Dr. Marshall Shepherd is a self-confessed nerd. A science geek from an early age, he turned his passion into a profession by carving out an early career as a NASA scientist.
Later, he switched to academia. His current role as Director of the University of Georgia’s Atmospheric Sciences Program has served as a platform to elevate weather and climatic issues to the national stage.
Since he joined the UGA faculty in 2006, Dr. Shepherd’s research has frequently made headlines. Interest centers on his analysis of the relationship between urbanization and extreme weather events.
Dr. Shepherd, 45, a Georgia native and married father of two, has also emerged as one of the country’s best-known weather and climate scientists and is a sought after media pundit on the major networks.
Yet when he was approached by The Weather Channel network to host his own weekly Sunday afternoon talk show he was surprised. Initially hesitant to take up the offer, Dr. Shepherd was persuaded after talks with the network’s producers.
It has paid off. Weather Geeks [also known as WX Geeks], which premiered in July last year, has been a big hit with viewers. So much so there is even talk of extending the half hour studio-based format to a hour-long show.
“People are watching,” says Dr. Shepherd, who is noted for his professional and personable hosting style. “We’re getting amazing feedback on the show.”
“People see how weather touches their lives everyday, and how climate is also possibly changing aspects of that weather, and perhaps life. People are fascinated by tornadoes and hurricanes, typhoons, floods and wildfires.”
Dr. Shepherd, is a past president of the American Meteorological Society (he is the second African-American to hold this post), says the pioneering science show covers a broad spectrum of issues rarely explored in depth on national television. It attracts weather geeks but is also accessible enough to appeal to the public and to policymakers.
“We deal with all kinds of topics–anything from droughts to the merits of storm chasing to climate change and the polar vortex,” says Shepherd, who has recently been honored with the Captain Planet Protector of the Earth award in recognition of his environmental work. “We know that weather and climate and climate change are just very popular topics, not only in the science community, but across the general public as well.”
“It’s actually bringing real science to a national audience. People consume dramatic science shows all the time. When you look at things like CSI, there’s underlined science in those shows. This is a talk show focused on real science and technology issues as it relates to weather and climate.”
WX Geeks, which is taped mid-week, has attracted heavyweights in all areas of meteorology and climate science.
White House Science adviser Dr. John Holdren; National Weather Service Director Louis Uccellini; legendary conservationist Dr. Jane Goodall and world-renowned storm chaser Dr. Charles “Chuck” Doswell, have all flown into Weather Channel’s Atlanta headquarters to appear on the show.
“The opportunity to have Dr. Shepherd as a regular contributor and host made this an ideal opportunity to create a national platform for a discussion of weather issues,” says David Clark, president of The Weather Channel.
“We recognize that we play a role in a much larger community and we felt an obligation to set aside air time for that community to come together and share ideas and expertise.”
“Clearly our climate changes naturally but there’s a human steroid on top of that climate change now,” says Dr. Shepherd, in response to question about global warming. “It will impact not only how warm our temperatures get but also all facets of weather, from hurricanes to flooding to droughts. It will impact people’s lives everyday.”
WX Geeks airs Sundays at noon Eastern on The Weather Channel.
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