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John Gaughan

Chief meteorologist

Published On: Oct 19 2011 01:10:59 PM EDT   Updated On: Oct 24 2011 08:15:00 PM EDT

"It's a gene. That's the only explanation."

This is how John Gaughan describes his passion for meteorology. When he was 3 years old, his mother would place him in front of the television so that he could watch the weather portion of the newscast.

Television may have been a beginning, but it was reading about weather and then writing his first weather book that consumed his early childhood. He wrote it in pencil and used crayons to draw the pictures. Living in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, he loved writing about and forecasting snowstorms. There weren't many.

In high school, John concentrated in science and math. As part of his advanced science class, he produced a research project on "the possible correlation between the location of the late summer subtropical high pressure ridge over the western Atlantic Ocean and winter weather patterns over the eastern United States."

After completing the two-year research project, he entered his work in the prestigious Westinghouse-Baltimore Science Fair, where he received four awards, including an honorable mention.

"I would have won if I had found a stronger correlation between the two, but the data showed only a slight correlation, and in scientific research that happens most of the time," he said. "Oh well! I really learned a lot about the Earth's climate though!"

College was a busy time for John, who attended the University of Maryland. He worked full-time during the summers in Ocean City, Md., and during the school year as a weather graphics producer for Bob Ryan (who later became the President of the American Meteorological Society) at WRC-TV in Washington.

"It was quite an honor to work for Bob and WRC while attending school," he said. "The hours were numerous and the pay wasn't much, but it was a great experience."

The experience was enough for John to land his first on-air job as chief meteorologist at WOLO television in Columbia, S.C. He then applied for and received the AMS seal of approval in 1987.

John later took on a position as chief meteorologist at another Jacksonville television station before joining WFTV in Orlando, Fla., as the only meteorologist on staff. He was the main on-air weather anchor as Hurricane Andrew first turned toward Florida and then toward Miami in 1992. During the 48 hours that Andrew approached, John did nearly 30 weather cut-ins and newscasts.

"It was obvious that Andrew was going to be an intense hurricane," he said. "Yet, it was difficult to explain to the public how much damage would be created by a Category 5 hurricane. Most people thought I was hyping the storm, but after seeing firsthand some of the damage from Hugo in 1989, I knew the damage would be awesome!"

His news producers were skeptical at first, but went with his advice.

While working in Orlando, he kept his residence in Jacksonville, and joined the WJXT weather team in late 1992 as weekend meteorologist.

Since joining Channel 4, John has gone on to forecast more than just the weather. He was proclaimed National Investment Challenge Champion in 1993 and 1994 for his stock picking abilities.

"It seemed like an easy stretch into stock price forecasting," he said. "Basically, you substitute price for temperature. O.K., it isn't that easy, but...."

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