Janice Dean is Senior Meteorologist for FOX News and FOX Business. She joins the show to discuss the cold storms sweeping the country. Dean discusses what should be a part of people’s winter emergency kits. She explains why this winter was one of the worst we’ve ever witnessed… and if this proves that global warming is a hoax.
Watch Janice Dean at www.foxnews.com.
Janice Dean joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in January 2004 and currently serves as senior meteorologist. Throughout her tenure with FNC, Dean has covered a slew of storms, including: Hurricanes Sandy, Irene, Igor, Earl and Katrina. Prior to joining the network, Dean served as the news editor and entertainment reporter for “Imus in the Morning,” which aired on WFAN-AM New York and was also simulcast nationally on MSNBC. Before her time at the radio station, Dean was a weekend on-air traffic reporter for CBS 2 New York and from 1998-2001, she hosted various radio programs in Houston, Texas including: Metro Networks, KODA-FM, KKBQ-FM and KLDE-FM. She also served as an on-camera weather host at CBOT Television in 1997.
Dean began her career in Ottawa, Canada at CHEZ-FM where she was a morning show co-host, reporter and DJ. She went on to hold numerous positions at CHUM Limited, also in Ottawa, Canada, including: morning news anchor for “Breakfast at the New RO,” producer and host of “The Broad Perspective” on CFRA and an anchor for KOOL-FM. Dean received an honors diploma from Algonquin College in Radio & Television Broadcasting. Janice is a member of the American Meteorological Society and was awarded the AMS Seal of Approval in 2009.
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Jason Hartman: It’s my pleasure to welcome Janice Dean to the show. She is a senior meteorologist for Fox News and Fox Business, and I have to say to all the listeners that I have never had the pleasure of interviewing a meteorologist, so this should be interesting. Janice welcome. How are you?
Janice Dean: I’m great! How are you doing?
Jason Hartman: Doing well, thanks. And you’re coming to us from New York, and so you are in the midst of some amazingly rough winter storms this year, right?
Janice Dean: Yeah, we’ve had a little bit of a break. Today was a break, but we have had storm after storm after storm hit this region, and we’re well above average in terms of snow totals across the North East and the great lakes and the Midwest, and of course it’s been incredibly cold for millions of people really since I would say the first week of January we started to feel those Arctic plunges, those arctic cold fronts coming in. And it’s just been really relentless. I think a lot of people are saying we’re ready for spring time. But I think we’ve got about 40 days left until the official day of spring, but I’ll tell you that a lot of people are counting down.
Jason Hartman: Yeah. Well I want to cover some diverse topics with you today, but maybe the first because it’s may be fairly innocuous, is technology. How do you forecast weather and what was sort of the last big thing, and what’s coming up in weather technology?
Janice Dean: I think over the past ten years meteorology and forecasting has gotten a lot better. Our computer modeling is getting better. You’ll hear a lot of meteorologists talk about things like the Euro Model or the GSS Model, and those are computer models that we use to forecast big storm events. So winter storms, even hurricanes, that kind of thing. They’ve gotten better over the years. The technology and the data that we input into these computer models has gotten much more finite, much more refined.
So the output is a lot more accurate, and we don’t just use one model. We use a series of models and they all kind of do different things. One model will be really good at forecasting temperatures, another is better at forecasting positioning of a storm and how strong a storm is. So you’ve got to know which one, what the strengths are in each computer model and that comes with experience obviously.
The two really good computer models that we use are the GSS which is the American model, and the European model which obviously comes out of Europe. And when it comes to storm forecast that’s typically what we use to dictate the winter storms that are coming our way, and of course tropical season as well. So the forecasting is getting better, but I will tell you that it’s still not a perfect science obviously, and there is a lot of room for error.
A good example is the storm that we had in Atlanta last week. Forecasters knew it was coming, they knew it was going to be a couple of inches of snow but the timing was a little bit off and that in itself really kind of stopped the city in its tracks because it came a little bit earlier, people realized they had to go pick up their kids at school, they realized they had to get home to relieve baby sitters or to get supplies or whatever and it brought he city to a standstill.
