What’s The Weather Like?

This is a question heard in every home every morning. As we all start our days, we want to plan our wardrobes and adjust our daily plans accordingly. There’s no better medium to get that information out than radio. Is your station doing its part in informing people of “what the weather is like”? Have you listened to your station’s forecasts lately? How are your announcers delivering the information? Do your announcers just “rip and read” your forecast from the National Weather Service?

Many of us are taught to make eye contact with our listeners. It’s what radio is all about: one to one relationships. Your DJs are not Meteorologists, and shouldn’t try to sound like them. They need to be themselves and speak to their audience on terms that the audience can understand easily. Here are some ideas on how to make your forecasts get to the point without being so precise that they become boorish. Think of it in terms of telling your friend what the weather will be.

Here are nine easy steps to a better sounding forecast:

1. Drop all the “mostlys.” It’s either going to be sunny or cloudy. The mostly is not necessary. When dealing with those “partly” days, it’s fine to say partly cloudy or partly sunny. Think about saying, “a few clouds” or “some clouds” or “a few rays of sun” or “we should see a little sun today.” Avoid the words “variably” and “variable,” too. How often does a person, other than a meteorologist, use that word in normal speech? Just use “partly” instead. Avoid the phrase “increasing cloudiness,” too. Instead, just say “becoming cloudy.”

2. Drop the percentages. It’s either going to rain (or snow) or it isn’t. It’s really not that important to throw more numbers at your listeners. For example, if the chance of rain or snow is only thirty percent, then just say “a slight chance for some rain.” If the chance is higher, then try, “there’s a good chance we’ll see some snow tonight.”

3. Make the highs and lows exact. Say, “a high of 87 today, low tonight 55” instead of “highs in the upper 80s and lows in the mid 50s.” It doesn’t hurt to be precise here. Using one number, rather than a range, gives people a goal to look for.

4. Think about dropping the word “degrees” in your forecasts. Everyone knows that the number associated with a high and low temperature is in degrees. It’s just unnecessary verbiage. Also remember when stating the current temperature, it is understood that the reading is taken outside. Therefore, pointing out that the current temperature is “34 outside” is not really necessary. Think about it, are you really gonna be giving the inside temperature?

5. Avoid the wind speeds. How many people do you know that know what a 15mph to 20mph wind feels like? Not many. Instead, use one of the following descriptive terms, if necessary. Calm (no wind or less than 4mph), light winds (5-10mph), breezy (10-20mph), windy (15-25 or 30mph), very windy (above 30mph)ˆ. If you want to relay the fact that the wind will be out of the South, then say “a warm breeze...” Avoid the phrase “diminishing winds,” instead, say “becoming less windy” or “the winds will be dying down later today” or “not so windy tonight.” Unless the wind and wind speed are a factor in how your listeners plan their day, I would mention that part of the forecast sparingly.

6. Avoid the term “listening area.” Trust me, people do not know your coverage area. They don’t know if they live in the “Northern counties of our listening area.” It’s a term that makes me cringe every time I hear it. TV people are really bad about using this phrase (“viewing area”), but at least they have a map right behind them to explain what that area would be. Instead, in your statement, use a landmark to help describe the area affected. “Watch for rain especially North of I-70” or “most of the storms should be near Springfield and Raintree County.” That gives the listener a real reference point as to the location of the area being affected by the weather condition in your forecast.

7. Weekend forecasts. Consider giving your weekend forecast starting on Wednesday. Most people really start planning their weekends by the middle of the week.

8. Personalize the forecast. Think about your listeners’ lifestyles. How will the weather affect their plans. Include local and area events in your forecast. “It’ll be nice and sunny Saturday for the big game” or “looks like we’ll have a great Mainstreet Festival on Sunday with lots of sunshine and a high of 75°. At the same time, though, avoid clichés. Watch overused phrases like “throw another log on the fire tonight, its gonna be cold,” or “you’ll need an extra blanket tonight...”

9. Negative temperatures. When the cold winter weather arrives and the temperature drops below zero, avoid the terms “negative” or “minus,” and while you're at it, saying the “zero” is not all that necessary either. Say it’s “8 below.” At the same time, avoid the temptation to say that the temperature is “above zero.” Say “today’s high will be 10” rather than “today’s high will be 10 above.”


I believe that many broadcasters know that the weather is a vital part of their station, but how much thought goes into how the information is presented? In every one of these cases, you will see that when we speak to someone one to one, we don’t use the meteorological terms. We may be aware of these terms from hearing them on the radio or seeing them on TV for years, but we don’t use them in our daily lives. Radio announcers that are trying to connect with their audiences and make that eye contact, should consider making a more conscientious effort to personalize their forecasts. It will make them sound better and your station sound better, too.

Special thanks to Dave Dombek at AccuWeather.com for the wind speed information. Dave says that there are regional variations to the terms listed. For example if you live in a place where you have constant and regular winds of 30mph, saying it would be windy when the forecast calls for 20mph winds would be incorrect. Use the wind speed information outlined above as a guideline, and always use common sense.