Forecast: Rising ‘cool’ factor
UND Atmospheric Sciences alum listed among most engaging national weather personalities
Broadcast meteorologist Adam Caskey has been getting razzed lately by his colleagues at KSAT in San Antonio, Texas.
After landing on the Washington Post’s list of the country’s seven “coolest TV meteorologists,” the UND alum (’02) unexpectedly found himself in the national spotlight.
“Right away, when it came out, the nicknames started flying. But they’ve been congratulatory,” Caskey said with a laugh. “I’m just doing what I love to do, and have made one of my hobbies a part of my job, which is making thermometers, and people have noticed and think it’s cool. That makes me thrilled!”
Yep – thermometers. Measuring heat is what the list compilers found so cool.
Caskey is known by his viewers for “Thermometer Thursday,” a weekly segment during which he talks about making the instruments, shows off his latest designs and announces the winner of a Caskey original from a popular online drawing that, at last count, totaled more than 11,000 entries.
“I really geek out on making thermometers from scratch. It takes hours and hours of work to make one thermometer, but I love it,” he said
Caskey’s domination of instrumentation started back at UND as an undergraduate in the atmospheric sciences program. He remembers long hours in the Clifford Hall meteorology lab with Professor Ron Rinehart, who came up with a rough procedure to make alcohol thermometers and shared the technique with his students.
Rinehart imparted an appreciation for the craft – glass blowing, calibration, precision, and all of the factors that go into the simple temperature assessors.
“I remember so many students, when they finally finished their thermometer, saying, ‘Oh, I’m glad that’s done,’” Caskey recalled. “But I thought, ‘Oh my goodness – when can I do this again?’”
Caskey didn’t want keep his excitement for weather to himself. He got involved with broadcast meteorology opportunities on campus, including the “Weather Update” segment, “River Watch” (a program about rivers, ecology and weather launched after the 1997 flood) and “Studio One.”
“He was always doing above and beyond,” said Fred Remer, associate atmospheric sciences professor who took over the broadcast meteorology program while Caskey was a student. “He would try different things. Some of them were really good – some of them weren’t,” he added with a chuckle.
Barry Brode, director of television and radio at the UND Television Center, worked with Caskey during his time with the student-run news program “Studio One.” Brode said Caskey’s personality, charisma and passion made him a standout student anchor.
“When you watched his weathercast, you could not help but feel his enthusiasm and excitement about weather,” Brode said. “I’m so proud of Adam and what he has accomplished. When I think of people who are leaders in action, Adam is at the top of my list.”
Caskey took what he learned to the Fox affiliate in Fargo, N.D., where he gained on-air experience while still a student. Nearing graduation, he attended an industry conference, solo, and shook just the right hands to land a job with WJLA in Washington, D.C., a top ten media market.
“He opened up doors for himself. It was amazing,” Remer said. “He just hit a home run.”
During his time in D.C., Caskey reengaged in crafting thermometers. But it wasn’t until he moved to KSAT in San Antonio – a top-rated station that Caskey loves and plans to forever call “home” – that he was able to designate weekly airtime to sharing his pastime.
“Thermometer Thursday” has become such a hit that local non-profits and charity organizations reach out to Caskey for thermometers to auction off at fundraisers, which he often customizes to the event. Some of his pieces have gone for more than $1,000.
“It’s great that I can take that passion and translate it into helping out the community,” he said.
Last February, the San Antonio area experienced a burst of tornadoes, including an EF2 touch down. As Caskey covered the aftermath, he decided he could make something out of all that destruction.
He started the Rubble to Relic initiative, in which storm victims could give him a piece of debris – a chunk of a tree, a fence post, flooring, etc. – and, with help from his woodworking friend, he would affix a thermometer to it.
“It’s a way for them to have a memento from the storm, to think back on what they overcame,” Caskey said.
Caskey has also reached celebrity status in local elementary schools and libraries, where he uses a special procedure for a kids’ thermometer to give young scientists hands-on meteorology experience.
“Kids think that if they want to see the temperature, they can just open an app on their phones,” he explained. “So going back to the basic liquid-and-glass thermometer, showing kids how they’re made and how they work, really sparks an interest in them and makes them think differently.”
But his efforts in education don’t stop at the elementary level. Caskey still reaches back to his alma mater, serving on the advisory panel for the UND atmospheric sciences undergraduate program.
“Whenever we make curriculum changes, we run it by him to get his input,” Remer said. “Adam actually watches weather segments produced by students and provides feedback.”
“Every time we ask Adam for help, he steps up,” Brode said. “He has provided workshops and presentations to our students through Skype and loves his continued connection with the University of North Dakota.”
For Caskey, being one of the nation’s “coolest” meteorologists really comes down to his time at the nation’s “coolest” university.
“UND is such a gem. It’s a gem in the middle of the prairie,” he said. “It’s a good, positive place that had a big impact on my learning and my career.”