Sunny, with a chance of groundbreaking television
Weather presenters are a special breed, often adored for their catchphrases (see, for example, Al Roker’s “Here’s what’s happening in your neck of the woods”) and their hilarious on-air mishaps.
On this day 63 years ago, TIME profiled one of the world’s very first TV weathermen, Clint Youle. Though he spent much of his life as a beloved weather icon, he “got into television almost by accident,” as the 1951 article points out. He got his start as a radio newswriter, but transitioned to television in 1949 when Chicago station WNBQ was seeking someone to do on-air forecasts. He’d taken a three-month meteorology course in the Army — and that was enough to land him the gig. As TIME reported, he soon developed a shtick that gained him quite a following:
Comfortably stationed before a 3-by-4-ft. map of the U.S., Youle starts out with a quick survey of local conditions (“Did you notice that sun today? It’s going to stick around for a spell”), sketches in symbols for his predictions (e.g., a sun for fair weather). Then he branches out to cover the outlook for most of the U.S., tells why weather forecasts sometimes go wrong, how a barometer works (“It’s just a scale for weighing the air above it”), explains the theory of weather fronts (“When warm air comes into contact with cold air, that makes weather”).
Over the past two years, Youle’s neighborly, screen-porch approach to the weather has brought him thousands of devoted listeners, who deluge him with fan mail. When Chicago soldiers were sent off to Korea, their relatives wrote to Clint for a report on Korea’s climate. A southern Illinois coal-mine owner asked—and got —information on how to adjust a barometer for use in his mine. Among Youle’s most appreciative fans are the personnel of Chicago’s U.S. Weather Bureau, grateful for someone who appreciates the weatherman and who knows how to handle critics when forecasts go wrong. Said one weather official: “He makes a real, honest effort to understand weather forecasting and to put it over.”
By 1951 — only a few years after Youle got the job — the gig had grown to two local weather shows and a 45-second spot twice a week on John Cameron Swayze’s network telecast. By then, Youle’s salary had spiked to $40,000 a year.
In 1999, Youle died at age 83. The New York Times credited him as the very first person to present the weather on a national television news program. The Daily Show even did a bit to honor him, in which Jon Stewart attempted to maneuver his way around a weather map. Turns out it’s harder than it looks.
Read TIME’s full profile of Clint Youle: Radio: Weather Guesser.