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Weather 101: WCPO 9's Jennifer Ketchmark educates and answers weather-related questions on Instagram

Posted: 7:21 AM, Feb 20, 2020
Updated: 2020-02-20 12:28:18-05
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Weather.

It affects every one of us every day.

“It’s part of our lives whether we want it to be or not,” WCPO 9 meteorologist Jennifer Ketchmark told me.

But while we all experience weather, what happens in our atmosphere is complicated. There is a ton of science that goes into what happens with our weather.

That’s why Jennifer started a new series called Weather 101. Each Thursday on her Instagram account -- @jketchmark -- Jennifer will break down a different weather-related topic in an Instagram Story.

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The first Weather 101 explained how radar works. Last week’s Weather 101 looked at the names of our region’s counties and why it is important to know them when it comes to weather. Today’s examines conversions for rain to snow -- as in how much snow would we have gotten if last week’s rain would have fallen as snow instead?

“Each week, we take topics and try to make them fun and relatable,” Jennifer said. “We don’t want it to be a static thing that just lives in your feed. We want it to be something you can engage with.”

For Jennifer, educating people about the weather comes naturally. She said she loves talking about weather with school classes and answering questions about our atmosphere.

“I love sharing,” she said. “I have this thing in me where I want to share at all times.”

Jennifer’s love of sharing and interest in math and science came together in college. She was majoring in marketing at Eastern Illinois University when she took a general education class on meteorology. She read every word in the textbook.

“I couldn’t put it down,” she said.

She went to the campus TV station to learn more. The next day she changed her major and decided she wanted to be a meteorologist.

Before I started working at WCPO, I didn’t fully appreciate how much science goes into what you see in the weather reports on TV.

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To be a meteorologist at a news organization, you have to have a four-year college degree related to meteorology or science. But not only do you have to understand complex scientific principles that allow you to predict what the weather might do, you also have to be able to clearly communicate them on camera. So you have to get on-air experience, too.

Most meteorologists also get certified from either the American Meteorological Society or the National Weather Association. The certification tests aren’t easy.

Our team of meteorologists, led by Chief Meteorologist Steve Raleigh, are experts in science and data. They aren’t just talking heads on TV.

That’s why WCPO Senior Manager for Engagement Tasha Stewart came up with the idea for Weather 101. Tasha wanted a way to help all of you better understand the weather and what our meteorologists do.

“Our meteorologists constantly receive all kinds of questions about the weather,” Tasha said. “I thought Weather 101 could be a fun way for them to connect with fans while explaining the science behind the weather -- and how meteorologists rely on that science to do their work.”

Jennifer immediately jumped at the idea and the two began to work on the project together.

She hopes to build a catalog of material that can be a resource to schools and all of you.

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“I want people to ask me their questions, so it’s not just my ideas,” Jennifer said. “This discussion isn’t just about me educating them. It’s about us understanding what people want to know.”

And understanding our audience can help us help you. Jennifer’s Weather 101 on our region’s counties included a quiz. She found that 80% of the attempts to identify the counties were wrong. I’ll admit that I answered only one of the three questions correctly.

That led Jennifer to a realization: “If we just say the county without pointing to it, people don’t know,” she said.

The next morning, she changed the way she does her job. Now, she lists towns within counties because people are more likely to know where those towns are -- even if they don’t know which county the towns are in.

“There’s a lot we can do to better alter our messaging so that everybody knows what’s going on,” Jennifer said. “It’s not just weather lessons for (the audience). It’s weather lessons for us too.”

Mike Canan is the Senior Director of Local Media Content at WCPO. Contact him at mike.canan@wcpo.com. Follow him on Twitter or Instagram at @Mike_Canan.