Analysis of live television broadcasts during Hurricane Harvey demonstrates how broadcast meteorologists use figurative and intense language to communicate risk and science during a catastrophic disaster.
During impactful weather events, television broadcast meteorologists act as high-profile risk communicators by interpreting complex weather information for viewers. However, the specific language choices broadcast meteorologists make in these situations have rarely been studied. This qualitative study investigates how meteorologists used figurative and emotionally intense language to interpret threats and impacts during Hurricane Harvey in August 2017, using 24 hours of live broadcasts from KHOU, a Houston CBS affiliate. The results of this inductive, thematic analysis suggest that KHOU meteorologists framed Harvey as an all-encompassing monster and as a heat-seeking machine. The meteorologists also relied on emotionally intense language to emphasize Harvey’s extreme threat and to express their concern and disbelief about Harvey’s impact. This study indicates the specific and multi-faceted ways broadcast meteorologists communicate risk and science during high-impact events and identifies key questions for future research.