Why I Decided to Become a Meteorologist
National Weatherperson's Day, also known as National Weatherman's Day, is a holiday observed on February 5 primarily in the United States. It recognizes individuals in the fields of meteorology, weather forecasting and broadcast meteorology - including the folks who watch over the quality of the air we breathe - as well as volunteer storm spotters and observers. National Weatherperson's Day is observed on the birthday of John Jeffries, one of the United States' first weather observers who took daily measurements from 1774 to 1816.
At the age of four, I made the decision to become a meteorologist and I have not looked back since. Growing up and seeing our local meteorologist cover severe weather on television was something that just fascinated me. Still does. Not only did I enjoy hearing about weather changes and formations, I also enjoyed seeing how meteorologists prepared people for harsh weather. Now that I am a meteorologist, I take great pride in being able to do the same.
Although I have looked up to many meteorologists over the years, I would say that my biggest role model was James Spann, the chief meteorologist at the ABC affiliate (ABC 33/40) in Birmingham. He always seemed to pave the way for new technology in the industry. Plus, he was a unique storyteller and passionate about his job. Witnessing his balance between community involvement, school visits and severe weather coverage provided me with a great model for my own career.
Being a meteorologist provides me quite a few perks, however the biggest perk is being able to go to work each day and not feel like I’m at work. I’m doing something that I enjoy and have been passionate about for years. Over the course of my seven year career, I would say that my most memorable experience was my first day on air when I was a senior in college working at the ABC affiliate (WTOK) in Meridian, Mississippi. Hurricane Ivan made landfall, and our weather team was involved in continuous coverage of the storm for over 12 hours. It was quite a way to break into the business!
Since that time, I’ve seen firsthand the devastation that severe weather events can place on communities. Unfortunately, we can only do so much on TV when we cover these situations, so we encourage individuals to take it upon themselves to stay informed, and we strive to ensure that the public is weather-aware.
Our weather team informs our audience on air quality issues by displaying the air quality index when we foresee bad air days. This allows residents to take action to improve the air and protect themselves. In Columbus, we deal with air quality issues occasionally, especially during the summer months. It’s important for us to let people know about air quality concerns outside of our area since many of our residents travel to cities like Birmingham and Atlanta, which often see worse conditions than we do.
Aside from weather-related events, it’s nice to be able promote positive things like school contests, such as The Clean Air Campaign’s Young Lungs at Work Art Competition, which helps educate kids about pollution and how it affects the air we breathe. By spreading the word in our local community, we can help people understand the importance of turning off engines to idling cars and school buses in pick-up lanes at school.
I'm happy to say that for the first time in awhile I won’t be at work on Weatherperson’s Day this Sunday, so I’ll likely celebrate it by enjoying a day off and watching the Super Bowl. Happy Weatherperson’s Day to all my peers!
Derek Kinkade is the chief meteorologist for 9 ABC/WTVM in Columbus.