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WATCH: Why Cliff Mass Loves To Talk About Weather Science

Elaine Thompson
AP Photo
Mount Rainier is illuminated at dawn beneath a brilliant cover of clouds as seen from Seattle, about 50 miles away, Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2011.

A mild and cloudy Friday will give way to gradually warmer temps, with sunny skies by Sunday and hot weather in the 90s Monday and Tuesday.

That’s all we’re telling you about the specifics of the forecast this week because we have something to celebrate. It’s been 5 years since I started hosting the show, so we thought it would be a good time to pull back the curtain on what we’re aiming for with the segment and why.

Here are some highlights:

Communicating Science

Cliff’s talent for delivering clear and accurate forecasts and explaining them in terms anyone can understand is a skill he has cultivated. He says his studies as an undergraduate at Cornell University with popular astronomer Carl Sagan (famous for his enthusiastic line about “billions and billions of stars…”) made a big impression on Mass as a young man.

“He told me that scientists needed to talk directly to the public,” Mass says. "We couldn’t trust the media and other folks to do the communication for us. We knew the science, we knew the details. The trick was to do it in a way that was accessible to the general public.”

Mass says he brought the communication skills he learned from Sagan to his work at the University of Washington’s department of atmospheric sciences, first as a graduate student and then as a professor.

“To try to give people insights that were just not so easy to get from a short article in a newspaper,” Mass says.

Topics That Excite And Delight

Although he comes from the east coast and sometimes misses the dramatic thunderstorms that are common there, he is a huge fan of the weather features he has come to know intimately after several decades in Seattle and the Northwest.

“I really try to communicate about the marvelous diversity of the weather we have here in the region,” Mass says. “How the mountains and the water make the weather change radically in only a few miles.”

He also loves to talk about the issues of modern weather forecasting.

“You know: what is this technology, how do we do it? How good is it? What are the uncertainties? That’s been an important thing to communicate,” Mass says.

Finally, he says clear communication about climate change and global warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions from human activities is a must.

“…the serious aspects of it, but also trying to clarify, where I think there’s been hype and exaggeration,” Mass said.

To hear the full conversation, you can click on the 'play' icon at the top of this post. 

Weather with Cliff Mass airs at 9:02 a.m. Friday, right after BirdNote, and twice on Friday afternoons during All Things Considered. The feature is hosted by KNKX environment reporter Bellamy Pailthorp. Cliff Mass is a University of Washington professor of atmospheric sciences, a renowned Seattle weather prognosticator, anda popular weather blogger. You can also subscribe to podcasts of Weather with Cliff Mass shows, viaiTunes or Google Play.

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment for KNKX with an emphasis on climate justice, human health and food sovereignty. She enjoys reporting about how we will power our future while maintaining healthy cultures and livable cities. Story tips can be sent to