Study reaffirms Mississippi State's dominance in broadcast meteorology
Dylan M. Federico, a 2018 MSU meteorology graduate from Metairie, Louisiana, is pictured in the university’s climate lab studio at Hilbun Hall. Federico is now employed as a meteorologist at WTVM in Columbus, Georgia. PHOTO: Beth Wynn | Public Affairs
Mississippi State’s long-term strength in the field of broadcast meteorology is being reaffirmed by a study on the educational backgrounds of television weathercasters across the country.
A recent scientific journal article in Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society reports that one-third of all on-air weather broadcasters have training from the MSU Department of Geosciences program.
“The MSU broadcast [meteorology] program alone has nearly as many graduates as the four largest traditional programs combined,” revealed the BAMS article published last month.
“Education Backgrounds of TV Weathercasters” categorizes the on-air weathercasters’ educational backgrounds, focusing on the number of forecasters with four-year bachelor’s degrees and the dominance of MSU broadcast degrees and certifications. Though none of the authors are affiliated with MSU, their research indicates the university’s program is nationally recognized.
The full article is available at https://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/full/10.1175/BAMS-D-17-0047.1.
The BAMS article states, “The Pennsylvania State University, Florida State University and the University of Oklahoma are traditionally three of the largest meteorology programs in the country. However, they finished second, third and fourth, respectively, in the number of weathercasters graduating from any university. MSU graduated the largest number of degree-holding weathercasters.”
According to the authors, “These results show the prevalence of the MSU meteorology program, especially the broadcast meteorology program.” The article is written by Thomas A. Green Jr. of the National Weather Service Pittsburgh; Carl J. Schreck III of North Carolina State University Asheville; Nathan S. Johnson of NBC Universal and North Carolina State University Raleigh; and Sonya Stevens Heath of WCIV-TV in Charleston, South Carolina.
MSU College of Arts and Sciences Dean Rick Travis said the scale of the impact of MSU’s meteorology program across the country is staggering.
“What makes our broadcast meteorology program unique is the combining of a deep knowledge of the ‘science of weather’ with the ability to convey to viewers what they need to know about that day’s weather,” Travis said.
He explained this ability is “especially important” during hazardous weather conditions.
“Our former students have the ability to communicate clearly the most important information constituents need to help them make wise weather-related decisions. Every day, millions of Americans tune in to their local and national news programs to receive their weather forecast from an MSU-trained meteorologist,” Travis said.
Michael Brown, Mississippi’s state climatologist and MSU professor of geosciences, said it is natural to investigate the educational backgrounds of those who are identifying threats and disseminating life-saving information on air.
“The article speaks well for our program,” Brown said. “It does indicate that our program is well-respected and our graduates are well-trained. It also indicates that our graduates command most of the broadcast meteorology jobs, but this goes back to being well-trained.”
“Television stations know the type of broadcast meteorologists we produce, and they know our graduates are ready to be on-air from day one,” he added.
The commitment of MSU’s faculty to produce a well-trained and highly educated graduate sets MSU’s program apart, Brown said. “Our students have a deep understanding of meteorology, and they gain confidence in their ability to condense complex meteorological phenomena into pieces of information that the general public can easily understand. This could be in the form of a complex snowfall forecast, or while they are delivering life-saving information during a tornado outbreak,” he said.
Brown said confidence is the marker of a good weather forecaster. “To be a broadcast meteorologist you need to earn the trust of the public. You earn that trust by being steadfast and confident during periods of life-threatening weather. This is rooted in their education and knowledge.”
John Rodgers, professor and head of MSU’s geosciences department, said the department’s mission is to train meteorologists to make accurate and timely forecasts, but more importantly, “we train our students to save lives.”
“There is a certain level of confidence and on-air presence that is needed to get people to respond appropriately to severe weather threats,” Rodgers said. “We provide our students with the experiences they need to be successful.”
In addition to providing distinctive contributions in the areas of weather, environment and natural resources, MSU’s Department of Geosciences teaches more than one-third of the university’s distance learning credit hours. The department is the only educational entity in the state that combines climatologists, geographers, geologists, geospatial experts and meteorologists in one department. For more information, visit www.geosciences.msstate.edu.
MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at www.msstate.edu.
Sarah Nicholas | College of Arts and Sciences