NBC Connecticut meteorologist visits Model Climate Change class
October 31, 2019
When she was 11 years old, Brooke Einhorn ’20 was assigned in school to analyze weather patterns through various graphs and charts.
Going above and beyond the assignment’s requirements, Einhorn enlisted the help of Ryan Hanrahan, First Alert meteorologist for NBC Connecticut, for additional support.
“I chose to follow the weather patterns for a month,” recalled Einhorn. “My task was to see the difference in weather and analyze it. I emailed (Hanrahan) to help me analyze the weather, see the patterns, and dive deeper into the actual systems.”
Six years after acquiring his help, Einhorn had the opportunity to meet Hanrahan in person. On Oct. 29, the meteorologist visited Cheshire Academy to discuss and field questions about weather modeling and climate before students and faculty members.
“I think this is a really good experience because I’m really interested in this, and I’m very excited and thankful that he came,” Einhorn said.
Hanrahan’s talk was organized by Mathematics teacher Tom Marshall and held during Marshall’s Model Climate Change class. Students enrolled in the course develop an understanding of weather prediction and climate using various analyses and graphs currently being used by professionals, study how weather patterns affect war zones, migration and immigration, radicalism, and natural disaster clean-up and recovery, and learn how to communicate accurate scientific and mathematic information to the public.
For Hanrahan, talking to and educating students is one of the perks of his job. He was thrilled to see Einhorn continue to pursue the subject of meteorology.
“I think part of what I love to do is to talk to students and get them excited about STEM fields, so it was great to see the embodiment of that—someone who’s interested in meteorology when they were in middle school to now, as they’re getting ready to head to college … thinking about what their career will be in the future,” Hanrahan said.
Hanrahan told attendees that he has “always loved the weather,” wanting to be a meteorologist since he was 4 years old.
Over the span of his 15-year career, Hanrahan admits he has seen his profession’s role change. One reason why is due to the use of mobile weather applications, which he says people look to more so for immediate weather information.
“This has completely changed what we do,” Hanrahan said. “I go into every weathercast with the expectation that someone has already seen the forecast. How I look at my job now is, how do I make myself relevant when everyone has already seen what I have to say?”
Hanrahan also battles with using probability to make informed statements to the general public. The problem, he said, is that people only want to know about absolutes, like if rain will impede on their weekend events.
“Unfortunately for us, we’re sort of at a crossroads in meteorology where everything I look at, everything I do, is in a probabilistic framework,” Hanrahan said. “Most people do not want a probabilistic forecast, so how do we bridge that divide?”
Hanrahan fielded questions from students and faculty regarding the use of probability to forecast weather, the polar vortexes, the European and American weather models, and climate change.
“When I started, I didn’t think it was necessarily my role to talk about it on air all the time because it’s not weather,” Hanrahan said, about climate change. “…I’ve changed that now because I think people are looking for information that’s local and relevant. They can still get the forecast, but you can still talk about how things are changing, and why.”
Most importantly, Hanrahan said he makes sure that he and his colleagues keep their information interesting.
“You have to be able to ask yourself the question of, ‘Why do I care?’ or ‘Why do they care?’ and you have to make things seem interesting, important, and relevant,” he said. “That is the biggest challenge we have a lot of times.”