30 years ago today, The Weather Channel went live

UPDATE: added a second video from Joe D’Aleo, the founding director of meteorology.

On May 2nd of 1982, John Coleman launched The Weather Channel with the help of a small army of very talented people. I’m proud to be a small part of this part of unique American broadcast history. Here’s my interview with the founder of the Weather Channel, John Coleman.

I did this interview in Atlanta, GA on April 28th, 2012 just about an hour before TWC’s unofficial 30th anniversary celebration kicked off. The first 2.5 minutes of this interview (where John described his early career and how he came to be on ABC’s Good Morning America) were plagued with audio problems (due to a bad connector) and unusable. However, the remaining portion of the interview audio is clear (though a bit low) and John describes how the ego of GMA’s lead news anchor, David Hartman and his need to take “whatever time he needed and the weatherman could have what’s left”, was the impetus to create TWC. The pioneering effort of John Coleman and the 148 people who started a highly technical, never before attempted, 24/7 live weather network from scratch is summarized in this video.

UPDATE 5/2/12: Here’s Joe D’Aleo talking about the challenges of hiring a staff when the TWC was nothing but an empty floor in a building. Plus his favorite blooper.

Interview and editing by Anthony Watts

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May 2, 2012 3:45 am

I noted in another thread about how I started to really dislike The Weather Channel’s extreme change around 2008 or 2009. The slick production/presentation and the corporate vibe I get from the whole thing now. The weather seems to be less and less of a concern, and now it’s more about the presentation and side show antics.
But it’s no surprise. Cable TV has turned to mostly crap. Not just the weather channel. It makes me sad when I turn it to the history channel and see Larry the Cable Guy on there. A low brow toilet humor parasite that makes money wallowing in the stereotypical image of a southerner. ugh.

May 2, 2012 5:16 am

My wife keeps the Weather Channel on as background noise. Its getting harder to watch lately. Its getting more political and less informative on a daily basis. Constantly harping about warming and environmental issues. The other day they did a segment on how the evil automotive companies put the railroad out of the passenger business. It may be true but why is the weather channel spending time on it?

Harriet Harridan
May 2, 2012 5:46 am

The audio on that clip is bad. I’ve cleaned it up for you:
BTW, the best tool IMHO for that is Audacity.

Pull My Finger
May 2, 2012 5:48 am

As long as they give me Local on The 8 they do whatever they want the rest of the time.

May 2, 2012 6:45 am

Pull My Finger says:
May 2, 2012 at 5:48 am
As long as they give me Local on The 8 they do whatever they want the rest of the time.
Me too — that’s all I need & want to see. As soon as it’s over, I get off that channel as fast as possible. The place reeks of non-stop alarmism/disasterism/nanny-statism.

michael hart
May 2, 2012 6:57 am

Happy Birthday!
And there are clearly still very good reasons for alternative weather forecasters to be competing with each other today….

May 2, 2012 6:57 am

I went cold turkey on TWC when they came out with the Forecast Earth crap and Heidi Cullen. Have never tuned it in even once since then.

May 2, 2012 7:04 am

I gave up on all TV a couple years ago, and my life and blood pressure are much better now.
TWC performs one great service: their online radar is the best in the business. Nothing else comes close. All other online radars are either oversensitive or over-smoothed.

David Ball
May 2, 2012 7:35 am

John Coleman, I commend your bravery on this topic. It is much easier to “go with the flow” than to stand by your conclusions. You didn’t fold. Give ’em hell, John.

May 2, 2012 7:52 am

And what fun it is. Whenever there’s a hurricane in the gulf, headed anywhere near Houston, the weather channel becomes my favorite channel.

May 2, 2012 8:33 am
Henry chance
May 2, 2012 8:39 am

I was a pioneer 10 years earlier in the field of University classes in Entrepreneurship
Many massive startups came following some type of rejection. Some startups come from job seekers that have been fired. Home Depot founder was fired from Handy Dan.

May 2, 2012 8:41 am

When they totally blew the “Hurricane” Irene story, I never have tuned in again. Very unreliable reporting on TWC. They never once mentioned that this rain event (that’s what Irene was, it was not even a sustained tropical storm by definition after landfall) was caused by a cold front that arrived simultaneously from the west in the northern US, setting up a training event that remained stationary for a long while over NY and VT. It was a classic “perfect storm” confluence and TWC totally missed the opportunity to educate us. Winds were never sustained after landfall greater than 35 mph. People in upstate were caught flatfooted by the flooding, even though this event was a predictable, textbook occurrence.
I wonder how they treated the real mavericks (there had to be some real meteorologists on board) who wanted to tell the truth? I use intellicast,com now —it is usually more reliable.

May 2, 2012 9:34 am

TWC pioneered lots of technologies… pushed the envelope in terms of how weather is presented. Looking back at the video of the opening, it looked “primitive” by today’s standards but for live TV, it was revolutionary. We’ve come this far because a few people chose to take those few steps.
Click here for some insight into the TV technology of the period; in the loneliest city on the planet.
Weather information is just as important to us today as it was 30 years ago. Perhaps moreso because we’re more mobile and many choose a lifestyle where we have to know what the weather will be in a couple of days, because we think that our “lives” depend on it. People seemed to be more adaptable in the past.
But for all that technology, forecasts seem to be getting worse in quality. Sometimes, I look at the satellite picture and the air pressures and am astounded at the conclusions that the forecasters have drawn for the next day’s weather. They seem to have no windows in their airconditioned offices, just computer models. Nor do the wardrobe people seem to have a clue about what clothing “strobes” on TV. Houndstooth is something to wear if you don’t want to be shown on TV.
Those who present the weather on TV, don’t appear to have any engagement with the subject. Nobody explains the weather on the normal TV channels any more. I remember a couple of my favourite weathermen taking half a minute, if that, to explain e.g. seasonal shifts in highs which define the weather here in southern Western Australia.

May 2, 2012 11:12 am

I no longer watch the Weather Channel on TV. I don’t go to their website and so I never see their sponsors or give them any business through TWC. They are a bunch AGW hysteria promoting watermelons. Coleman, the only sane person there, left a long time ago.

David, UK
May 2, 2012 11:53 am

polistra says:
May 2, 2012 at 7:04 am
I gave up on all TV a couple years ago, and my life and blood pressure are much better now.

Me too! Liberating, isn’t it? OT, I know (especially as I’m in the UK so never seen the US Weather Channel, although thanks to WUWT have long been aware of the legacy of Mr Coleman) but I get everything I need from the internet. I get all the news and stuff that is relevant and interesting to me and can also download the films and TV shows that I want to watch, when I want to watch them, and in HD resolution. Like with newspapers – who the hell really needs spoon-fed broadcast-TV these days? It’s been said many times and I concur: I bet Al Gore wishes he never invented the damn pesky interweb.

Gunga Din
May 2, 2012 7:52 pm

Lots are people are proud (in the sense of a character flaw). Some have done something to be proud of. No matter TWC has become, what all of you did then is something to be proud of. Thanks

May 2, 2012 10:23 pm

As a young’un growing up in Chicago, I remember watching John on ABC 7. Very entertaining man. Later, my favorite was (and still is) Tom Skilling – I learned a lot from him. (My favorite line from Skilling, talking about the debunked idea of opening windows during a tornado to equalize the pressure: “When the tornado sirens go off, seek shelter; don’t worry about opening the windows, the tornado will take care of that.”)

May 3, 2012 6:12 am

I slowly stopped watching the Weather Channel when it started to promote AGW about 3-4 years ago. Now when I want the forecast I go to the internet.

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