How do we create the weather graphics you see on The Weather Channel?

You see them every time you turn on The Weather Channel — weather graphics. But have you ever wondered who makes them and how?

Not one day is ever the same at The Weather Channel and we love it.  Want to know the reason? We routinely cover weather all over the U.S. and sometimes the world!  There is always something to talk about and show viewers that is different.  A big part of our job is to use our meteorological backgrounds to determine what the major weather stories of the day should be.  We look and analyze the current weather patterns and weather models and talk with other meteorologists and experts in the process.  It boils down to taking all of the complicated features of the atmosphere and explaining them in a simple, easy to understand way.  Production of this weather storytelling content can definitely add up.  In any given week we are likely to produce hundreds of original graphics all in the name of providing best in class weather content.    The next part of our job is getting all of these graphics on air.  That’s the next part of what we do — weather producing.

RING_OF_FIRE5Example of a graphic explaining what is causing thunderstorms

Occasionally you may hear on camera meteorologists refer to their weather producers on air.  On Weather Underground for example, we monitor social media for questions viewers may have about the show.  Most of the time, we are behind the scenes and start working on the show many hours before it airs.  We work with the editorial team, on camera meteorologists, and our expert meteorologist to hash out how best to cover the weather stories of the day.  Together we determine which graphics and supporting content is needed to tell the story in an entertaining and informative way.  If necessary, we will fill any holes by producing own graphical content.

During the show, along with keeping all graphics up to date, we are the meteorological eyes and ears of a show.  We rely on numerous incoming feeds in order to monitor all current weather, sometimes as many as a dozen monitors at once! It is a weather geek paradise!  We then provide this information to both the on camera meteorologists and producers as needed.  In addition, we are also responsible for driving the radars during the show which includes ensuring that current warnings are tracked and displayed in a timely fashion and prioritized based on severity and potential impacts.  If it sounds busy, it can be!

Shane BrownShane Brown weather producing in The Lab

Michael ButlerMichael Butler weather producing for Weather Underground

The algebra of the atmosphere is complex. Even the simplest thunderstorm is a product of numerous large and small-scale processes that happen continuously all around you. It’s this complexity that makes weather forecasting such a challenge, and an even greater challenge to verbally and visually describe. Enter our team of graphics developers, whose job it is to take the fantastical world of weather and translate it into something anyone could toss around at the water cooler or dinner table – no matter if you’re a weather nut or someone who only needs to know whether or not an umbrella will be necessary tomorrow.

Let’s take the average summer thunderstorm, for example. You know they happen. You can hear them, see them, feel them, and even smell them on occasion. But do you know why they happen? As graphics developers, our job is to find the shortest route from start to finish and break down the atmospheric algebra into simple arithmetic: heat + humidity + a little nudge from Mother Nature = afternoon thunderstorms.

Above all else, the developer’s job is to make the complexity of our weather look visually appealing and fun. That means finding new and exciting ways to show or explain concepts you may already be familiar with, or opening your eyes to ways weather impacts your daily lives without having ever thought about it before.

One of the newest ways we can do this is with the use of augmented reality graphics. Augmented reality gives us the ability to overlay information on top of any existing environment. Most weather graphics presentations you see are done in front of a green chroma key wall, or in front of a monitor. This means the meteorologist is always in front of their maps or other graphics. With augmented reality, we can place the graphics anywhere, allowing the meteorologist and the viewer to get a pseudo 360º view of the graphics in action. This also gives us unprecedented ways of interacting with the information. We can now fly through thunderstorms, witness the life and death of a tornado up close and personal, and visualize weather data in ways never before seen. Our graphics meteorologists work closely with an incredible team of artists and designers to create life-like, three-dimensional representations of all kinds of weather events.

ARGraphicJim Cantore using augmented reality graphics in The Lab

ARGraphic2Jim Cantore using augmented reality graphics in The Lab

 


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67 Comments


  1. I’ve been a weather channel fan and aspiring meteorologist since i was 4 and i hope someday to be a member of the weather channel! I’ve seen the forecasting and technology evolve over the years since Katrina and am a huge fan of thundersnow too, I watch every day and my day wouldn’t be complete without AMHQ in the morning, And WeatherUnderground at night. Keep on Watching The Weather Channel Everyone!