So that gives you a good example of yes, we can give you a time frame and we can tell you perhaps some of the snow that’s going to come, but you have to factor in things like temperature and the positioning of the storm and the winds, and that kind of thing. Because snow is one of the hardest things to forecast for meteorologists. Especially when the temperature is hovering around the freezing mark, you can have anything from sleet to freezing rain to snow. So it’s always going to be very challenging for us.
Jason Hartman: Very interesting. So I discovered a very interesting weather app. I think it’s a Kick Starter campaign or something, I’m probably going to give them some publicity. But it’s called Dark Sky. And I just saw that yesterday or the day before when someone mentioned it on Facebook. And I looked it up and one of the things they said in the video is that the most important part about weather is knowing what’s going to happen in the next couple of hours because that’s kind of how we live our life. And I kind of rethought it – I mean I love the 5 day forecast, and I look at that and I wish we could get a one year forecast out of you people but I guess that’s not coming any time soon.
Janice Dean: That’s not going to happen in our lifetime.
Jason Hartman: But they said you can tell exactly with their app (that’s their promise – I don’t know if it’s really true, but…) you can tell pretty much just about the exact time rain will hit and the exact time rain will leave. Is that really possible?
Janice Dean: Wow, I’ll have to look into this app. I have heard of it before, and they’re into something we call NowCasting. So they’re into a period of time where they’re forecasting sort of the moment. I would suppose that I’d have to look into it a little more, but you know, it’s tough. It’s always going to be tough unless you have high pressure sitting over your area, like Phoenix, Arizona that kind of thing, it’s really hard to give a really concrete forecast.
Like I said, if you’re living in the desert southwest, you can sometimes time your watch on what the forecast is going to be like. But if you live across areas like the Northeast or the great lakes where you have bodies of water that influence weather, troughs that move across, that kind of thing then it’s tougher. So it really depends on where you live. It depends on where the climate is. A lot of people say you should go to California because every day is the same. But they have to forecast things like marine layer and fog, and Santa Anna winds. So it depends on where you live, and you obviously have to know your climate and what to expect.
Jason Hartman: Very interesting. Well, what happens though on the other side of this long range forecasting? I remember my late grandfather used to read the Farmer’s Almanac and he was a farmer in Upstate New York. But did they really show you what the weather was going to be the next August, for example, so you could plan your crops or something?
Janice Dean: Well, let me give you an example of the Farmer’s Almanac. I have to be careful because people do love the Farmer’s Almanac. It’s a beloved piece of literature. But they don’t tell you how they forecast – they say it’s sunspots, and they don’t give you the way that they forecast or how they forecast. It’s sort of a cloak and dagger kind of thing. But they will give you specific days on where they think it’s going to be stormy and they give you kind of an outlook of what to expect during the winter time. I’ll give you an example: the super bowl this year was played in New Jersey last weekend. And the farmer’s almanac put out 6 months before hand their prediction of what the super bowl forecast was going to be and it was dire. It was the blizzard bowl. And feet and feet of snow, but not feet maybe.
Jason Hartman: So they were right?
Janice Dean: Well, no they weren’t. The super bowl itself on the super bowl day it was 54 degrees and sunny out!
Jason Hartman: Well, okay you consider that warm but I looked at it as there was just a big blizzard back there through the whole…
Janice Dean: I will say the next day we had a lot of snow. So I think it’s very general what they put out there and I think they take into account climate and that kind of thing and what to expect. So for them to say it was going to be a stormy super bowl, well February in New Jersey, chances are pretty good that they might be right. But the day of the super bowl I was forecasting and we had some of the warmest temperatures we’d had all winter and it was clear skies for the game.
Jason Hartman: Very interesting. If you were talking, and maybe you’ve actually done this before so you’ll have this right off the cuff, but if you were talking to a room full of say 6th or 7th graders for example, say you went into the school to talk and explain weather. What is just sort of the basic concepts of meteorology that we could know? Because I only learned what little I know about it from just watching professionals like yourself on the news. High pressure means warm, low pressure means cold, and clouds mean clouds and rain means rain… What’s just some of the basic fundamentals of weather?
