Why It’s Worth Leaving My Paycheck Behind

Jeff Berardelli, Meteorologist and Climate Change Communicator Speaking about climate change on CBSN Spring 2018

After 22 years of consistent employment as a TV meteorologist I am stepping away for a moment; it will be the first time since my Junior year at Cornell University. To many it may seem like a risky step. At moments it feels that way for me as well. I’m am near the peak of my career and earning years. Who would leave a main meteorologist job in a great place like the Palm Beaches when things are going so well?

But the way I look at it is: the risk is not following my passions and intuition towards the next step. In every step I have taken in my life from career to marriage and everything in between that subtle inner voice has guided me towards a life that is better than I could have conceived. And I honestly feel that I ought to be giving back to a world which has given me so much. So after 5 years as Severe Weather Expert at WPEC I will be heading back to New York City.

Starting in September I will be attending Columbia University to get an MA in Climate and Society. The goal is give myself an extra layer of specialty and while doing so, give the Earth and Climate Change another PR agent. Of course as a meteorologist I have a good science background in climate change. But to be an effective communicator in these challenging times it takes a lot more than science. The MA program at Columbia’s Earth Institute offers a multidisciplinary approach with an opportunity to study other key aspects of climate change like sociology, communication, policy, GIS etc… Not to mention it will be an opportunity for me to be in the middle of it all; New York City, a place where the best minds of Climate Change meet the best minds in media.

I also realize, quite vividly as of late, that local news needs to utilize their meteorologists in an expanded way. Just ten years ago everyone needed to watch TV for the local weather forecast. That number is dropping fast due to apps, social media, etc. Thus in my opinion it is necessary for local meteorologists to brand themselves beyond the forecast. Station scientist comes to mind; especially in topics like climate change and the environment. I think having this specialty is not only vital for broadcast meteorologists going forward, but also for the longer term viability of local news. Produce useful, interesting, quality content beyond just the 7 day. This next step in my life will help solidify this expertise for my sake and the station I work at next.

Am I scared? No, not really. I probably should be right? NYC is not cheap and neither is school. Not to mention living in a shoe box. It won’t be the most comfortable for my wife and I who are advanced in years (Me, not her. Sorry Honey!). But I have lived in Manhattan before when I worked at WCBS. Plus I have never put much value on “things”. I’d say I’m a bit of a minimalist. So with all that said, I am just simply excited to learn again, stop & smell the NYC bagel shops and emerge with new skills and hopefully better suited to contribute to the well-being of the world. I want to be sure, to the best of my ability, that I am making career decisions for the right reasons; not just to accept a paycheck. How I am going to make a positive contribution to society if I am not willing to step off the wheel and think critically about what’s right for society’s future and how I can live the change I hope to see. If I am ever going to accomplish even half of these lofty goals, I can’t just talk, I have to walk. And therein lies the hope. What can I do as one person? Probably not much alone. But what I can I do if I plant enough seeds that blossom? Probably a whole lot more.

While In NYC I plan to continue doing TV weather as a freelancer and finding media opportunities to contribute on climate change. My biggest challenge will be finding creative ways to encourage more media coverage of a planet that is changing rapidly!

You can follow me on Facebook.com/JeffWeather and Twitter.com/WeatherProf. And if you have any questions, suggestions, collaborations to suggest please send me a note on one of those two mediums!

Thank you,

Jeff Berardelli

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