Does the Media Perpetuate Weather Hype?


Although Hurricane Joaquin missed hitting the Atlantic coast, there were reciprocal effects that have had some very expensive and far-reaching consequences.

If you lived anywhere on the Atlantic coast, you probably heard a lot about Joaquin. The media coverage was nonstop, discussing  how the storm was very unpredictable and could take several trajectories. Meteorologists did not want to make an exact call, but warned the public about the variety of possibilities to ensure that everyone was on the same page.

However, like any other program, the local news depends on ratings to earn advertising dollars. Therefore, it is going to feature stories that viewers will tune in to see and be willing to wait to see it. There’s a reason why the local five day forecast is usually revealed at the end of a newscast.

News producers do this because they know that viewers are more likely to watch the entire news segment until they hear the weather for the week or about possible extreme weather scenarios in the region, etc. No matter where you live and what you do, the weather will affect you in some way, so viewers have raised stakes in the forecast. A poor forecast could affect how they get to work, whether or not they need to make arrangements if school is closed, what they need to get at the grocery store, etc. Therefore, if there is the chance of a poor weather event, the public will be more inclined to listen.

On one hand, this is great news for the local media because they get more attention. However, meteorologists and other weather experts must still be accurate with their forecasts. We have discussed in the past about the miscalculation of the 2015 NYC blizzard that never happened and how that affected households and businesses in the area. You don’t need to have an extreme weather event to experience many of its effects if the hype is there. Although creating hype can be beneficial to the media, there can be a public backlash that may negate those benefits.

However, as Dennis Mersereau, a meteorologist who publishes articles frequently for Gawker, points out, the Internet has created an environment where anyone can post misleading information to create their own version of weather hypes to increase their following on social media platforms. The Internet has made this information readily available, which can be good, but it still allows individuals without any expertise or consequences to post information that could lead to the proliferation of panic for a storm that may not even happen. This could affect everyone from a parent who just wants to make sure that their child will be taken care of if school is closed, to the small business owner whose sales are affected by people staying at home.


With all of this hype generated by traditional and new forms of media, it’s important for households to review all of the information out there to make an educated decision. At the same time, businesses must pay closer attention to business forecasting tools  and consumer demand analytics to make sure they know how their operations could be affected by a storm, whether it actually happens or not.