What is Forensic Meteorology?

By now, you’re probably heard the buzz around The Weather Channel’s new true crime series Storm of Suspicion that premiered on the network earlier this fall. The show will take a deep dive into crimes where weather was involved in some capacity. Did it aid in covering up the crime? Did it put a suspect behind bars? You’ll have to watch to see for yourself, but before you watch, let us introduce you to a branch of science you might not have known existed: Forensic meteorology.

Yes, it’s as cool as it sounds. No, it’s not that uncommon of a profession. But what exactly is forensic meteorology? Gizmodo defines it as “The science of using historic weather records, atmospheric data, eyewitness accounts, and reenactments to determine the weather conditions at a specific time and location.” Forensic meteorology can be applied to a slew of cases, from insurance disputes to homicide.

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Forensic meteorologists use their skills and knowledge to understand exactly what was going on in the environment during the time of a crime. These scientists are often proficient in fields such as atmospheric science, physics, chemistry, computer programming, and more. The way they analyze and interpret weather patterns is critical to more cases than you may realize. Here’s one example: 

“A driver was hit by a piece of falling ice while crossing a bridge, with the fragment breaking his windshield and hitting him in the eye. He claimed the ice was part of an icicle breaking free of the bridge, while the local transportation authority claimed the ice must have been flung off a passing truck. The forensic meteorologist testified that ice from a truck while be opaque, while an icicle growing on the bridge would be clear. An eyewitness said the ice was clear, leading the meteorologist to support the driver’s accusation.” (via Gizmodo)

Photo Courtesy: CC0 Creative Commons via Pixabay

In Storm of Suspicion you will see one “weather detective” at work, Dr. Elizabeth Austin. She is a world-renowned forensic meteorologist who has worked on hundreds of cases. Trust us, you’re going to be immediately captivated by her expertise and the creative way she analyzes weather during trials, especially murder trials. For instance, shoe prints in snow are a goldmine for her. She says in one episode of the series, “Shoes that have gotten wet in the snow, as you walk along, they are acting like a rubber stamp and leaving a beautiful impression, especially on a nice, really flat surface.” Getting a shoe print obviously isn’t as good as getting a fingerprint, but in one particularly gruesome murder case featured on the show, it helped lead to an arrest. 

Dr. Austin also uses cold temperatures to her advantage during investigations. Cold conditions can help preserve DNA, which is extraordinarily useful in determining the identity of potential criminals and placing them at a certain location.

You will get chills when you see how destructive or helpful weather can be when it comes to committing crimes. Don’t miss new episodes of Storm of Suspicion on Sundays at 8/7c only on The Weather Channel.

Join the Discussion


  1. Having investigated death for over 30 years for several agencies, the importance of the weather is extremely valuable. It can help establish a time of death when decomposition is considered, whether or not an event could have even happened (alibi), etc. We used it in a staged murder-suicide that when we considered the weather, it turned out to be a double murder and a conviction. -Rick.Sy

  2. I am extremely excited to see this show! As a criminal justice major with an interest in law enforcement and forensics, this is often one aspect of investigations that is overlooked. It is going to be nice to finally see how meteorology can make or break an investigation.

  3. There is a program on HLN called Forensic Files and weather often comes into play as another piece of the puzzle to solving a crime, usually murder on this program.

    1. I watch that almost every evening – a friend told me about it. They are fascinating!!

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