Seeing How Weather Prediction is Done at the "The Weather Channel"

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By: Dennis Donegan and Ryan Hile

The students of the Climatology class taught by Dr. Chandana Mitra, Department of Geology and Geography visited The Weather Channel (TWC) in Atlanta on March 29, 2013.  The whole idea was to engage students in learning opportunities outside of the classroom. All excited about the ‘Day Out’ we hurled ourselves into three vehicles, chatting and munching goodies on our way.

The Weather Channel was established in 1982 with its head office in Atlanta. Atlanta is a hot bed for all kinds of news creation and dissemination and TWC forms a significant part of that sector. The tour of TWC was led by Daniel Dix, senior weather graphics engineer and meteorologist (center person in group picture with the class). He does tornado chasing and very passionately shared a few stories with us on his adventures with the monsters.

Students were shown the recently redesigned broadcast studio and office environment that serves as the heart of TWC's forecasting and media delivery operations.  Graphics engineers, meteorologists, journalists, and weather forecasters work in a quiet, calm, and professional setting.  Our group explored TWC’s complex as operations were in-progress and met personalities Dr. Greg Forbes (in picture with Dr. Mitra) and Mr. Paul Goodloe.

     Dr. Mitra and Dr. Greg Forbes

Climatology Class 3-29-13

This educational journey included an overview of the Global Forecast Center, a partitioned area housing as many as four forecasters who continually update the forecasts for the United States.  Their next stop, the Severe Weather Center, is where experts like Dr. Forbes deliver commentary on extreme weather situations as they develop.  A highlight of the tour was a visit to the new broadcast studio (the panoramic view of the studio is shown above).  Students explored the massive studio area where many of the live broadcasts are made for public reception. TWC studio engineers remotely controlled the large HD cameras that silently crept up behind unaware students, surprising and delighting the group.

Auburn University’s Climatology class finished their visit by frolicking in the green screen zone of the studio.  They were able to watch themselves in the numerous monitors positioned around the workplace as TWC employees teased them with changing computer graphics from remote offices. Some fun was captured on camera as you see in the pictures.

The visit to TWC became more special when our professor announced that TWC did not do this tour for all, it was specially arranged for us. As Sarmitha Singh said "It was a great experience to visit The Weather Channel. There was so much to discover and learn of how climatologists handle different climate models. It was fun to experience automated cameras and the huge studio which we see in news channels." On similar lines I would say the visit changed the way I viewed The Weather Channel on TV from next day, I somehow felt that I knew what was going on behind the TV screen.

Green Screen Climatology Class 3-29-13