From St Louis University ... This Is Meteorologist ... Ben [Pause] Abell

By Tannian, Joe | St. Louis Journalism Review, April-May 2007 | Go to article overview

From St Louis University ... This Is Meteorologist ... Ben [Pause] Abell


Tannian, Joe, St. Louis Journalism Review


From St. Louis University, this is meteorologist Ben (pause) Abell."

For 35 years those words, delivered in that distinctive way, have closed out weather forecasts on KWMU (90.7 FM). At the end of April, they will close out Abell's tenure as the familiar, avuncular voice of weather prediction on the NPR station.

That will end one phase of a career that included undergraduate studies at St. Louis University on the GI Bill, a four-year stint with the U.S. Weather Bureau (now the National Weather Service) in Washington, D.C., and a return to St. Louis for graduate study.

When Abell returned to St. Louis, he was on leave from the Weather Bureau. In 1962, SLU offered him a part-time job teaching. He turned it down. Then the university called back, this time with a full-time offer. That was it. He was here to stay.

When KWMU went on the air in 1972, SLU graduate students were putting together a weather forecast at night to be broadcast the next day. The station went after Abell to be the regular forecaster. As was his custom, he turned them down, but gave in after a few weeks and took the job.

Abell's appeal to the public may lie in his uncertainty about his predictions. Many of them are introduced with the phrase "I'm calling for ..." not to indicate that he is causing the weather, but to show that his forecast is a judgment call, not an announcement of rock-hard certainty.

In one of the occasions on which the Riverfront Times named Abell its meteorologist of the year, the writer remarked that Abell's pause in his signoff gives "Mr. Abell's forecasts a sense of the very uncertainty that defines St. …

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