2018-09-01 / Shorts

Come Rain or Shine

Local TV show Weather World celebrates 35 years of award-winning forecasts.
Will Desautelle

When it comes to learning about your local daily weather, you can check your phone for a minute-by-minute forecast, but for something more in-depth, locals tune into the weather magazine show Weather World. Since 1957, the Penn State Department of Meteorology and Atmospheric Science has been a driving force in delivering state-of-the-art forecasts to television audiences throughout Central Pennsylvania, and on Sept. 8 they’ll open their doors to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the current form of the program.

Weather World began in February of 1983 when Dr. Charles Hosler, then dean of Penn State’s College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, decided it was time to experiment with a new way of delivering weather forecasts on television.

Paul Knight and Fred GadomskiPaul Knight and Fred Gadomski

The show officially launched later that year, switching from a 6-minute weathercast at the top of a 30-minute public affairs program to a 15-minute all-weather program. The two original hosts of the show were Paul Knight and Fred Gadomski, still one of the show hosts today.

“Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been interested in the weather and always wanted to be a weatherman where I could talk about the weather with other people,” Gadomski says. “Being a teacher here at Penn State and this program (have) given me an outlet to do so. I hope the people remember my enthusiasm for the subject, and I hope I’ve helped them understand the world around them just a little bit better.”

After 35 years, many of the show’s structural elements have remained constant, but Weather World has also undergone numerous developments over time.

“The meat and potatoes of the show has always been a short-range weather forecast for the whole state of Pennsylvania, meaning that our audience will get a forecast for tonight, tomorrow and the next day every single day,” says Dr. Jon Nese, who now oversees the Weather Communications Group and is responsible for making sure the show happens every weekday.

 That short-range forecast takes about four minutes, and deciding how to allocate the other 11 minutes is what has evolved over the show’s history.

The Weather World staff nowadays employs a variety of approaches to the rest of the show, such as interviews and educational features, as well as medium-range forecasts looking at the weather three to seven days out. A segment called “12-Day Trends” looks even further into the future. Nese and his colleague Marisa Ferger won an Emmy Award for their educational features called “Weather Whys.”
Nese also touched on the different technological changes that the program has seen since its inception in 1983. In the ’80s and ’90s the staff drew on paper maps to show forecasts and then pointed at those maps during filming, but now everything is done digitally.

“Technology has evolved, and now most weather shows are done (with) green screen technology, and through the magic of television and pushing the right buttons in the control room, we can take digital maps and make it look like you’re standing in front of them,” Nese says.

Penn State meteorology students have also played a critical role in the show’s production.  “Weather World is created through a partnership between students, faculty and staff. We could not do this show without the students, who mainly help us out behind the scenes, but who also, once they’ve taken the forecasting classes, can appear on camera,” Nese says.

At the open house to celebrate the anniversary, visitors will be given a behind-the-scenes look at the facilities, cutting-edge technology and staff responsible for their daily dose of weather. The department is also inviting back former Weather World on-air personalities. Nese says many audience members will recognize these alums because much of the audience has been watching the show for decades.

“A lot of local meteorologists will often visit schools for a day, but we don’t do a lot of public appearances since we work at a university and have our own teaching to do throughout the year,” Nese says. “We look at the open house as an opportunity for our viewers to meet us and see our facilities, and I really hope that lots of them do.” •SCM

Weather World Open House

Saturday, Sept. 8 • 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Department of Meteorology and Atmospheric Science on the sixth floor of Walker Building

Weather World airs on WPSU at 5:30 and 5:45 p.m. daily and on PCN at 5:45 p.m. daily.

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