I began watching the weather forecast with my mother before I even went to school. A stay-at-home mom in the days when most moms were, Mom enjoyed watching Dr. Charles Hosler's weather forecast from Penn State on public television's "Farm, Home and Garden" when we finally got our five channel cable television in the early sixties. His first telecasts were actually on WFBG (now WTAJ) Television in 1957. Hosler was in the early stages of a distinguished career and was prompted to start such a show when he was overwhelmed by the ineptitude of "weathermen" in those early days of television. Those early years were in black and white and even predated satellite images.
Weather forecasting in general and Penn State's show in particular have come a long way since those days. When longtime co-host Paul Knight retired last week, another era in the storied history of the show came to an end. It was Knight that was asked to co-host the show in its present format, Weather World, in 1983 with fellow Penn State Meteorologist Fred Gadomski. During my days as a high school Earth Science, we often watched videos of the previous night's Weather World in my class, for the show's fifteen minute format and educational elements made it an exceptional teaching tool.
The only university-based television production of its kind in the country, I have always believed that the show's teaching value went beyond the classroom, though. For Weather World and its predecessor shows also attempted to bring atmospheric science education to the masses. Even regular viewers that did not have science backgrounds became well-versed in what made the weather what it was and found interest in the research and special topics discussed on the show. Knight, Gadomski and the other outstanding Penn State meteorologists have bought into Hosler's original goals of educating while raising the bar of expectations for television weather forecasts.
"It has been our goal from the beginning to both inform and educate our viewers and the fifteen format has allowed us to do so," Knight affirmed. Knight also reinforced the idea that the quality of local news forecasts have come to value that instructional element that helps everyone better understand what makes the weather machine work. "Our colleagues at the commercial stations have much less air-time to do so, but a number of them in this region do their best to educate as well," Knight notes. Having perhaps the most highly respected meteorology academic programs in the nation, Penn State meteorologists are spread across the country and have risen to the top of the weather industry in government, the private sector and on television. So this "inform and educate" philosophy has spread across not only our region but across the country in no small part because of Penn State's influence.
Coincidentally, one of Knight's vivid forecasting memories celebrated its thirtieth anniversary the same week he retired. Knight recalled that he and the crew successfully predicted the outbreak of tornadoes that swept across eastern Ohio and north central Pennsylvania the day before they devastated nearby Parker Dam State Park. Not surprisingly, Weather World didn't just predict the outbreak but explained why it happened. Weather World airs on PBS and PCN every weekday evening at 5:30 and 5:45 p.m. and is replayed on PBS World at 6:00 and 6:45 p.m.
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