Is it me or has the hype around weather forecasts and predictions become excessive? It seems like we can no longer get simple weather reports. Instead of delivering the probable outcome of an area experiencing a tornado, heavy rain, flooding or hail, now we have to get through the live storm tracks and be warned incessantly about potentially severe and devastating weather threats for normal events.
But enough is enough. There’s nothing remarkable about tropical storms in the Caribbean or snow in the northeast. This dramatic interpretation of normal weather phenomena has become standard procedure in the U.S. media. From The Weather Channel (TWC) to our local news outlets, every tropical depression is a record setting hurricane; every snow storm a blizzard; and every rainstorm the next great flood.
They’re just scaring people. Feeding off of viewer fear. Causing shortages, as people run out to their supermarkets to stock up on milk, bread and eggs as if we’re all going to be eating French toast for our last meal.
Unfortunately, sensational weather reports get good ratings. 2017 was an active year for weather. Hurricane Harvey hit the Gulf Coast in August, and Irma and Maria pounded the Atlantic Coast, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands just days apart in September. Not surprisingly 2017 surpassed 2013 as the most watched year and delivered significant ratings for TWC. Specifically during the weekend of Hurricane Harvey, TWC was number one in total viewers, reaching over 37 million people and 1 in 5 American households. Who can blame them for capitalizing on our fear? Television is a business after all.
Then there’s the daisy chain effect. You watched the weather forecast, so clearly you’re qualified to deliver your interpretation to the people around you. Like an infectious disease, I get exposed to the predictions from not only the media, but the bagger at Publix, the guy barista handing me my coffee and my co-workers who swear that it’s the end of the world.
Of course, people need to be warned of eminent danger, but if the media continue to sensationalize every storm the people will stop listening. Wolf! Sound familiar?
We've become a society fascinated by sensationalism in every aspect of our lives. What I would like to see is reliable, fact driven forecasts. More sites like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Then I will decide if I should be scared.