Saturday, April 23, 2016

TV Meteorologist Jeff Renner Retires from KING TV

One of the most distinguished members of the Northwest meteorological establishment, Jeff Renner, retired from KING TV on Friday, and his on-air presence will be missed.  Those of us in the Puget Sound weather community have come to depend on Jeff as one of our most visible and effective members, and this blog will tell some stories that may not be generally known about Jeff, including his substantial service to the University of Washington and my department.


Jeff came to KING TV as a general reporter in 1977, but became the weather anchor and science lead in 1980.   When St. Helens exploded in May 1980, his in-depth coverage of the event made him well-known throughout the region.   I started at the UW in late 1981 and quickly got to know Jeff at local weather gatherings.  

He was not satisfied being a TV weathercaster, without a weather background.  Jeff was determined to become a real meteorologist and to secure a degree in atmospheric sciences.  And he was willing to take years of math and physics courses that were the first step before entering a degree program, such as the one we offer at the UW.  

I was really impressed.   And during the next few years, he was good to his word.  He fulfilled all the responsibilities of his KING TV job while taking years of technical prerequisites before entering the UW atmospheric sciences program, which he completed successfully.  I enjoyed having Jeff in the senior forecasting class, where he was one the best students.


Jeff developed a reputation as someone who not only had an excellent delivery (and a voice more appropriate for an Olympian god) but a dedication to bring science and education into his message, frequently evincing the knowledge he had gained at the UW as well as an excellent intuition about the weather.   At regional meetings, like the Northwest Weather Conference, you could always be sure Jeff would be in attendance taking notes.

But then a setback occurred in his career.  A new news director at KING decided that a flashy female presence would be beneficial to ratings and Jeff was let go.   Many of us in the weather community protested to KING management (his replacement had no degree in meteorology was making serious technical errors), but it was the unhappiness of the viewers and their demand for Jeff's return that led to his triumphal reinstatement a year later.

During his year off, Jeff applied his formidable communications skills to enter a new sideline:  forensic meteorological consulting.  Many don't know that meteorologists are often hired to do research and testify in court cases, something I have done as well.  There is no better way to find out how weather is influencing people's lives in a serious way.   Jeff rapidly become well known in this endeavor:  he and I have even on the opposite sides for some lawsuits.


Jeff is an uber outdoorsman:   a frequent hiker, sailor, and pilot, among others.  He combined several of these interests with writing to produce a series of popular books on weather for outdoors enthusiasts.


 And he didn't stop there.   Over the years, Jeff created a number of excellent educational 1-hr specials on meteorological topics.

During the last several years, Jeff understood the importance of the developing technology of high-resolution weather prediction and arranged to secure a real-time feed of the UW's super high-resolution WRF output for KING TV , with this information translated into compelling graphical products known as FutureCast (see below).


Finally, Jeff has been a huge friend to the UW. During the years, a number of atmospheric sciences students interested in TV weather have interned at KING 5, gaining invaluable experiment that led to successful careers for several (such as the redoubtable Shannon O'Donnell and MJ McDermott). When the department had special evening lectures for the community, Jeff often was the MC, skillfully guiding the evening, providing wonderful intros for the speakers, and gentling asking for community support at the end.

Jeff retired this week, along with a number of other veterans of KING TV, a sign of downscaling of stations shrinking as TV newscasts become less popular as web access to information gains ascendance.  

But I suspect we have not heard the last from Jeff.  He has never been better as a communicator and his creative abilities are undiminished.   Improving models and internet capabilities do not mean that people don't require an experienced, knowledgeable voice to help them interpret and act upon the huge amount of environmental information that is flooding them.   It is more important than ever and I expect Jeff has some ideas for the future.


22 comments:

Brian Armstrong said...

A trial where both Cliff and Jeff appeared as expert witnesses, amazing! That would make a nice little side story for a police procedural TV show with Cliff and Jeff playing the roles of fictional meteorologists :)

Susan Wright said...

Thanks for your wonderful write-up about Jeff Renner.

Terry said...

In the 80’s I completed training/licensing as a general aviation pilot. This was in SLC, so Jeff Renner was unknown to me.

He had written/produced some training materials that were available through an aviation mail order firm. I purchased a VHS tape produced specifically for new pilots with regards to WX.

During training, admonishments from instructors, bolded typeface in the textbooks and terrifying comments from air traffic controllers kept me out of trouble..

One spoken line from his video regarding minimums stood out above all of that.

