Janice Dean: Why I love the weather

Growing up, my dad always used to tell me: “Janice Anne, find what you most love to do in life, and it will never feel like work.”

I remembered him saying this at a very young age, and I am happy and proud to say, I am living my father’s advice.

Becoming a meteorologist wasn’t always on the horizon when it came to following my career path.  But, every job I did do early on I believe has led me to where I am today.

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It started where I grew up. Living in Ottawa, Canada I was reminded that I was living in one of the world’s coldest winter capitals.

The fondest memories I have as a kid did not always happen in the summer months. I have more pictures of me in my snowsuit, making snowmen or skating on the ice than I do of me at the beach building sandcastles.

The author in an undated childhood photo.

The author in an undated childhood photo.

And every single year, God willing, if I live to be 100 years old, I’ll always create a snow angel following the first snowfall of the season!

When I visit children in classrooms around the country and tell them about my job, I bring pictures to show them the house I grew up in with snow piled up to the roof.

When I am asked about what my favorite season is or what kind of weather I like to cover the most, I say all of it.

We also had memorable ice storms – one particular historic year ice piled up on the roads, sidewalks and power lines. The National Guard had to come in and help get our city cleaned up and the power restored after weeks of being in the dark (and the cold!).

I remember seeing the weather forecasters during these big events and being fascinated by how they could forecast these sometimes life-changing storms. I would wonder how they knew when these big weather events were going to strike.

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When I first graduated from college, I had my mind all set on a broadcasting career. For several years I worked at a classic rock station and it was during this period in my early 20’s a news director told me he thought I should some television reporting.  He asked if I had ever done the weather (back then you didn’t need the meteorology background to be an on-camera presenter).

Eager to try new things, I said yes and sat for days learning how to create weather graphics and figure out a five-day forecast.

I never imagined someday I would be doing it fulltime but I enjoyed the excitement of television, being outside, and looking at clues to see what the next day’s weather would bring.

When I was hired at Fox News over a decade later as their daytime forecaster, I went back to school to make it official.  It took me several years to become a broadcast meteorologist and in 2009 I was awarded the American Meteorological Society (AMS) seal of approval.

When I talk with kids who are trying to figure out their career path, I always tell them to do everything you can to broaden out your job opportunities.

When I was in school, I LOVED math and science – the subjects you need to excel at when you study weather -- and my years doing radio and reporting have also given me the building blocks to what I do every morning on “Fox & Friends.”

Weather is all around us. It can start up conversations with strangers and is a good way to think about life.

Someone recently asked me if my years as a radio D.J. has helped me in my job today. And the answer is absolutely. 

People are shocked to find out that meteorologists don’t read scripts from a TelePrompter. It’s all ad-lib, and my days in radio certainly have helped my presentation.

The fact that I went back to school in my thirties to study meteorology is a lesson that there should never be a time limit to learning something new.

And because I love talking and teaching kids about weather, that inspired my other love – writing about it. 

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The idea for my “Freddy the Frogcaster” series came from friends and family members who were looking for recommendations for children’s weather books.  After doing some research, I felt like there was a need for more of them, so I “leaped forward” and began to create my own.

I had read somewhere that frogs somehow innately know when the weather is changing, and have been known to “croak loader” when a storm is coming.  I’m not sure if this is scientifically proven, but when I read it, I thought wow – frogs are natural weather forecasters.

I’ve written five books in the “Freddy the Frogcaster” series including his adventures covering thunderstorms, tornadoes, hurricanes, snowstorms and flash floods.

Janice Dean with Freddy the Frogcaster in Fox Square in New York City.

Janice Dean with Freddy the Frogcaster in Fox Square in New York City. (FNC)

I’m also proud that Freddy the Frogcaster is an ambassador for NOAA’s Weather Ready Nation program. (He’s got his own seal of approval!)

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Now that I’ve written these books and have spoken to thousands of kids about weather, I think this is one of the most important things I’ve ever done. And, just like I was as a kid, the children I go out and talk with are excited to tell you everything they’ve been through. Even the tough stuff.

Over the years covering extreme weather events, I am always struck by how communities come together and help each other. We can help save lives by talking about what to do and how to prepare in advance.

Parents have told me that after they read the “Freddy” books, many times it’s their children who are the ones who take the initiative to get an emergency preparedness kit together.

When I am asked about what my favorite season is or what kind of weather I like to cover the most, I say all of it.

I feel incredibly responsible when it comes to forecasting severe weather or hurricanes.  Meteorologists are sometimes the first ones to alert communities of the possibility of a dangerous weather event.  All of us want to make sure we’re giving the most up to date information so that families and communities can make their best plans.

Our forecasting tools area getting better at predicting when bad weather could strike more accurately. We’re the last ones that want to get the forecast wrong, but sometimes it happens and we hear about it. But, I always say I’d rather see people be over-prepared for a weather situation that doesn’t happen than that they are underprepared and caught off guard.

In terms of fun, though, I have to go back to my days as a kid. I love that moment when the first snowfall arrives and maybe there’s a day off from school to get bundled up and make snowmen, snow forts and snow angels.

(Courtesy of the author)

Rosy cheeks and fresh air remind you it’s a great day to be outside.  And then there’s the warm up inside with hot cocoa and marshmallows to discuss all of the snow that came down in just a few hours.

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Every morning when I’m outside on Fox Square bringing you the nation’s weather I’m always reminded that weather is the one thing that we all experience together on this planet. Those cold, sunny days when you can see your breath and quite literally they remind you that you’re alive.

Weather is all around us. It can start up conversations with strangers and is a good way to think about life: After every storm, the sun comes out, and the winds sometimes will clear a path to a new destination, a different path or just a brand new day to begin again.

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