February 3, 2014

Social media is latest shift in Dewey's weather-related outreach

Ken Dewey during a trip to the Arctic Circle in 2008.
Ken Dewey | Courtesy

Ken Dewey | Courtesy
Ken Dewey during a trip to the Arctic Circle in 2008.

From typewriters to Twitter, decades of community outreach have transformed Ken Dewey into UNL’s unofficial weather guru.

It’s a post the professor of climatology in the School of Natural Resources accepts — with a little trepidation.

“I never intended to become the campus weather personality,” Dewey said. “I don’t do this to earn money. And, I don’t do it to overshadow colleagues. I do it just because it’s my passion.

“Some people collect stamps. Others collect trains. Me, I collect weather and climate data and I love sharing it with people.”

Dewey started the outreach typing out a monthly weather summary for local media, which resulted in somewhat regular requests for interviews.

He became better known after he joined the UNL Speaker’s Bureau, delivering climate-related lectures to area community organizations. But, it wasn’t until the National Weather Service closed its Lincoln office that Dewey really started to become the home base for local weather information.

“Twelve years ago, after the weather service office closed, we launched the Lincoln Weather and Climate website,” Dewey said. “I thought it would be a great way to record local weather information and make it available to the public and the media. I was already recording the data, so it really wasn’t that big of a step for me.”

The website led to Dewey becoming the person who local media calls when they want to know if a particular weather pattern or event has happened before.

“When the weather office went away, there was no one to call and ask those types of questions,” Dewey said. “And there I was sitting in my office with all these books of data. That’s really when I started to interact on a regular basis with the media.”

Three years ago, Dewey expanded the Lincoln Weather and Climate website by adding “SNR Climate Corner,” a climate-related blog.

And now, Dewey is bringing climate and weather reporting to the public via social media feeds. He started on Facebook and — after various requests from friends and colleagues — recently expanded to Twitter.

“I really love the immediacy of social media,” Dewey said. “It’s a great way to pass along important information quickly and to interact with the public.”

During a recent newscast, a local weather forecaster was asked a question. He didn’t know the answer and mentioned — in jest — that it was too bad that Dewey goes to bed early. Dewey, who was watching the newscast, quickly pulled together the data and instant messaged it to the forecaster.

“I had the data pulled and sent quicker than the length of the commercial break,” Dewey said. “They came back and said they had heard from me and then answered the question.”

Through the years, Dewey has worked in an official capacity as a forecaster for UNL’s chancellor, Lincoln’s mayor and Nebraska’s governor. He is also the “Weather Guru,” offering regular updates on the morning show of Lincoln’s KLIN radio station.

He’s also branching out, taking a local summer weather camp for youth and expanding it to a national program with assistance from the American Meteorological Society.

“My career has evolved, starting with research and growing into outreach,” Dewey said. “Really, I’m having the time of my life when I’m talking about weather and climate. I see my outreach as a way of giving back to the university and Nebraska for giving me a lifelong career doing what I love.”

A Tweet from Ken Dewey outlining the 100 percent chance of snowfall in Lincoln on Feb. 3-4.
A Tweet from Ken Dewey outlining the 100 percent chance of snowfall in Lincoln on Feb. 3-4.