Saturday, February 09, 2013

Weatherperson's Week: Scott Williams

Scott Williams is Fox 29's chief meteorologist, having joined the station last June after a three year stint at The Weather Channel in Atlanta.  Williams' interest in meteorology spans back to his youth in South Carolina, having experienced Hurricane Hugo in 1989.

"I survived Hurricane Hugo," Williams recalled. "It slammed into the SC coast September of 1989 causing catastrophic damage. After that, I wanted to learn about how hurricanes formed and more about weather forecasting."

Williams went to North Carolina State and graduated with a degree in meteorology. He has seen the evolution in computer modeling and has come to rely on them a fair amount...but not too much.

"Yes, computer models have improved remarkably over the years. They are a part of my daily forecasting routine. I do not feel that they have made the forecasting element of meteorology less of a science, because they still have limitations. They should be used as guidance and not gospel. Computer models are just one component of many that must be interpreted when making a weather forecast."

Williams, as chief meteorologist at Fox 29, has a number of hats to wear at the station.

"A typical day for me involves making weather observations and reviewing computer models. I always like to just step outside to see what’s going on too because the weather is constantly changing. I provide weather briefings to our news team so everyone is aware of any approaching storms or major weather changes. I build graphics to tell the weather story of the day and produce the seven day forecast for my broadcasts. I tweet and interact with the viewers and I also visit schools to talk about weather."

As, yes, the kids. However, even us grown ups want to know about snow. Does Scott prefer cold or warmth?

"Cold snap!"

Williams' first year in Philadelphia has been quite busy, having been around for the derecho at the end of June plus Sandy. Having lived through Hugo in 1989, the images of Sandy moved Scott.

"I was heartbroken as the images of Seaside Heights emerged at daybreak following Sandy. The rollercoaster in the Atlantic Ocean captured a piece of the magnitude and scope of the storm."

One of the questions we're asking everyone is regarding the proposal to alter the warning structure on transitioning tropical systems to include hurricane warnings for a posttropical system. Scott shares the train of thought that most of those interviewed have had so far.

"I think it is a good idea to introduce the proposal following the devastation post-tropical storm Sandy caused to the Northeast Corridor. It gets the discussion going regarding the warning system within the scientific community and how the public perceives it. It helps to increase awareness about the potential risks of a storm to a specific area on a case by case basis looking at population, threat to life, and property despite having a weakened state. This proposal could potentially limit the confusion over what areas are in the threat zone and help with preparations despite the change in a storm’s intensity."

Sharing information on storms is important and Scott utilizes social media for that...and sees its importance.

"Social media is a must. It is so important to engage your audience and keep a chain of communication going. It is also useful in disseminating weather info and updates during severe weather events. When in doubt, I always verify information with the National Weather Service or trained spotters in the area when something just doesn’t seem to add up."

Many of our readers are younger and some aspire to become a meteorologist. What advice would you give them in order to shape their skills?

"Everyone has a gift and a passion. I would advise anyone interested in meteorology to follow their dreams. I would tell them to study lots of science and math. Weather is fun, challenging, and a rewarding career. Everybody talks about the weather!"