Janice Dean: Well that’s one of the reasons why I came out with the children’s book…
Jason Hartman: Ah, I didn’t know this.
Janice Dean: That came out last year called Freddy the Frogcaster. And it’s available and I actually have another Freddy coming out in September that is going to be dealing with a blizzard. So that’s what I wanted to do – I wanted to introduce children to meteorology, gently give them an introduction to some of the terms that I use on TV like you mentioned, high pressure, low pressure, cold front, warm front, things that we use: thermometer, barometer, wind gauges, that kind of thing, rain gauges. So I realized that there was a need for that because there’s not a lot of books out there that help kids understand what’s going on in the atmosphere, and from my experience kids really do pick up on what’s going on and they remember things. For me, getting into meteorology and forecasting – growing up in Canada we had many storms, ice storms, very cold temperatures and I remember those as a kid. So it certainly had an influence on me growing up and what I wanted to do.
So having said that, I wanted to sort of introduce that in a children’s book. So I created a character named Freddy the Frogcaster who loves forecasting weather and has been doing it since he was a tadpole. And he loves weather so much that his dad built him a weather station out in the backyard that has all the things that I mentioned, the barometer, temperature gauges, rain gauges, things to measure snow… that kind of thing. So when I do go out to schools and I read them the book, they are very interested in what’s going on. And I think as a kid and being interested in weather I think it’s up to the parents as well to kind of take an interest in their child also.
You can go outside and look up at a cloud and weather clues out in the atmosphere to give you an idea of what’s coming. The white puffy clouds with sunshine is typically a nice day, but if the clouds are grey and wispy that should give you an indication that maybe a storm is on the way. Certainly the humidity in the atmosphere… if you live out in the desert southwest you don’t have a lot of humidity all the time, but that will also give you an indication of what kind of day, is it going to be hazy or humid or sticky? So there are all kinds of things that you can do just as an observer to look for clues in the atmosphere about what’s going to happen.
Jason Hartman: Right. Well you know like sailors and of course U2 has a famous song called Red Skies at Night, right? I can’t remember because I used to be an avid sailor and now I can’t remember what that tells you, but these all have meanings like you can tell if a storm is coming in. there are indicators that aren’t the obvious ones. Oh, there’s grey ominous clouds in the sky, well everyone knows that means a storm is coming in but are there some other clues that we can just average in daily life use to know about weather?
Janice Dean: Well I think atmosphere pressure is a really… just having a barometer, just that in itself knowing if a high pressure or low pressure is on the way. If the barometer goes up that typically means high pressure is moving in, and high pressure usually typically means a nice clear day is going to be pushing in, and low pressure obviously means a storm could be on its way, so…a barometer is a very easy indication telling you what kind of air mass is pushing in. So it’s little things like that, and like I said there are tools that you can use to measure the humidity and which direction the wind is coming from, the cold front/ warm front kind of thing. Typically a warm front will come from the south, and a cold front will come from the north. So these are all things that if you have a love for weather, then you can have your own backyard weather station.
Jason Hartman: A lot of apps for the phone, and I’ve got several weather apps for my iPhone, but I really like the feels like index and my assumption is that that feels like index, meaning what it feels like even though they may say well the temperature is 70 but it’s humid, I assume…
I’m going to ask you what that actually takes into account, but I assume if it’s humid it feels like 75 rather than 70, right? And if it’s dry it could feel cooler, I suppose? Tell us about that feels like index that a lot of groups are using nowadays.
Janice Dean: Right, so… feels like when it’s warm out it’s the humidity that can make it feel in some cases oppressive especially across the south. And that really tells you how much moisture is in the atmosphere, so your body when you’re exercising or you’re outdoors, if it’s humid outside your body doesn’t have as easy of a time to cool itself off because there’s so much humidity or moisture in the atmosphere. And so that makes it feel even warmer, and that can be very dangerous if you’ve got humidity that makes it… say you live out in the south and you’ve got a lot of moisture in the atmosphere, it inhibits your body to cool itself naturally and that can be very dangerous.