  2. I have been a weather geek since I was 10 years old and watched the 1967 Oak Lawn tornado while sitting in front of our home’s picture window! I was too impressed with the storm to ‘take cover.’ TWC is about the only station I watch–none others can come close! I really appreciate the features–especially those about the storms with the people who survived them. Thank you for your excellent work!!!!

  3. I have been watching The WEather Channel since the early 1990’s Jim Cantore and Mike Seidel were my childhood favorites. They look like they have lots of fun in The Lab and its graphics.Thanks for this great site!

    1. You know what they say–if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life! They certainly do have a lot of fun. Thanks for your kind words and for being a fan.

  4. During the Local Weather on the 8’s the narration is always Jim Cantore’s voice. How does this technology work? I love you guys and always turn TWC on at some point everyday.

    1. Hi Timothy–We basically sat Jim in a recording studio and he recorded every word and number that we would need to cover all sorts of different forecasts and conditions. Then our technology pairs the data with the voice clip to string the end results together for a specific forecast or current condition. It’s pretty amazing stuff!

  5. P.S. to above Laurie post: Pardon the 2 typos. Is their an edit feature. “Him” should respectfully, read, “Jim”

    Awesome should read “Awesomer” than awesome.

  6. Superbly written piece on augmented reality graphics Michael Butler & Shane Brown. The graphics is what breaks down the complexity to day to day relating. And having watched Him Cantore for decades– he is “Cantore Nature naturally.

    I enjoy the science and “why” of it all. The making it entertaining happens naturally. I feel closest to the clouds when sharing with like-minded people.

    Keep up the awesome than awesome work! You are bringing great awareness to all generations!

  7. Been watching TWC since day 1 while stationed in Hawaii with the U.S. Army. Hawaiian weather was usually boring but being able to see what was going on nationwide brought me for a brief time back home to Jersey! Please tell Dave Schwartz he is the best part of WUTV and is always in my prayers.

  8. Rex,Cartersville. All of you guys are fantastic. I have been a weather geek all my life. I got a weather station for Christmas when I was 12 and I am 60 now. I share Jen enthusiasm with dew point, but my pet is barometric pressure. Love you all

  9. Love the grafix on the Wx Ch.. One that I think is dumb is the TorCon.. The reason is that you say a TorCon of 5. Then…EVERY TIME you have to explain it… “TorCon of 5 that’s a 1 in 5 chance of a T’storm or 50 % chance..”
    Verbose…
    Everybody knows percent and be done with it..
    mitch

  10. I have been watching the Weather Channel since they first came on TV.
    Love all the changes and updates learned so much in so many different areas. I also have the Weather channel App which I love not just the daily weather but all that goes along with it radar with so many maps and now to see who does the Graphics. Thank You

  11. (How do we create the weather graphics you see on The Weather Channel?)
    What interesting and informative look behind the scenes. Thank you for sharing.
    Matthew in VT

  12. Also a Weather Channel geek since its inception….its basically the only “reality show” that I watch, in fact, other than some sports, its the only other channel I have on the tube! Cantore, you are the best….I miss the pairing of Abrams and Bettes though and was hoping that when NBC bought them, they would return….things have gone on the downslide since this purchase, but I am still a faithful viewer….Love seeing Alexandra Steele again, but miss Adam Berg. Keith Carson is awesome too! Actually the whole crew is fun to watch and hear their points of view on a daily basis…I feel as I know them all!! Keep improving….one suggestion, would it be possible when getting our local on the 8’s here in Phoenix, that you could show sunrise, sunset and daily, monthly and yearly precipitation? We need rain Jim, please do a rain dance for us!! Thanks to all for your dedication!

    1. Thanks for sticking with us over the years, Chuck! We’ll see what what we can do about the possible Local on the 8s change and getting Jim to do a rain dance for you 🙂

  13. The visual demonstrations that Jim Cantore does are the best! I loved the one about the formation of hail and detailing the role of the updraft speed in the size of hail!

