Bernadette Placky: Climate Central’s Weather Expert

She’s educating the public on extreme weather events and the impact of climate change.

Weather the Storm

There is no Planet B. Climate change is real and it is threatening the way most people live. Bernadette Woods Placky says there is no debating the science that weather is heating up and that the global population is feeling the effects. Woods Placky is the Chief Meteorologist and Program Director for the Climate Matters program on Climate Central, a nonprofit news organization focused on climate research.

Discussing the effects of greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide, fossil fuels, and human consumption on our ecosystem are normal conversations for Woods Placky. She understands the dangers of extreme weather patterns, like sea level rise, drought, heat, and more. As an accomplished journalist, she has a knack for simplifying complex terms and spitting out the truth. She’s appeared on MSNBC, Public Radio, ABC, PBS, and other major networks linking our weather to climate change. “You can’t go outside if the weather is not cooperating. I learned this lesson when I was young, and it still applies to this day,” she says.

Climate Matters

As the director of Climate Central’s Climate Matters program, Woods Placky debunks myths about climate change and brings the facts right to peoples’ living rooms. “The fundamental science of climate change is not political.  It’s important that people know how the changing climate will affect the important people, places, and things in their lives, so that they can make informed decisions.,” she says.

Climate Matters is an arm of the nonpartisan Climate Central that reports unbiased research and science on the impacts of climate change. The program helps broadcast meteorologists connect their local weather to the larger climate change picture in order to help the populace overcome the impacts.

“In my career, I strive to make the world a better place. One way I can do that is by keeping people safe from and prepared for the harmful impacts of extreme weather and climate change.” Climate Matters shares their research with local journalists and meteorologists who want to inform their citizens about the realities of climate change. The data is offered free of charge to any journalist in print, digital, TV, and radio to help inform local communities.


Photo via Gwen Pang, Secretary General of the Philippine Red Cross

For example, if an area is prone to flooding, having facts that show that the amount of rain is increasing and coming down in heavier downpours usually can lead decision-makers to new building codes, better plumbing, and elevated developments to offset the impacts of flooding. For this reason, Woods Placky believes sharing the science of climate changes, in ways that matter to people, has real world implications.

Local TV meteorologists are often the only scientist that many people see on a regular basis, and they are trusted in their communities to discuss weather issues and impacts. It is in our communities’ best interest to share our research with them.

She is a big advocate of getting outside in all weather that is not life threatening (such as lightning, tornadoes, flooding, etc.) and strongly feels that people don’t get outside enough. There is a quote she references that she saw in Outside Magazine (that may have originated elsewhere) “There is no bad weather, just poor clothing choices” that applies to most of the weather that we experience. “You can’t go outside if the weather is not cooperating. “I learned this lesson when I was young, and it still applies to this day,” she says.

Today, Climate Matters is a national program with weekly updates in English and Spanish in every media market in America. Internationally, Climate Matters shares its globally relevant content with over 150 TV weather presenters internationally and are up to nearly 800 in the U.S. (and more than 300 journalists). Their partners are diverse and are members of organizations like the American Meteorological Society, Radio Television Digital News Association, National Association of Black Journalists, National Association of Hispanic Journalists, and the Society of Environmental Journalists.

Head in the Clouds 

The science of weather has always been Woods Placky’s passion. Before working at Climate Central, Woods Placky worked as a meteorologist for 8 years at WJZ-TV in Baltimore. Her dedication, accurate reporting, and likeable personality allowed her to win an Emmy award for “Best Weathercaster.” After college, she began her career at AccuWeather, and has since worked across the United States, including tv stations in Lexington, Kentucky, and Fayetteville, Arkansas.

She earned her BS in meteorology with a minor in French from Penn State University. She remains tied to her collegiate roots, as she is a steering committee member for the Meteorology Alumni of Penn State (MAPS) and actively involved in Penn State’s Graduates of Earth and Mineral Science (GEMS).

Portrait of Global Aerosols: The red is dust, the blue is sea salt swirling inside cyclones, the green shows smoke rising from fires, and the white is sulfate particles from volcanoes and fossil fuel emissions.

Woods Placky’s love for her alma mater is so strong, that her mom gifted  her and her husband with a Nittany Lion wedding cake. She is grateful for the knowledge and  bonds she formed at Penn State, that’s why she’s constantly giving back by sitting on Penn State committees. “For all students, the advice is this … be a lifelong learner in whatever you do, no matter where you go.”

Let’s Chill

Woods met her husband in 2002. She remembers the weather when she was pregnant with her twin boys in 2011. She was on bed rest during the month leading up to Hurricane Irene and actually gave birth during the hurricane when the center of the storm was passing over Maryland with flooding rains, damaging winds, and a severe weather/tornado threat.

She says weather is inexplicably connected to everything we do. “I want people to understand the effect they are having on the climate and how that with knowledge they can make the world a better, cooler place.” For more information visit climatecentral.org