British Columbia

Environment Canada's poetic weather alerts

Meteorologist David Jones is the wordsmith behind Environment Canada's weather alerts.

Meteorologist David Jones has turned the weather news from lacklustre to lyrical.

Some Environment Canada weather alerts have taken a literary turn as of late. (CBC)

The poetic weather alerts of an Environment Canada meteorologist are prompting discussion online.

Recent examples include:

"The first major winter storm of 2015 will beget a messy meteorological medley on the B.C. coast Saturday."'

And will "create a montage of rapidly changing winter conditions that will eventually have planners, road crews, and the public from Stewart to Hope scrambling."

It "will slowly smother the North Coast, blanketing the South Coast Saturday night."

David Jones is the Environment Canada meteorologist who writes the weather alerts.

He spoke with On the Coast host Stephen Quinn.

Why do you write these weather alerts in such an unusually compelling way?

Although it's fun and light hearted, it really does have a purpose.

I think it was Edward R. Murrow who said that there were three purposes for the media: entertain, inform and public service. Weather captures all three of those.

Sometimes I think entertainment can get people's attention, especially when something is significant out there.

It's getting attention all over the place. People are talking about it on Facebook and Twitter, and I understand you're getting a lot of email about it.

We are. The inbox for comments is filled up here, and that's been interesting. A few negative comments as well, I have to add, which is a little bit surprising.

One of the things we lack in the weather service here is a delivery system for all the expertise that lies in the weather office here in Vancouver. We've got some absolutely brilliant forecasters here.

How do you avoid minimizing the seriousness of some of these weather events while also keeping the humour and flavour intact? The weather report on the weekend was written in this great, flowery style, and it turned out to be a fairly substantial storm.

Out ahead of the storm when nothing bad had happened yet there was a bit of fun. But quickly, towards the meat of the storm, we toned it down and got more serious back into our government, scientist-type speak.

And I think that's a natural inclination of a forecaster. Our job here, and I think most people don't realize, is to help people make decisions. So we consider it very, very important. And in this case getting the attention was the key.

Of course now it's not funny at all. People's lives are being impacted in a huge way all over the province.

Has there ever been pressure from your superiors to tone it down?

No, but there might be very soon!

What are your literary ambitions? Are you workshopping these at Cafe Deux Soleil on Monday nights?

No, but maybe I'll collect my email warnings going into the future.

I'm a guy who likes to read. The three books on my bedside table right now are Game of Thrones - George R.R. Martin, The Moral Landscape - Sam Harris, and a book on tasting beer by Randy Mosher. So I like to read, and I guess that influences you in a certain way.

This Q & A has been edited for the web. To listen to the full interview, click the audio labelled "Literary Weather: the prose of meteorologist David Jones"


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