  14. I’ve been a Weather Geek for ages. You do an outstanding job. I recently moved from NJ to California and I watch the Weather Channel from morning to night. My friends laugh because I’m telling them about weather that’s on the way in NJ and they weren’t even aware it was coming. The science you teach, the FABULOUS personalities that present the weather, and the outstanding graphics make the Weather Channel so interesting, informative and exciting. The severe weather monitoring and the dedication of the people in the field keeps us up to date minute by minute. Keep up the excellent work, because “We Love the Weather”

  15. Thanks for all this great work and information. The WChannel is at the core of everything I watch, only to depart for a short time and return to WC. Love all of you and keep the focus on the little personal and educational items. Great material for a lonely evening, so you are in my living room with me and my TV.

  16. I believe Alaska represents about 18% of the land area of the United States. Do the meteorologists/correspondents cover this rather large area of the country other than during Presidential visits?

  17. I LOVE the Weather Channel!! It is on on my TV the majority of the time! I love the lightheartedness that goes on while on the air!! But the seriousness of their job is clear! I was watching last night (6/22/16) until the wee hours of the night while storms were moving from Eastern Iowa and onward to Chicago and beyond. I felt bad for Mike S. as they were following the storm. His eyes looked tired when he was on air in their car. I know his eyes had to do adjusting while on cam. A good job Mike! Mark you too did a great job in Indiana! Safety first!! I’m a weather nut and I love each and everyone of you and the jobs that you do! There is no doubt that TWC will keep up the super work that they do!!! Thumbs up!!

  18. I’ve been your loyal viewer from the start.I think you started 1982 n you get better every year.Thanks for keeping me informed on all the weather.

  19. I loved watching the “after-hours party” video that Stephanie narrated; Jen (talking with graphics guys and Jim Cantore) was saying that the graphics didn’t depict the dew point and relative humidity correctly. It was fascinating to watch them! I love the meteorologists and their “geekiness”!! Thank you, TWC!!

  20. It’s clear that this site is more about TWC personnel than it is about the general public who share the same passion for weather. As such, membership will be slow to accrue.

    1. Hey Tom–we’re in the process of building out increased functionality that will give you more of what I think you want to see. We really want this site to be about weather fans like you just as much as it is about our own weather experts. Keep an eye out for new features in the coming weeks!

  21. i need the weather app for my windows 10 computor can you please send it to me via a link?……my5cats2001@yahoo.com

  22. It will be really cool once u can use this new technology to show live radar and zoom in under the storm to street level and see what’s going on.

  23. Excellent article by Michael Butler and Shane Brown on how weather graphics and weather segments are produced. Kudos to all involved!

  24. Would it be possible to show the weather patterns from the ISS? I think it woul be interesting to see how all of our weather is linked to other parts of world. The pictures of the typhoons in the Pacific basin were fascinating, and it would be interesting to compare and contrast the size and shape of them in the two oceans.

  25. Thanks for doing this story. I’ve been a weather geek all my life, ever since watching the legendary Don Kent do the weather for WBZ in the 1950’s. You guys do a fantastic job. I am a retired systems programmer who used graphics a lot in my work and I know how hard it is to tell a story simply but powerfully. Your graphics are the best I’ve ever seen.

    1. Wow! A fellow Bostonian. Me, too! in fact, I used to go into the studio and learn some things from Don Kent and other WBZ meteorologists at the time and wrote some articles about weather for the local newspaper while in High School in Arlington. I remember all those maps printing. I’m still a weather geek. Have been living in NJ for the past 20 years or so. Anyway, nice to know another who’s lived the Don Kent experience! …John T

    1. Hi Mary! We don’t currently accept visitors, however, we are considering trying to grant exclusive access for our weloveweather.tv fans. Keep an eye out for future updates!

  26. I am a weather bug I love your show and what you do ! I’ve got you on my phone and TV . I watch you everyday . keep up what your doing 👍❤