Monday, February 07, 2011

Weatherperson's Spotlight: Dave Warren

NBC 10 weekend meteorologist Dave Warren is a local guy, straight outta Havertown in Delaware County. That's where Dave first got bit with the weather bug.

"It all started with my Earth Science class at Haverford High School," Warren explains. "Math and Science had always been my favorite subjects in school but aside from homework, there was never any practical application for your typical 13 year old. That all changed when I started learning about clouds, wind, rain, snow, and thunderstorms. I found it fascinating to learn why the atmosphere behaved a certain way in class, and then was able to observe that happening."

Warren was intrigued but decided to jump into meteorology while golfing, which seems to be his third home in times of good weather (other than his home and his other home at Channel 10).

"The exact moment when I decided to pursue Meteorology as a career occurred on a spring afternoon out on the golf course. Dark clouds in the western sky signaled the approach of a cold front. I could see the front approaching; felt the cold air and the wind pick up then ran for cover from the severe thunderstorm. All I learned that week and saw up on the blackboard I just experienced. After that I started looking into schools that offered Meteorology and attended the University of Oklahoma, which does get its share of thunderstorms."

Dave's been golfing since he was six years old and thankfully, Dave dodged lightning that day and has been able to carve out a place on the Philadelphia TV dial delivering forecasts mainly on Saturday and Sunday evenings on NBC 10.

It's not simply just a matter of showing up at work at 5:55 PM and delivering a forecast straight off the computer models though!

"About 3 hours of preparation goes into 2 or 3 minutes that you would see on television. The Internet is the main source for weather information along with some private services we pay for at NBC. Along with the forecast there are graphics that I produce by myself that you see at home. After the early show then you get a long break before you're back preparing everything for the evening show. Thanks to faster computers there is always new data to look at to help you update the forecast as needed."

Thank goodness for that GFS run right before the 11 PM news, right?

Despite the tons of information, delivered quicker and more frequently, Dave's job isn't made easier because of what computer guidance spits out. Dave mentions that computer modeling is helpful but..."We look at the computer data a lot but I don’t feel it makes the job any easier. Computers do all the math and guide a forecaster in making a decision. There is a lot of data to look at today and there will be even more tomorrow. There will always be a human element needed to sift through all the data and come up with a forecasted pattern."

Dave mentioned he prefers watching a cold snap come in because "a drop of 30 degrees in one day is a lot more exciting to predict than a temperature increase of 20 degrees over a week."

While cold snaps are fun, he did recall a backdoor front that gave him problems once and he wishes he could have one particular forecast back. I would have to say backdoor fronts are a bane of most any forecaster's existence!

When I asked him about the challenges of forecasting weather, Dave talks specifically about the battleground that historically has been I-95 and the city. "Having a few hours to predict a foot of snow in Allentown and just rain in Atlantic City is always a challenge. Put a big city right in the middle of that contrast depending on you and it can be very stressful."

Dave offers great advice to those looking to pursue a career in meteorology.

"The first thing I have to say is to make sure you love math. If you really want to get a degree in Meteorology then you will need to take a lot of it. Calculus, Differential Equations, Numerical Methods to name a few classes. Once you learn all the math you then apply it to the atmosphere."

I shuddered at the words "differential equations." Dave continues...

"With that said I would suggest taking advantage of the Internet. I had to go to the library or look at a wall of printed difax charts to study the atmosphere, now there is a lot more information available on-line."

Thank goodness for the internet!