Auto-tuning the weather

2010-05-11 23:01:07.000 – Ryan Knapp,  Staff Meteorologist

No auto-tuning needed on this sunrise today.

Love it or hate it, a process called auto-tune seems to be everywhere nowadays. Auto-tune, to those unfamiliar, is a proprietary audio processor that corrects the pitch in vocal and instrumental performances. When used correctly, it is subtle and can be used to clean up the sound of bands or singers in recording or large live performances to provide a cleaner pitch-perfect sound. But recently, a few singers have been taking it to the extremes making artists out of people that normally would have no chance in the music industry. Although it is mostly commonly found in rap and pop songs recently, even some country singers have admitted to using it. My feelings on its use in the music industry is mixed as some of my favorite songs now and days have some noticeable use of auto-tuning but at the same time, I can see what critics are saying about its gimmicky use. But something kind of cool that has come out of it all are several videos that use auto-tuning on anything and everything.

Speeches, the news, commercials, infomercials or even other online videos have all been targeted by auto-tuning. Even animals and babies are finding their way into the mix it seems. Two of my favorite series using auto-tune in the remixing process are “Auto-tune the News” by the Gregory Brothers and “The Symphony of Science” by John Boswell. What I like about these videos is it turns the ordinary or obscure and brings them to the forefront to make them something interesting and in the now. When I watch them, I get to thinking about how neat it would be to use an auto-tune device around the summit.

We produce a forecast that we post online in the morning and afternoon in mp3 format as well as a few other forecasts that make their way to radio stations in the morning. It would be interesting to hear us delivering the weather to a backing of music making it sound like we are singing it to our listeners. Our weekly Obscast video could be spliced and backed to music to make the old new again. Our educational observers (Stacey and Brian) do distance learning programs which connect schools with the summit to teach them about weather. If they saw that they were losing the attention spans of some of the kids, they could turn on an auto-tuner and make it a sing-a-long of sorts. Or take something like our feature on Cantores Stories or other media appearances and mix them together to make something very unique and catchy.

All of these are within the realm of possibility if we had the right equipment, and more importantly, time to do them. But why stop there, why not dream big. What if they made an auto-tuner for the weather? A wx-tuner of sorts. The days becoming too hot? Just wx-tune it to something more enjoyable. Summer feeling like it is dragging on for too long? Just wx-tune it to something a bit cooler. Winter not snowy enough? Just wx-tune it and we become moles as we tunnel our way around the summit. Winds too high for when you need to go out? Turn on the wx-tuner and turn them down a bit then crank them back up to 260 mph for the times you are safely inside.

Hmm…the more I think about it, maybe there already is a wx-tuner being used on us given how rapidly and drastically the weather has been recently. I can kind of picture an ensemble band at a recording studio with DJ Wx working on their pitch. The main members of this band are Temperature (who goes by “T”), Win Dee, Pre-Sip, and the Notorious F.O.G. Each day these members and various backup members meet on the summit and lay down a new weather pattern. Sometimes they all get along but rarely do all these elements work in perfect harmony as they work around the highs and lows that are involved in producing their pattern. Some days, Temperature is way too high or way to low. Other days, Win Dee comes blowing in relentlessly only to fall flat the next day. Pre-Sip sometimes gives it his all pouring out everything he’s got while other days he only provides a trace element to the pattern or nothing at all. And F.O.G. is such a diva that she dominates the pattern a majority of the time up here. But each day, DJ Wx works around their Highs and Lows wx-tuning each element trying to find a perfect blend of each element. It’s rare to get all the members of the group to agree and work together just right. But on very rare occasions, DJ Wx uses the wx-tuner and finds just the right “pitch” of each element to produce a near perfect day up here on the summit.

Alright, so maybe that’s not entirely how the weather works up here, especially given what I know about how the weather works. But it is fun to imagine something like that happening from time to time. And the idea of a weather-tuner to fix or control the weather isn’t that new of a concept as I remember cartoons like GI Joe, or Captain Planet using them. But, while it is only a thing of fiction currently, you never know what the future may hold. You can bet that as soon as they discover how to control the weather, I will be standing at the front of the line to buy such a device. For now though, I will just have to let the weather do what it wants while continually trying to predict its outcome and only continue dreaming about being able to control it.


Ryan Knapp,  Staff Meteorologist

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