Published August 13, 2021
Editor's note: Summer Hours is a photo series focusing on UB staff members who use the longer days to pursue interesting hobbies, causes and other endeavors outside of their day jobs.
Life takes a lot of turns between ages 8 and 28. Carl Lam followed many a “shiny object,” as he says, but still managed to fulfill his childhood dream of becoming a meteorologist in his hometown.
Lam, a pre-health adviser in the Exploratory and Pre-Professional Advising Center, moonlights as a freelance television meteorologist for Rochester’s WHEC and Buffalo’s WGRZ, and also does radio weather reports for Toronto-based CFTR-AM (680 NEWS) on the weekends. He earned his meteorology certificate from Mississippi State University in 2018.
“It’s scientific performance art, which is interesting because my background is in broadcasting, music and science,” Lam says. “Technically, I’m at work, but this is just so enjoyable.”
Lam says he fills in as a broadcaster mostly during the summer, when full-time meteorologists are more likely to be on vacation. His typical shift includes reviewing the most recent weather models; developing his forecast, complete with graphics; writing social media posts and station website stories; and recording teases and smartspeaker forecasts, as well as appearing on three to four newscasts.
And that’s all on a calm weather day.
“On active weather days, our job and our skill as a meteorologist is really put to the test because it’s how well you can adapt to a consistently changing situation,” Lam explains.
His forecasts are delivered without a script, he says, because you can’t plan what you will say when the graphics are constantly changing, as a storm system dissipates or intensifies quickly. Working with the green screen took some practice too, says Lam, since you could be pointing to the wrong city. Plus, there is the occasional visitor.
“Sometimes you have spiders crawling on them [the green screen],” Lam says. “You just kind of have to keep it together.”
Lam says he is sometimes recognized while out and about, and people ask for an impromptu forecast on the spot, which makes him laugh.
“It’s funny because they think that we can accelerate a timeline, or change the weather,” he says. “I’m not a higher power. I just get paid to analyze the weather.”
Carl Lam has worked at UB for five years. He earned a master’s degree in higher education administration and a master’s degree in music, both from UB, and will soon complete a MBA program at the School of Management. He received an undergraduate degree in journalism and music from SUNY-Fredonia. He has freelanced as a meteorologist for about five years.