The Weather Company, which operates the popular websites Weather.comand Weather Underground, and offers forecast and weather graphics services to many industries, has slashed dozens of jobs, part of a wave of large-scale layoffs imposed by its parent company, IBM. The layoffs were announced internally May 21, and the last day for affected workers is June 22.
The total number of IBM jobs cut worldwide, linked to the economic downturn tied to the covid-19 pandemic, has not been disclosed but is likely in the thousands, according to Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal.
For weather enthusiasts, one of the most recognizable casualties of the cuts is the shuttering of Weather Underground’s Category 6 blog, started by Weather Underground co-founder Jeff Masters in 2005.
The blog has been a centerpiece of the Weather Underground website, which is a hub of weather forecasts, data and maps. Masters, who holds a doctorate in meteorology and served for four years as a flight meteorologist for NOAA’s Hurricane Hunters, co-founded the company in 1995 and sold it to the Weather Company in 2012.
Most recently, the Category 6 blog has been run by meteorologist and weather journalist Bob Henson, who is among those laid off. Henson confirmed that updates to the blog will cease after June 22, when he departs.
The Category 6 legacy
The blog, which launched in 2005, became a destination for in-depth commentary on extreme weather events. Best known for its hurricane updates, which expertly dissected computer model forecasts, it covered the most significant weather stories all over the world, offering fresh analysis and details often not available elsewhere.
“The demise of the Weather Underground blogs marks the end of an incredibly unique and wonderful place to learn about weather and share weather knowledge and experiences with others passionate about the weather,” Masters said via email.
The blog also offered deep dives on cutting-edge weather research and the connections between extreme weather and climate change.
“I’m proud that we have been a site for climate change coverage that took the science and the threat seriously and tried to make some of the deep research more accessible,” Henson wrote in an email.
Originally known as “Jeff Masters’ Wunderblog,” it became the “Category 6″ blog in 2016 after a reader contest to “name the blog.”
Launching before one of the most active Atlantic hurricane seasons on record in 2005, its audience swelled as storms such as Dennis, Katrina, Rita and Wilma tormented coastal communities.
“[T]he blog quickly became the most widely-read and quoted weather blog on the internet,” Masters wrote.
Masters recalls warning readers about Katrina in 2005 and advising New Orleans residents to “evacuate now” before the storm’s traumatic assault.
“I heard from a number of New Orleans residents afterwards who thanked me for my posts on that nightmare storm, and some of them credited my blog with saving their lives,” he wrote. “After that feedback, I became a true convert on the value of the blog.”
In its 15 years of existence, the blog cultivated an enormous following of engaged readers who posted scores of comments on almost every entry. Commenters were kept in line by a set of four volunteer moderators. One disaster relief organization, Portlight Strategies, was formed by blog commenters, Masters said.