Winning at Weather

Innovation, competition, and a passion for forecasting are at the heart of Joel Myers’ six decades of success with AccuWeather.

photo of AccuwWeather building on a sunny day by Vern Horst/AccuWeather

For more than 20 years, Joel Myers offered the students in his 400-level meteorology courses a simple proposition: If they could beat him in a forecasting contest, they’d be excused from the final and receive an automatic A. He can’t be sure of the total number of students he taught—it’s probably close to a thousand—but he figures only about 15 of them managed to claim that “easy” A.

Decades after he retired from his faculty position in the meteorology program to focus on his growing business, Myers says, “Some of those people still work for me today.”

A habit of hiring his best students is among the tools Myers ’61, ’63 MS, ’71 PhD EMS has used to build AccuWeather into a global leader in weather forecasting. The State College–based company recently celebrated its 60th anniversary, a testament to its founder and CEO’s parallel passions for forecasting and entrepreneurship, and his ongoing connection to—and investment in—the Penn State program that helped launch his career.

He was just 3 years old, growing up in Philadelphia, when, he says, he “fell in love with snow.” When he was 7, his grandmother gave him a diary in which he could track snowfall. “I had a burning desire to be a weather forecaster from an early age,” he says.

Black and white photo of Joel Myers on Weather World in the 1980s, by Penn State Archives
FOR THE LOVE OF WEATHER: Joel Myers on Weather World in the 1980's. Penn State Archives.


He left Philly for State College and “what turned out to be the best meteorological program in the world.” Mentored by then–department head Charles Hosler ’47, ’48 MS, ’51 PhD EMS—later dean of the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences and a giant in American forecasting—Myers was in his second year of graduate school when he learned that the local gas company was looking for reliable five-day forecasts to help it anticipate demand during the winter months. He offered his services for $50 a month, beginning in mid-November 1962. “That first year, I think AccuWeather had $175 in annual revenue,” he says. “We were off and running.”

Decades of innovation have fueled decades of growth for a company that now provides weather forecasts for more than 90% of U.S. newspapers, more than 800 radio stations, and more than half of the companies in the Fortune 500. In 1972, AccuWeather signed its first contracts to provide forecasts to TV and radio stations; three years later, the company introduced the first seven-day local TV forecast. AccuWeather expanded to international forecasts in 1983, and in 1986 the company began electronic delivery of complete weather pages and graphics to newspapers and TV stations. Myers is particularly proud of that record of innovation, of the company’s more than 250 patents that have shaped the way most of us understand the weather. (If you’ve ever referred to the “RealFeel” when describing just how sticky it feels when you step outside on a humid July morning, that’s AccuWeather’s influence.)

Even as AccuWeather has expanded into a global brand, offering forecasts for 3.5 million locations around the world, the company has stayed rooted in central Pennsylvania. That’s due in no small part to Myers’ links to his alma mater: A 2016 recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award, he served for 33 years as a member of the Board of Trustees. Penn State alumni make up about half of AccuWeather’s team of more than 100 forecasters, and Myers counts on them to understand what it is about their work that really matters: saving money and lives with the most accurate—and most clearly communicated—forecasts possible. “Our success is a combination of the best technology, the best data, that entrepreneurial spirit, and a culture of wanting to win,” he says. “Every day is the Super Bowl of weather for us.”