Chalk it up to the volatile impact global warming has had on our atmosphere, or the increasing popularity of “America’s weather boyfriend” Eric Holthaus, but meteorology is officially cool. After all, what could be more badass than being able to predict the weather? Twenty-five-year-old forecaster John Homenuk is the founder of NY Metro Weather and a member of a young cabal of meteorologists who are helping to glamorize a profession that before seemed reserved solely for geeks and eye candy — think less Al Roker on the Today show, more Bill Paxton in Twister. We spoke with Homenuk on the phone about this year’s wild winter, what to expect this summer, and why exactly New York gets so many slush puddles.
Why is it still so hard to accurately predict the weather?
I think one of the reasons that it’s always unpredictable is that our forecasts are based on computers that are trying to simulate the atmosphere, so that leads to a lot of uncertainty. But at the same time, weather prediction has gotten so much better just in the last 10 to 15 years. The technology is better, meteorologists in general have a better understanding, and we’re learning more and more.
This has been a horribly cold winter. Will it ever be warm again?
No, never again! [Laughs.]
We are in a really, really cold pattern and it’s relentless. But it is going to warm up. I tend to think that March is going to be more of an average March and things should get warmer; they’ll certainly feel a lot warmer by maybe the first or second week of March.
The reason why it’s so cold, basically, is that the pattern has become very anomalous over the Pacific Ocean. There’s a big ridge on the West Coast of the U.S. and all the way up into western Canada, and that is dislodging all of the cold air over Canada and sending it towards the eastern United States.
So basically what you’re saying is we should blame Canada.
[Laughs.] Pretty much.
If winter is this brutal, can we expect a similarly brutal summer?
There really is not a lot of connection between the two. I wouldn’t read into it too much. We’ve had plenty of winters that have been warm and then we’ve had warm summers and cold summers. In general, [cold winters don’t] have a direct correlation to a very warm summer.
As a meteorologist, what do you think is the coolest weather event?
I was gonna say thundersnow is the coolest, but I don’t want to sound stereotypical. But it’s a really awesome thing. I’ve experienced it a couple of times and, knowing the process that needs to happen for that to happen, it is very exciting. For me, I think the coolest weather event is being right in the heart of a really impressive Nor’easter, being at the epicenter of where the hardest snow is falling.
Why does New York get so many slush puddles?
In general, the ground temperature in New York is much warmer than the ground temperature in New Jersey and the surrounding areas because of the fact that there is urban heating going on. There’s a lot of people, there’s a lot of buildings, a lot of trucks and cars. The snow has a more difficult time accumulating in New York, so you get these slush puddles. It takes a very heavy snowstorm for there to be a “winter wonderland” in New York because of that.
There’s this not especially informed idea that global warming can’t exist because it’s, like, soooo cold out right now. Can you dispel that notion in a few sentences?
Global warming is definitely something that’s happening, but the warming is not what’s important. What’s important is the fact that the weather will be more volatile and the patterns could become more intense. Global warming doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to get warmer here, especially in the mid-latitudes. The pattern changes will just become more noticeable from cold to hot.
If you want to avoid the predicted effects of global warming, where’s the safest place to live?
It’s really hard for me to answer that because it’s hard to say exactly how the timetable of impacts would go. But I suppose if I had to give an answer it would probably be somewhere in the middle of the country, somewhere away from water.
What are your thoughts on the seminal 1996 weather-nerd film Twister?
That was one of my favorite movies when I was a kid. Everyone has their criticism of it and I’m sure there are some inconsistencies, but that movie is so awesome. It came out at a time when I was starting to get into the weather and it was a popular movie, so I will always have a great memory of that movie as part of my childhood.
Do you use a pic of yourself in front of a weather map as your Tinder picture?
[Laughs.] I don’t think that would be very advantageous for me, would it?
It’s probably not the best way, I don’t think.
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This interview has been edited for length.