Poor Media Use of Weather Terminology

Jeff Duda

EF6+, PhD
Staff member
Supporter
Oct 7, 2008
3,463
2,417
21
Broomfield, CO
www.meteor.iastate.edu
I'm starting this thread to collect lol-worthy examples of media totally biffing descriptions or naming of various weather events.

This inaugural post includes a link to another thread where this is already discussed: VIDEO: Maryland Tornado (Ida), but also this entry:
This thread is meant to get laughs and also face palm at botched media coverage of weather events such as:
  • "possible tornado" from a video or image of what is almost certainly (or is 100% surely) a tornado
  • "The polar vortex is coming!" (hint: it's always there)
  • "vortex"/"cyclone"/"whirling dervish"/"zephyr"/all goofy terms used to describe what is actually a tornado
  • "Mysterious power surge during thunderstorm causes outages"
  • etc.
 
Feb 19, 2021
82
113
6
Wichita
There was a lightning delay with tonight's Monday Night Football in Los Angeles...due to lightning...in a dome.

While the announcers were on the field (the teams had to be in the locker rooms but I guess TV people are expendable), they actually said,

"Lightning can't go sideways."

"I'm not a meteorologist but I play one on TV. "
 
  • Haha
Reactions: Andy Wehrle
Dec 8, 2003
1,384
400
11
Southeast CO
www.youtube.com
I watch Weather Nation. A couple years ago they were constantly referring to the northern plains as the "high plains", as if "high plains" means the plains that are up high on the map. I sent them an email about it, explaining that Fargo and Omaha, for example, are NOT on the high plains. I got no reply, and they continued doing that for many months, but I think they have finally quit doing that.

This year they all got very fond of the term "spin-up". Every time there was a risk for tornadoes it was "a chance for a spin-up here and there".

Another thing I saw beginning this year was that they displayed the 500mb relative vorticity graphic a couple times, without any explanation, as if more than 0.0001% of their viewers would have the slightest idea what to make of it.
 
Oct 10, 2004
1,221
296
11
35
Madison, WI
As someone who works (behind the scenes) for a local TV station, I see this a lot. I often glance over weather-related scripts and let the producers/anchors know to correct any that I find, usually copied verbatim from national network scripts.

Another common one is failing to update national scripts that dropped 6-12 hours ago, e.g. that "tropical storm" has rapidly intensified and is now a Category 4 hurricane. Weather changes fast. I always advise them to go right to the official source (SPC/NHC) or, better yet, ask our own meteorologist.
 
Feb 19, 2021
82
113
6
Wichita
The amount of shoddy wire service reporting about weather is unbelievable. Makes you wonder about the accuracy of their other stories.


As someone who works (behind the scenes) for a local TV station, I see this a lot. I often glance over weather-related scripts and let the producers/anchors know to correct any that I find, usually copied verbatim from national network scripts.

Another common one is failing to update national scripts that dropped 6-12 hours ago, e.g. that "tropical storm" has rapidly intensified and is now a Category 4 hurricane. Weather changes fast. I always advise them to go right to the official source (SPC/NHC) or, better yet, ask our own meteorologist.
 
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Reactions: Andy Wehrle

Michael Towers

Supporter
Jun 28, 2007
321
171
11
Machesney Park, IL
The old “clashing of air masses” causing tornadoes is a frequently made blunder. I remember a local TV met using the phrase to explain why a tornado outbreak happened and I tweeted her the link below which I think is informative in debunking the phrase:

 
Nov 11, 2017
16
17
1
Overland Park KS
I frequently hear and cringe when TV meteorologists refer to rain and snow accumulations as "moisture". It is precipitation. The glossary of meteorology says moisture is water vapor suspended in the atmosphere. Not rain and snow. I wish the AMS would remove their seals of approval as this is repeated over and over and over again. End of rant.