corrected):


Waaaa??? was my first reaction.  I vaguely remember seeing something from some weather site way back late last week mentioning some flooding likely in Texas during the upcoming weekend.  So I just checked the Houston National Weather Service Facebook page.  Wow, after all of 30 seconds of work I found this posting from SATURDAY MORNING:


Sounds like if you live in that area there could be some flooding coming up for later Sunday or Monday?  Hmmm,  then another posting SUNDAY MORNING:


Quite a bit more detail.  At this point it appears the main action is forecast to hit Houston and areas to the west and north.  That’s EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENED WITHIN 18-24 HOURS OF THIS POSTING!

Folks, this has happened several times in the past year.  Remember the cruise ship (Anthem of the Seas) that sailed straight into the hurricane force winds earlier this year?  The company claimed, and then some media repeated that claim without checking, that the storm was unexpected.  It took  meteorologists speaking out to clue in the media that the company was wrong and either knew about the storm or failed to check the path vs. storm.

Back on February 2nd there was a tornado outbreak in the south.  Apparently one network began coverage with “WITHOUT WARNING”.  Ummm, the SPC had forecast the outbreak ahead of time and many warnings were issued ahead of the storms.

How does this happen?  How do reputable news organizations fail to check important facts and go on the air with an unsubstantiated claim?  Good question!  I don’t know.  It sure wouldn’t happen with other facts, but for some reason media seems to “wing it” with the weather information.  All a reporter has to do is check with their local National Weather Service office, or in the case of local tv stations, ask the weather anchor sitting on the other side of the office.  It’s not that hard.

We are very fortunate here at FOX12 that the news producers and reporters regularly call the weather folks to see if “that script looks okay” or “is there anything else I can add” or “I don’t want to get something wrong”.  I love working with the people here.  We DO get those national scripts that have mistakes like tonight, but we can often correct those in-house quickly.  So no complaints about my coworkers.

Now you might be wondering why Mark has his panties in a wad?  I care because time after time the implication is that “those forecasters were fooled again!”.  That’s annoying, because most big weather events are pretty well forecast compared to 23 years ago when I started.

Alright, I feel better now…

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen


33 Responses to Why Can’t National Media Get A Weather Story Right?

  1. Shawn Weagle - Garden Home/SW Portland says:

    Grrrrrrrr………. Well said, Mark.

  2. Joshua Downtown PDX says:

    Only 2 degrees cooler than yesterday at 2:00. When will the misery end?!

  3. Hal in Aims says:

    just now beginning to pop up between Eugene and Bend moving NW………

  4. vernonia1 says:

    I only see one very narrow band down by Roseburg that looks to be falling apart. What am I missing?

    • runrain says:

      Yes, it almost looks like this system is not moving north and may, in fact, end up slipping off to our south. If that happens, I wonder if we would be looking at another day or two of very warm weather.

  5. boninepaul says:

    Mark thanks for this post. It was right on. Seems like news organizations are just about as attentive as people who always want to complain that they are surprised and forecasters are incompetent. Things have improved greatly and its up to people like you to communicate that. Me? I just shake my head.

  6. vernonia1 says:

    Umm………….is it just me?? I do not see much on the satellite???

  7. Cherie Peck says:

    Wish we could post this publicly. More people need to know about this. (loke before going on a cruise)

  8. Jeff--GH250 says:

    This reminds of the news report I heard several years ago when I lived in Virginia. The low temperature was forecast to be 40 degrees. But, the newscaster warned, “With the wind chill, the temperature will be below freezing, so watch for icy roads.”

  9. W7ENK says:

    SPC has us under marginal risk of thunderstorms for today, specifically calling out Portland, OR… along with Texas, Texas, Texas and Texas. lol

    5% risk of 1 inch diameter hail.
    5% risk of damaging winds.


  10. mark:
    nice posting, this has been going on for a long time, the media is very sloppy with news stories and very hard on the NWS. I think the reason is, and this goes for lack of investigative news, that they are trying to save a buck by not fact checking their stories, this takes time and in many cases with inadequate staff it doe’st get done. It’s all about money!

  11. Rexine says:

    You can rant all you want, you provide VERY accurate weather. Just wish you had more time to spend on the north coast. It’s like we get a blip, and it’s gone. You are Great!

  12. Good to get it off your chest, Mark. The fact is, many media people don’t even know the basics of simple weather observation: A few years ago during a heat wave similar to the current one, I was watching a local TV newscast feature on the weather. The reporter was holding a thermometer in front of the camera commenting on how warm the temperature was. The problem: He was exposing it directly into the sunshine! 🙂

  13. runrain says:

    Could be an interesting afternoon. We must be relentlessly on watch!

  14. Re: the cruise ship sailing into a hurricane – no excuse for that. Betting they have a bit more advanced weather equipment than an old thermal paper HF fax like what I worked on in the coast guard circa 92-95 off the Oregon/Washington coast, say like maybe satellite internet? I think people love the trope of ‘the forecaster didn’t see it coming’ and it is an easy excuse for poor prep on their part.

  15. Paul D says:

    Mark wears panties?!?

  16. I totally understand your frustration Mark. I think the fallacy here is intentional and not just sloppy reporting. Claiming the storm was a “surprise” or “came out of nowhere” is a more sensational story and creates more fear surrounding the weather. Having lived in Oklahoma for several years, the news stations there really make a point to emphasize how frightening and unpredictable the weather is. I assume this is in a push for ratings…

  17. At least Mark doesn’t have to spend half his days forecasting “storm events” like tornadoes or flash floods or giant hail or blizzards….the big events only come once in a rarity in our climate.

    I enjoy how Mark takes the time to geek out about the subtler, but every bit as enlightening, details that make up PNW weather. The sun angle. Inversion season. Averages and records. Downslope warming. Orographic/rainshadow patterns. The 850mb temps. Easterly gradient. Dewpoints. The list goes on….

  18. bruce weiter says:

    Way to say it, Mark. Phooey on the stations that don’t employ real meteorologists and don’t treat weather as the life or death creature it can become.

  19. halverbk says:

    It’s not just the weather stories that need to be right. It’s the news: it should be accurate. Either the rush to get stories on the air or just sloppy spellchecking make for bad product. My favorite is the Portland medias difficulty in knowing the difference between N & NE Portland. Keep up the good work, Mark & Co.

  20. Carla Jones says:

    Rant well taken. It seems easier to just parrot what someone says instead of taking the effort to check the facts. Getting a story out first, right or wrong, is what hooks people to stay tuned to a tv or radio station. I think they feel that that particular station must have an “in” to the story. Keep doing what you do. In my case, its appreciated.

%d bloggers like this: