Hoffman sees cold winterPublished 9:37pm Thursday, January 5, 2012
WNDU’s chief meteorologist Mike Hoffman is tall, shy, graduated first in his high school class and is “skeptical” of climate change.
Weather forecasting remains inexact “chaos science,” Hoffman said Thursday. “With an infinite number of air particles going all different directions around the world at different temperatures, even after the fact figuring out why something happened isn’t always easy with thousands of factors.”
Which brings Hoffman to his prediction this winter would be very snowy and cold.
“It still may end up that way,” he said, “but it didn’t start off that way. We looked at La Nina — cold water in the Pacific Ocean — but other factors dominated so far.
“Just so you know, within the next week or two here, we’re going to see a shift in the overall winter pattern, and the United States and southern Canada turn much colder. It could go on until spring. The Farmer’s Almanac (predicted) a mild, snowy winter here, so it got the mild part right so far looking at cycles and sun spots. Sun spot activity has been unusually weak. Only God knows what’s going to happen over the next week, although we’re pretty sure it’s going to be mild. The hardest part of my job is presenting the forecast on TV because I started off shy. I hated getting up and giving speeches.”
While “the majority opinion among climatologists (studying long-term trends) is that mankind is causing global warming, a huge number of us are skeptical who grew up in the ’70s when Time magazine put out ‘The Coming Ice Age’ issue,” Hoffman said. “Drought covered this area in 1988. We go through 20- to 30-year cycles. We warmed up in the ’80s, ’90s and stayed fairly steady in the ’00s worldwide. Now we’re heading back into that cold cycle over the next 30 years.”
“The media love to talk about gloom and doom,” he said, “but in a study of TV meteorologists two years ago, more than 50 percent of us were either skeptics or deniers on global warming. You wouldn’t know that when you watch the news, so I felt a little vindicated.”
As a Michiana television personality since 1994, he’s instantly recognizable and acclimated to stares (“you can almost feel it”), furtive cell phone photos he notices out of the corner of his eye (“a little freaky”) and strangers approaching to chide him for a faulty forecast or seeking insider information on what’s in store.
“I’m a walking billboard for Channel 16 when I go out,” he said. “I have to be in a good mood as soon as I walk out my front door.”
Larry Crandall introduced Hoffman to Rotary Club at Elks Lodge 889 as a man who “visited” his home many times without meeting.
Hoffman’s childhood lacked the Weather Channel or the internet, so he tuned in to two Indianapolis weathercasters and WNDU’s Dick Addis, eventually working alongside two of his three “mentors.”
“I’m on Facebook, I tweet every day, even though I don’t have a personal Twitter account. I was brought into Facebook kicking and screaming a bit, but I wanted to keep track of my kids going off to college. Then I had to have a fan page for Channel 16,” he said.
With almost 5,000 Facebook friends, “I thought would be overwhelming,” Hoffman said, “but I find cool” as an outlet to “say things I don’t have time to say on TV.”
Hoffman was valedictorian of the Class of 1977 in Delphi, northeast of Lafayette. He earned a bachelor of science degree from Purdue in 1981. Hoffman worked in State College, Pa. (for AccuWeather, a private forecasting company), in Saginaw and Indianapolis before settling in South Bend with the NBC affiliate.
Mike and his wife, Cindy, have two children, a daughter who is a Purdue senior and a son who is a Purdue freshman. They belong to Clay Methodist Church, through which he is getting ready for his third Mexico mission trip in the spring.