What is it about?

Broadcast meteorologists play an important role in communicating information about hurricanes. Our study investigates how specifically these meteorologists make sense of Hurricane Harvey, a storm that devastated the Houston area in 2017. We find that the meteorologists rely heavily on figurative language to make sense of the storm as a whole (e.g. by comparing it to a ravenous monster) and they rely on intense, often personal language, to emphasize the severity of the situation.

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Why is it important?

While previous studies have shown how important broadcast meteorologists are in delivering understandable information during high-impact weather events, our study is among the first to study the specific strategies these meteorologists use and how they change over the course of the event. We see the results of this study as the first step in developing a toolkit for weather communicators (and other risk communicators) to use when communicating about high-impact hazards in order to boost understanding and compliance with risk-taking behaviors.


This study was my first foray into qualitative analysis and I'm so grateful for the opportunity to study such a fascinating event. Not only did we see how meteorologists communicate during devastating events like Hurricane Harvey, we also were able to note how their language changed as they were affected by the event personally. It was quite the experience to delve into the personal lives of these meteorologists as they took refuge from the floodwaters encroaching their studio. I hope this article, above all else, emphasizes the unique role that broadcast meteorologists take on and the many challenges they face in delivering useful information during events like Harvey.

Robert Prestley
University Corporation for Atmospheric Research

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Machines, Monsters, and Coffin Corners: Broadcast Meteorologists’ Use of Figurative and Intense Language during Hurricane Harvey, Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, August 2020, American Meteorological Society,
DOI: 10.1175/bams-d-19-0205.1.
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