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Meet internet weatherman and YouTuber Ryan Hall

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There is perhaps no internet weather personality with a wider reach than Ryan Hall, a 27-year-old from eastern Kentucky. Unlike other famous weather names, Hall doesn’t gain viewership through traditional network news or the Weather Channel — he does so through social media.

Weather personalities like Hall – who isn’t a meteorologist by training – have popped up on social platforms like YouTube and TikTok, sharing updates and forecast information for people who might be more willing to scroll through their phones than check an official forecast from the National Weather Service. Their growth also worries some meteorologists, who are concerned about the tactics this new generation of weather presenters are using to attract audiences.

Hall’s social media has seen explosive growth since he began uploading videos to YouTube in January 2021. In December, Hall streamed live on YouTube to cover a tornado outbreak that spawned two EF-4 twisters that devastated parts of Kentucky. After that, Hall’s subscriber count grew by nearly 250,000 in just two months, according to social media monitoring platform Social Blade. In April, Hall announced plans to expand its ground presence as well, adding a fleet of assault chasing vehicles with colorful branding decals. At least one of them was spotted doing it Hurricane Ian.

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To date, Hall has accumulated 828,000 subscribers on his YouTube channel Ryan Hall, Y’all and 1.5 million followers on TikTok. His videos on YouTube, recently uploaded about twice a week, regularly have hundreds of thousands of views.

The videos are fast-paced and full of maps with vivid colors. Hall has built a following drawn by his folksy presentation, with videos often going deeper than a typical television weather report. Hall told The Washington Post that he uses a team of meteorologists, editors and writers to produce his videos.

Hall’s YouTube video announcing a “massive storm” after Thanksgiving has garnered more than a million views. One commenter on the video described him as “down to earth and candid” and another said his predictions were “more accurate than any local or even national forecast”.

On Twitter, where Hall has more than 110,000 followers, he says describes himself as “The Weatherman of the Internet”.

Critics express concerns about hype

As Hall’s viewership has grown, some in the weather community have questioned how he presents his videos, citing certain headlines and images that appear to make promises unsupported by science. Critics argue that if his headlines go too far, they could erode trust in forecasters.

For example, some have mocked in this Thanksgiving video about a “Massive Storm” because the models are divided on whether a significant storm will develop.

Hall was also criticized for headlining two videos in August and September, “Here’s Exactly When You’ll See Snow This Year (2022)” and “Here’s Exactly How Much Snow You’ll See This Year (2022)”.

In the active online weather community on Twitter, the snow amount video title and accompanying thumbnail drew sharp rebukes from meteorologists and weather hobbyists, who argued the teaser promised too much information. A critical tweet attracted more than 400 likes and dozens of replies and quote tweets, argue the thumbnail was misleading because it suggested that part of the country could see 4 feet of snow, including areas where such amounts are rare or unrealistic.

Using flashy imagery and over-the-top messages to garner clicks is hardly limited to Hall — it takes little browsing to find YouTubers with no clear credentials using thumbnails showing hurricanes photoshopped over land and water. Without naming specific creators, Hall told the Washington Post that there are creators who “use overwhelmingly misleading titles and thumbnails.” but that he would not include himself in that group.

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Hall said his goal is to attract an audience that has been missing from traditional weather information sources such as television, radio and the National Weather Service. Hall said he uses “the same tactics” that other developers use on social media platforms: flashy thumbnails, big blocky text, and vibrant images.

“For the most part, I’m just relaying official information from meteorologists and government agencies that people need,” Hall said. “I’m just doing it differently than what most people … have seen before in the weather world.”

Still, some meteorologists are concerned. In a recent podcast, James Spann, chief meteorologist at Birmingham’s ABC affiliate in Birmingham, Alabama, and co-host of the WeatherBrains podcast, said the way some YouTubers pull clicks is inconsistent with his values .

“There’s just something in my stuff, in my soul, where integrity is a big deal, and that’s one of the downsides I see is having to play a game to be a YouTuber to live up to their standards ‘ Span said.

While Hall agrees that weather misinformation is a problem on social media, he doesn’t and does not consider his videos to be clickbait or harmful made fun of critics. He defends some of his more controversial posts, arguing that they draw people into a video that has the necessary nuance and substance.

“The title was enough of a hook to grab the attention of people who were interested in the content of the video,” Hall said of the video, “Here’s Exactly How Much Snow You’ll See This Year.” The video itself is “nothing more than a science-based seasonal outlook explaining averages and the effect of La Nina on our winters here in the United States.”

Kim Klockow McClain, meteorologist and team leader for the Behavioral Insights Unit at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said while the jury is out on how viewers accurately perceive YouTube thumbnails, research suggests it could pose a problem if Pinning People to Thumbnails.

“People tend to anchor risk judgments based on the initial information they receive and then update from that reference point,” Klockow said. “If the first point of reference is an extreme, even after adjusting for the content in the video, their judgments may still remain more extreme than the situation warrants.”

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Katie Nickolaou, meteorologist and TikToker with more than 478,000 followers, believes the best headlines and thumbnails are memorable, fascinating and truthful. Headlines and images that don’t deliver on promises could have dangerous knock-on effects, she said.

“Not only will [the user] If you stop clicking on videos from that creator, you’ll also be less likely to click on or trust videos from other weather-related content creators,” Nickolaou said. “This can be extremely damaging because it can slow and even prevent the dissemination of potentially life-saving data from meteorologists.”

Ultimately, Hall says, he and meteorologists — whether they use social media or not — are all on the same team, educating and informing people. With severe weather events imminent, Hall said he shifts from what he calls a “weather-tainment” style to a more serious tone. Still, Hall said he learned lessons from the excitement surrounding his thumbnails, adding that some setback caused his team to “reevaluate our marketing.”

Hall said the growth in his audience has allowed him to expand his business and create more jobs for meteorologists. Hall has also helped those affected by severe storms, which he says wouldn’t be possible without growth through the way he markets his videos.

“I was able to donate over $100,000 to survivors of tornadoes and hurricanes by distributing supplies, cash and even new cars directly to people who have lost theirs to Mother Nature’s wrath, and none of this would be possible without our modern approach to marketing,” Hall said.

“If any of this is wrong, I don’t want to be right,” Hall added.

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