WBTV First Alert Weather is certified to have the most accurate forecast by WeatheRate: the only independent weather forecast verification company in the United States. If you're wondering what that means, you're not alone. I asked WBTV Chief Meteorologist Eric Thomas to write something up, but he felt uncomfortable bragging. Marketing directors can't be, so I'll do it.
Other television stations may make promises about their weather forecasts, but the fact is that only WBTV First Alert Weather is certified most accurate. It's quite an honor - and a big responsibility.
I did convince Eric to explain how his team pulls that off and here's how the conversation went:
HOW IS THE ACCURACY OF LOCAL FORECASTS MEASURED?
It's basically temperatures. I know that sounds simple, but temperatures are actually a very good indicator of how the rest of your forecast is working out. If you miss the high temperature by 10° too hot, that means you probably predicted a sunny day and it turned out cloudy.
WeatheRate allows you to get more granular with the data, but I was actually surprised to see that we managed to win the most accurate forecast in Charlotte without doing that. We won strictly from WeatheRate looking at the high and low temperature forecasts on WBTV.com.
I try to always avoid high-fiving, though, because you never know what tomorrow brings.
I THOUGHT YOU WERE IN THE BUSINESS OF KNOWING WHAT TOMORROW BRINGS?
[laughs] That's a good point! You know what I mean in terms of success and failure. You never want to take anything for granted.
WHY DO YOU THINK WBTV FIRST ALERT WEATHER IS THE MOST ACCURATE TEAM IN CHARLOTTE?
We have five meteorologists who approach their job in the same way. We really lose sleep at night when we don't get it right. We do. We genuinely care about the integrity of our science.
WHEN VIEWERS ARE MAKING THEIR DECISIONS OF WHO AND WHY TO WATCH, WHY SHOULD THEY CHOOSE WBTV FIRST ALERT WEATHER?
I think everybody can claim that they care. Everybody can claim that they put effort into their work. But, the one thing that there's no substitute for is experience. I've been forecasting weather in Charlotte since 1988 and Al Conklin came in 1993. The thing about forecasting weather is understanding the nuances of your particular area. This is an extremely dynamic area to forecast. If you take the 400-mile strip of land from the western side of North Carolina to the coast, there's not one type of weather we do not get. We get hurricanes, tornadoes, hail, blizzards, ice storms, flooding rain... There's nothing you can think of that we don't get here. To work here for 28 years and understand all the kinds of scenarios, the experience helps in both forecasting and presentation. If you only get one answer to give people for why they should choose WBTV, it's our experience.
MARKETING GUYS LIKE ME USE NAME BRANDS LIKE "FIRST ALERT WEATHER." HOW DO YOU BALANCE THE MISSION OF BEING ACCURATE WITH THE MISSION OF PROVIDING EARLY WARNINGS?
There is a lot of value in early warnings, but there are people out there on the internet scrambling to be "first" just to create a stir based on no science at all. My definition of being "first" is being first with the real forecast that is scientifically grounded. I'm still going to get you the information as early as I can, but I want to be responsible - a voice of reason. When we say "First Alert," we're hoping people see that as the first scientific take on a weather event. They know they can take it seriously and it will be reliable.
And there you have it. During this conversation, I also learned that Eric was once a drummer in a rock band and an aspiring Navy pilot who flunked his physical. That set him up soon after for his first time on the air in Pennsylvania - as an intern - when the station's weather guy went on vacation and his backup called in sick. We have some interesting people at WBTV.
I hope that gives you a better understanding of WBTV First Alert Weather's latest accolade. Also, I'd be a poor marketing director if I didn't end this by encouraging you to watch and also download our free weather app.
*Note from WeatheRate's Bruce Fixman: "We also verify the accuracy of sky cover, precipitation, timing of precipitation, strong winds, dense fog, severe thunderstorms, snow and ice ... as well as high and low temperatures."
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