Katie Totron: From Yesterday’s Weather to Today’s Climate Stories
Katie Totron’s interest in the natural world began with her love of weather—both everyday phenomena and rituals for adjusting forecasts.
“I thought it was really funny that people get up every day and watch the weather, and that it was also a regular part of many of the conversations we had,” Totron said. I also found the whole spectacle of weather reports—the green screens and the dramatic forecasts—enjoyable.
Totron saw the humor in Weather Reports as a way to get more people involved with an important topic that is often taken for granted.
“I also thought it was funny that everyone was constantly blaming their local meteorologist for cursing them about the bad weather,” she said. So Tutrone decided to create her own Instagram account where she’ll report on something you can never go wrong with — yesterday’s weather (aptly named cirruslyy yesterday).
the previous Vice news A producer and recent graduate of Columbia Climate College’s master’s program in Climate and Society channeled her background in comedy into her work as a video creator, journalist, and climate educator. For her next project, Tutrone will be working at weather channel.
In the Q&A below, Totron discusses what sparks her boundless curiosity about weather and climate reports, as well as how she uses comedy to invite new audiences into tough conversations.
What sparked your interest in climate science?
Heaven is our cinema, which means that everyone has access to it. But I wanted to find a way to bring weather to younger audiences, and one way was to talk about climate change. I’ve noticed that people have been afraid to link natural disasters and events to climate change on air, which I found quite fascinating. So my first piece in Vice He was looking into why some local meteorologists avoid talking about climate change.
From there, I spent about five years trying to make multiple versions of weather shows in Vice And just looking at the various blind spots in the novels. One of those shows was looking at cases of failed disaster recovery in cities or towns, as well as looking at disasters years after the events. I did a show called Weathered, where I looked at different disaster hotspots around the world. For example, in Puna, Hawaii, where the Kīlauea volcano erupted, I looked at failed disaster recovery efforts. It’s a story that is kind of ignored once the media leaves. When a disaster strikes, for a period of two weeks, people become obsessed with these images of destruction. Then years later, this is the real story — sometimes the real disaster is recovery.
IIt seems that when you started out in a comedy niche, you were using it to talk about some very serious issues.
Yes, and it’s hard to use comedy with such sensitive issues. Not all stories can have these elements, but where you can use comedy and satire is to identify who is in charge. I focused a lot on failed government actions, oil companies, and various greenwashing tactics.
Besides, I was still doing the weather on Instagram and making my own parody videos. My bosses recognized the importance of me having a separate career as a science innovator. I started a TikTok account and had a lot of videos that went viral. I now have about 840,000 people, so I feel a responsibility to keep up and use my platform to inform people about different issues, not only climate-related but also quirky science facts.
My goal was to inspire curiosity and to share the “wow” factor I was getting from my climate school lessons—things I learned that made my jaw drop. This is how I linked my work at Climate School with my TikTok.
When and why did you decide to go back to school for the Climate and Community Program?
I was in Vice For two years I kept putting off, in part because of the pandemic, but also because I wanted to generate more savings so I wouldn’t have debt. She attended Climate School full-time from 2021-2022, and has continued to work there Vice part time.
It was great because I was able to incorporate what I was learning in climate school into my storytelling. It made me more comfortable with the science of climate change and gave me more credibility. But I would say the most important thing I gained from being there was getting to know my group and surrounding myself with people who know more about all of these subjects than I do. They taught me how to talk across disciplines and see the interconnections between many different issues, from food systems to racial justice, to conservation genetics, and many other things.
It was very helpful to be able to carry on the conversations I had with my classmates and serve as a sounding board for them to my colleagues in the newsroom. Every day I learn. I think the most important thing we can do now is better educate each other and realize the value of teamwork and teamwork, and this cannot be achieved without communication.
Can you talk a little about your new role with weather channel?
In all of my stories, what I prioritize most is character-driven storytelling. So finding the most compelling people and voices on the front lines, but also looking at the weather as its own, and how these two interact. This is what I hope to bring weather channel.
Insofar as my superiors have been very supportive of the weather and climate stories I have been tossed around Vice, I was ready to move somewhere that was equally passionate about these topics as an institution. So it was a coincidence that I was laid off in May, which is also just a sad indication of the state of the press and news at the moment. But it was a moment of forced and necessary change for me.
in weather channelI’ll wear many different hats as a severe weather producer, but will also work on their weather coverage for a daily show called “Pattrn,” as well as additional writing, producing, and hosting.
My contribution is to bring my social knowledge and my knowledge of younger audiences to their platform and to do so through climate coverage. I’m really excited to be working alongside some of my childhood heroes like Jim Cantor. I have a very vivid memory of him standing outside during a storm and listening to the thunder of the snow. I’m also excited to be working alongside Marshall Shepherd, who is an amazing meteorologist and climate communicator. It all seems too good to be true, and my 17-year-old self would be squeezing myself right now.
Do you have any advice for people coming into the field or words of wisdom that you’ve found useful along your route?
My advice to anyone is to talk to as many people as possible and don’t be afraid to ask the dumb question. During my time off from work, I’ve contacted many people — sliding into Direct Messages (DMs) is a very powerful measure.
I used my time to learn about waste management, and about different groups and organizations promoting local climate solutions such as the Billion Oyster Project, the National Audubon Society, and beekeepers. I would offer something like using my video skills to document their work as an exchange for allowing me to be there. So if you’re interested in something — a person, a project, or an organization — reach out and don’t be afraid to convey your interests. Another thing I learned after being laid off was to never be completely attached to one job or company; You should always have your own interests or ideally a passion project going.