“Legal does not mean safe”

Thanks Jeff

mmjustus said...

Wow, I had no idea that he went back to school to become a meteorologist *after* he started working at KingTV. Good for him! And for the folks he mentored (Shannon O'Donnell is probably my second favorite TV meteorologist after him).

Ace said...

From this BC perspective, one of the best of the Seattle weather broadcasters, right up there with Harry Wappler. He started on KING the year I moved to the South Coast.

Fascinating post, all the best to Jeff.

iceage74 said...

What a tribute! Well done, Dr. Mass. Congratulations Mr. Renner!

Art D. said...

A truly remarkable person, whose passion for demystifying meteorological events for a broad public audience, is laudable. I hope that Jeff can see his way clear to encourage the public and powers-that- be to do the right thing for further protection of the environment, in particular, air pollution and global warming.

JeffB said...

Brilliant write up of a truly great man. Thanks for sharing the achievements of Mr. Renner!

jjberg83 said...

My 13th birthday present from my parents was meeting Jeff at KING5 studios and touring the First Alert Weather center. I will never forget that. He also dissed the other network weathermen saying they all just regurgitated NWS weather forecasts. I though that was pretty badass. Jeff is the man.

rainycity1 said...

Thank you for a wonderful tribute. Jeff will be missed.

gshall said...

When I was a student pilot at Boeing Field in the early '90s, hearing Jeff Renner's voice talking, as I was, to Tower was, indeed, like hearing a voice from Olympus.

The Outfield said...

Happy for Jeff but sad because he was my favorite meteorologist, with Steve Pool a close second. Jeff obviously knew a ton about forecasting in the PNW. His forecasts always seemed a lot more detailed and correct than the other meteorologists.

Gary said...

To all the others who praised Cliff for his excellent tribute to Jeff Renner, let me add my voice in appreciation to him for weaving an interesting story of Renner's lesser-known achievements. It's not often that one reads a compelling eulogy for someone still living!

Westside guy said...

Jeff Renner's prescience extended far, far beyond just predicting the weather...

http://legacy.king5.com/videos/entertainment/2014/07/31/12973634/

donna mcbain evans said...

I would tape the king5 news so I could scroll through and watch Jeff's forecast. I many times wished I could have asked him a few questions at the end about mountain or marine conditions. I will miss his gravitas, his intelligence and of course his wonderful deep voice. Thank you for acknowledging him in your blog!

Carl said...

He also wrote a book, Northwest Marine Weather. I still have a copy on my bookshelf, it's a very good book.

http://www.amazon.com/Northwest-Marine-Weather-Columbia-Including/dp/0898863767/

c180tom said...

Cliff, thanks for the great write up on (and tribute to) a long-familiar personality. We first came to know Jeff as an expert and flexible air show announcer. Losing Jeff's historical local weather interpretive skills is a tragic side effect of the loss of local media station ownership. We hope to see more of Jeff, just not on TV.

Tim L said...

The model by which broadcast meteorologists, if they are to continue to exist, should be measured by. I'm sure we've all learned a thing or two from him. Best wishes to a very driven individual.

Weatherfreak said...

Great "True" TV weatherman who will be missed! He is right up there with one of my favorites, Ray Ramsey, who I watched as a kid. With no internet, he was the source for forecasts and local weather commentary. Hard to watch some on our newer local news weather people who really have no clue other than a nice smile and friendly presentation. I will stick to the internet where I can get up to the minute and more in depth weather forecasts.

Tom Wright said...

Hi Cliff, I was one of the UW students who interned with Jeff at KING5. It was a wonderful experience to work with and learn from Jeff. In addition to being very knowledgeable and a pro in every sense of the word, he is also funny and a genuinely nice person. It never ceased to amaze me how fast he could snap into character when the camera went on no matter what had been going on 5 minutes earlier. Although I haven't lived in Seattle for quite some time, I visit often, and I know that he will be missed. Regards, Tom Wright (UW 1995)

Unknown said...

I'll miss Jeff. King 5 has a long history of hiring knowledgeable and talented meteorologists. Fortunately they still have Rich Marriott, who has a M.S. in meteorology and is very active with NWAC and other organizations.

Ansel said...

I'll miss having Jeff as the principal KING 5 weatherman. Though I haven't been watching much on TV the last few years because of the inferior new digitized TV signals which don't reach me well out here in the 'burbs, and the fact that I'm too cheap to pay for cable.

Thanks Jeff, and I hope you continue to lecture and write.