Jason Hartman: It’s miserable, yeah.
Janice Dean: So and then you’ve also got things like feels like when it’s cold outside: wind-chill – wind-chill factor. So when you live across the northern plains and the upper Midwest where you’ve got wind-chill advisories and wind-chill warnings, that means the winds are blowing at say, 20-30 miles per hour and it feels even colder than that. So it may be 0 degrees, but with the wind-chill it feels like -20, -30. And again that takes into account how your body deals with either very cold temperatures or very warm temperatures factoring it either the fact that there’s a lot of moisture in the atmosphere or the fact that there’s very cold air blowing.
Jason Hartman: Very interesting. Is there any truth… this probably isn’t exactly your area, but I was at the dog park the other day and this guy there started talking to me about chem trails in the sky, and he started showing me, well you see that’s not a real cloud because they’ve been spraying something up there and you can tell by the way it has formed… is this like a wacky conspiracy theory or is there something to this? Our government I guess admits that it seeds the atmosphere from time to time to end droughts and stuff, right? Doesn’t it do that?
Janice Dean: I think that the theory of chem trails has been refuted by the scientific community – that they’re just simple normal condensation trails from airplanes, high flying jets, that kind of thing with condensation trails. I won’t dispute that we’re putting stuff in our atmosphere that we shouldn’t be putting in our atmosphere but I’m a weather person so I study weather patterns and clouds and that kind of thing. But a lot of people do believe that there is something to that theory, the chem trail theory, that trails are left by aircraft that are chemical or biological agents. I don’t study that so I really can’t give you a scientific answer.
Jason Hartman: I started to pay for attention to it after the Olympics in China a few years ago, and they were trying to defeat the smog problem that they have there, which is just… talk about oppressive.
Janice Dean: Right. Like cloud seeding and that kind of thing? Yeah, again that’s sort of not my expertise so I couldn’t give you a really solid answer on that.
Jason Hartman: Just thought I’d throw it out there as a question, not to anything particular. What do you think about these winter storms we’ve had? A lot of people have been saying well, this debunks the global warming theory which I think can be debunked a lot of ways, frankly. And then of course the people in that camp that believe in global warming, they conveniently changed the name a few years ago and rebranded it to climate change which I think was rather disingenuous.
Janice Dean: Right, because the climate is always changing.
Jason Hartman: As if the weather has never changed before, right?
Janice Dean: Yeah, so listen. I’m all for protecting our environment, trying to do what we can to protect our atmosphere and investing money in that and investing money into tools where we can help predict weather better. My whole thing is that because I forecast weather I realize that even anything outside of a five day forecast is a coin toss, so to hear people decide what’s going to happen in three years, ten years, 20 years, a hundred years is impossible – it’s impossible. And we have to take into account that the world has been changing for centuries and so has weather and it’s evolved. And we have to take into account that our oceans are big and they take in heat from the atmosphere, and there’s sunspots and there’s things like volcanoes that can erupt and block the sun for months and also change the atmosphere so I just think that it’s hard to predict anything outside of a five day forecast, let alone what’s going to happen in the future with what we’re putting in our atmosphere.
Like I said, I agree that we’re putting a lot of junk into our air and we should try to do our best to make sure that we have clean air to breath, and plant more trees. And that kind of thing, but it’s gotten a little out of hand because it seems to be a blanket statement that when we go through a drought or we go through a period where we don’t have a lot of rain or we go through a period of record breaking heat that it’s the global warming climate change. Well, now we’re going into a period that some people are saying is very reminiscent of the 70s where we’re seeing all of these storms and this very cold arctic air and back in the 70s people were saying that it was a period of global cooling. So I just think it’s a hot issue, it will always be a hot issue but we’re not going to prove anything in our lifetime.
