"So what time do you get to work....4:30am?"
This is a very common reply I hear after telling someone we go "on air" at 5am. This response used to leave me quite perplexed, wondering how I could possibly prepare a forecast in 30 minutes. It wasn't too long before I understood the real problem: Many people think meteorologists just "read" the weather...while the actual forecasting has already been done for them before they get to work. This is sometimes true in some of the very big markets...but in eastern Carolina, and most other medium and smaller markets, the on-air "met" does all the leg work themselves.
My work day typically starts between 2:30 and 3:00 am. For the 2 plus hours before the show, I am reviewing many different sources of weather data. From current conditions & weather balloon (radiosonde) data, to computer model data and local NWS discussions, there is a lot of information to be sifted through before making the actual forecast. Another common misconception is that the meteorologist reads the weather off a teleprompter. This is not true. I, like almost all meteorologists, am totally ad-libbing when giving my forecasts during the show. Everything said during the weathercast is based on the research done before the show, along with anything pertinent that pops into my head while giving the forecast. Nothing related to the weather is read off a prompter.
So the next time your watching a local meteorologist, know that the forecast they are giving is 100% their forecast. It is not something prepared by someone else and then read off a teleprompter each day. Of course this means when we "blow" the forecast you'll know exactly who to blame when the "sunny and nice day" ends up drenching your outdoor barbecue that afternoon.