Meteorologist Mark Finan has been forecasting the weather for KCRA for more than 30 years. (Photo by Wes Davis)

The Way We Work: KCRA Chief Meteorologist Mark Finan

A glimpse into his daily life of monitoring the weather for the Capital Region

Back Article Dec 7, 2023 By Jeff Wilser

This story is part of our December 2023 Innovation issue. To subscribe, click here.

Will it rain this weekend? For over 30 years, the man Sacramento trusts for that answer is Mark Finan, chief meteorologist at KCRA. The job involves complicated models, a deep understanding of weather patterns and a nonstop analysis of the latest data, but in some ways it’s very simple. “The bottom line is that people just want to know, is it going to rain?” Finan says. “I can take all my fancy computer model stuff, but people want to know, is it going to rain on Saturday?”

That doesn’t mean the job is easy. The hours are long and the stakes are real. Finan feels a constant pressure to go that extra mile for his forecast. “When we miss a forecast, which does happen, I’ll sleep better at night knowing that I did everything I could to get it right,” says Finan, who wanted to be a meteorologist since he was a little kid. 

Luckily for him and the city, he usually gets it right. Here’s how he does it.

Tips for staying focused: “I focus better in short bursts. I know that for the next half hour, I’m going to get this and that done.”
Most challenging part of the job: “Forecasting the weather is humbling,” he says with a laugh. “I’ve done this for a long time, and I still get surprised.”

7:45AM – Wakes up, pours a tall glass of cold water — he drinks that instead of coffee. Eats a breakfast bar. Checks the weather models to see what changed overnight.

8:30AM - Creates and uploads a short daily YouTube video with a weather update. He does it all himself on his laptop. “The software is so simple to use; I just do it in one take.”

9:00AM – Can now relax for a bit and check Twitter, The Wall Street Journal and ESPN “to see how bad the Red Socks have done.”

9:30AM – An hour on the bike — sometimes indoors, sometimes outdoors. 

10:30AM – Since Finan works evenings, mornings are his only down time. This is when he knocks out laundry, errands, paying bills, etc. 

12:00PM – Makes a quick lunch (usually a turkey sandwich) and gets ready for work.

12:45PM – Commutes from his home in El Dorado Hills to the KCRA offices, often listening to The Tom Sullivan Show on KFBK radio.

1:30PM – Logs onto the KCRA computers, checks more weather models and updates. 

1:40PM – Briefs the late afternoon news producers (4 p.m.-6 p.m.) on his high-level weather overview.

1:50PM – Dives into the models to translate his overview into something more detailed and specific. “This is where I decide if Sacramento tomorrow is going to be 80 or 85. And if it’s going to rain, is it going to rain before or after the morning commute?” Creates seven-day forecasts — and accompanying graphics — for roughly 30 cities. “All of that needs to be done manually.”

2:30PM – Writes an email to the entire newsroom summarizing how the weather will play out in the next couple of days. 

2:35PM – Heads into the studio to log into the computers, prep for telecast.

3:00PM – Records a quick 1-minute weather update.

3:01PM – Gives a briefing to the night news crew, who just arrived for work.

3:15PM – Heads back to his office. Creates any necessary additional graphics, such as more detailed levels of snowfall. 

3:50PM – Back in the studio to prep for the 4 p.m. telecast. 

4:00PM – Knocks out his weather segments. Even when not on-air he likes to stay engaged and at the ready, just in case there’s any breaking news he can help with. 

5:30PM – Heads back to his office, checks for any sudden curveballs — such as a fire that started in the late afternoon. “Now I’ll be part of the fire coverage,” and he needs to convey that to the 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. news producers. 

5:50PM – Heads back in the studio to prep for his next 90-minute block.

6:00PM - More news telecasts, more weather segments. 

7:30PM – Is the workday over? Not even close. Eats a quick dinner — he brings it to the office — and preps for a Facebook Live segment.

8:00PM – On Tuesdays and Thursdays, does a 30-minute Facebook Live segment to answer viewer questions. 

8:30PM – The evening weather models roll in, so he digests those and tweaks his forecast accordingly. 

9:50PM – Heads back to the studio for the 10 p.m. telecast.

10:20PM – After his segment, in a longstanding tradition, he prints out his forecast, flips it over, and on the blank side he writes a hand-written note for the next meteorologist on duty, summarizing his perspective. “Sometimes it’s two paragraphs, sometimes it’s five.” 

11:00PM – In the studio to film his final segment.

11:25PM – Leaves the office, back on the road.

12:00AM – Arrives home. No TV, no movies, no binge reading. “With my day going as it does, I don’t really need much of a wind-down time.”  

12:30AM – Lights out. “When the lights go out, I have no problem going to sleep.”   

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