Jason Hartman: Right, right. Well, I agree. That’s an interesting take on it and there are so many layers to it. The first question is, and of course we don’t have time to cover it, but the first question is, is it true? Maybe it is, maybe it’s not. That’s one part, and then you go down to the next layer is, is it caused by humans? And then the next layer beyond that is really you just have to ask, and there are other layers – I’m skipping quite a few but, is it bad? And I’m not saying that you could ever argue that it’s good that we’re putting junk into the atmosphere and polluting. I’m just saying from a warming perspective only… doesn’t that create all sorts of arable land and new farming opportunities? There are people in inclement climates that would probably love global warming.
Janice Dean: Well I think just as a general statement, everything evolves, everything changes, everything adapts. And the weather does that as well. So to put it on man itself changing the weather, sometimes I think it’s a little bit farfetched. I will say that I think you can argue both arguments. I think there’s documents that we can sit and debate it until the cows come home, but the point is we have to do our best to try to protect the atmosphere and do what we can to make sure our children grow up and have what we have.
But I think, again, that it’s gotten out of hand. Especially people who don’t typically study it, to just use it as a blanket statement. Oh, it’s global warming, oh it’s climate change, oh to the point of every hurricane that hits us is going to be climate change or global warming. We’ve had hurricanes hit us since the beginning of record books and some of them have been very strong, and to put a flip side to it we had a very quiet hurricane season last year and we also had a very quiet tornado season. And some of the documents will say wow, with global warming and climate change we’re going to have crazy hurricanes and crazy seasons of tornados. Well, we just had a very quiet hurricane and tornado season, so what does that tell you?
Jason Hartman: Right. It’s so funny Janice, because as soon as some weather event happens it’s just see, I told you so.
Janice Dean: Right, and to me… we had that devastating typhoon hit the Philippines this year and it was devastating. It was category 5, and it did incredible damage and it killed so many people. But to hear somebody say it’s global warming or climate change, that is simply not true. One event does not make global warming or climate change, and we have had category… actually the US has not been hit by a category 5 since 1992, since Andrew. So I don’t know. And like I said last year was very quiet – we go through cycles. I study weather and I study cycles and that’s the way I believe the weather evolves.
Jason Hartman: Very good points. Any comments on the drought in California before you go? That is pretty severe, huh?
Janice Dean: It is pretty severe but I do have good news. The weather pattern is changing so they’re going to actually get some much needed moisture over the next week or so as well as some much needed snow pack for the Sierra.
Jason Hartman: See, listeners? We’re actually getting a weather forecast here too.
Janice Dean: Well this is great news, because it has been a severe to extreme drought, but this is their rainy season and it is possible that the month of February into March if you get a couple of storm systems it will certainly help the dire situation that it is right now. It only takes a couple of storms to give a couple of inches of rain to help things out in that area.
Jason Hartman: Good stuff. Well anything that people should know, just in closing Janice? Any websites you want to give out?
Janice Dean: Well I have a website where I talk about the weather called The Weather Front on Foxnews.com, and I have Twitter – you can follow me on Twitter at @janicedean. I love hearing from everyone and I always respond. And you can like me on Facebook, Janice Dean. So I appreciate it. I love talking about the weather, and you can also pick up Freddy the Frogcaster if you want to learn more about weather and give a book to your kids or your grandkids. I’m really proud of it, and the new one comes out in the fall, Freddy and the Big Blizzard.
Jason Hartman: And what’s the new one about? He did the forecasting, Freddy the frog, but…
Janice Dean: Right, so the new one is basically Freddy helps to predict the big blizzard that hits his lily pad, and I also talk about the green screen in there because frogs are green, and if you’re familiar with a green screen you can’t wear green on a green screen so I address that. And then the third Freddy in the trilogy comes out next year and it will be Freddy in a hurricane. So that’s what I want to kind of do is put a good spin on weather and make kids kind of understand a little bit of what I do in weather forecasting and meteorology.
Jason Hartman: Fantastic. Well, Janice Dean: Senior meteorologist for Fox News and Fox Business, thank you so much for joining us today.
Janice Dean: Any time. Thank you for having me.
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Transcribed by Ralph
Guest: Janice Dean
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