On May 2, 1982, a new cable network called The Weather Channel revolutionized television weather coverage and, over time, vastly expanded the reach of weather information across the U.S. Today, it’s celebrating 30 years on-air.
As part of its big party, the Weather Channel (TWC) is airing special programming looking back at its 30-year journey. It has also gone on a social media blitz (follow @weatherchannel on Twitter) and revamped its website, weather.com.
The upgrades on weather.com attracting the most attention seem to be 1) increased social media features and integration and 2) information about when rain will start/stop at a particular location.
Vice President for weather.com and web products Mike Finnerty described the new social features for Lost Remote:
There are several new social features of weather.com, including the ability to “Love” or “ugh” your current weather and share via social networks, as well as check out what weather keywords are trending in your area via Twitter (rainy, cold, windy, etc). Also, with the Social Emergency Broadcast System, you can share severe weather alerts across your social networks. An upcoming phase to this system (tentatively scheduled for June) will allow you to see who in your Facebook network is affected by severe weather, so you can be the first to let them know what to expect.
The rain arrival and departure time feature uses weather.com’s proprietary “Trupoint technology” and projects 6 hours into the future. Weather.com executive vice president for digital products Cameron Clayton told Adweek the tool “has achieved high rates of accuracy after nine months of testing.”
TWC’s present-day technology and multi-platform integration is something the company could only dream about 30 years ago.
Meteorologist Tom Moore, a TWC lifer, discussed the technology during the network’s debut in a blog post:
Satellite pictures in motion were accomplished by accumulating several hours of pictures into an electronic storage unit and moving the pictures ahead frame by frame with a clicker Displaying severe weather watches was done by using Exacto knives to cut the watch and warning boxes out of construction paper, and, after taping the boxes to a background, you took a picture of it and stored it in the electronic unit to play on air. Our on-air look was more like “Wayne’s World” than network news.
The Marietta Daily Journal described how the TWC of today has been transformed:
From its global headquarters on Interstate Parkway North, The Weather Channel broadcasts current conditions and forecasts for more than 98,000 locations worldwide, along with local and regional radars from a state-of-the-art, LEED-certified, HD studio built in 2007.
For many meteorologists and weather enthusiasts growing up in the 1980s, including myself , the Weather Channel was a driver of our passion for weather. After my family got cable in 1986, my parents joked I watched the network 24/7. The weekly business planner segment at 20 past the hour was a favorite along with the late John Hope’s tropical updates.
While I don’t watch TWC nearly as much anymore, and have even lamented the increased focus on “lifestyle” programming rather than pure weather, I’m a big consumer of their digital content. I closely follow their Twitter feeds for very useful information as well as the news stories and blogs at weather.com.
In short, TWC information has long been a part of my life and I join many others in wishing them a happy birthday today!
Here’s a look back at their first broadcast:
The Weather Channel’s first minute on air via TWCFan2006 on YouTube
30 Years On the Air with The Weather Channel (Weather.com)
Interview with leading founder John Coleman (WattsUpWithThat)
Interview with Jim Cantore (Capital Weather Gang)