Viewers’ opinions about TVNZ weatherman Dan Corbett (below) are as variable as the weather on a New Zealand spring day. He seems to bring out extreme reactions in people and is one of the most polarising presenters on local TV. We certainly receive a wide range of views about him through our Mr Telly pages. But whether it’s a hail of criticism or a torrent of glowing praise for his animated antics and descriptive phrases, Dan Corbett is a difficult man to ignore. Dan seems to take all the feedback in his stride and always comes up smiling. One thing we can’t blame Dan for is the ever-changing nature of the weather. But, amazingly, it seems that some people think a rainy, bleak day is all his fault
Dan Corbett, who is known fondly as Dan the Weatherman, lives and breathes meteorology. He is the flourish at the end of TVNZ 1’s nightly news bulletin that can make even a rainy day sound like a barrel of laughs. He worked as a meteorologist at major broadcasters across the US and UK before moving to Wellington with his wife, Helen, in 2011. Three years later he was recruited by TVNZ in Auckland and the rest is history. He talks to Cass Marrett about life beyond the weather, mother nature and whether climate change is worth worrying about.
What brought you to New Zealand?
A change of lifestyle and the fact that, my wife and I, we love the place. We’d been here on holiday visiting relatives and it was at that typical moment – we were up at Northland, we were sitting on the beach and I remember we looked at the weather back in the UK. It was February and it was just cold, it was grey, it was disgusting when we got back. So we just said, ‘We want to come here (New Zealand)’ and so, many years later, we did.
Are there any English traditions that you’ve held on to since moving here?
Well, obviously, Kiwis as well love cups of tea. I think we still like to have that nice English roast – particularly on those cold, wintry days. We’ll sit there and have a nice fire and get it all together, you know all the trimmings. Sometimes my wife will make Yorkshire puddings.
Do you like a Kiwi summer Christmas or an English white Christmas?
That’s funny because when we first came here it was like, ‘Oh this is very strange, everyone’s gone to the beach’. I remember our first Christmas we spent sitting on the beach at Oriental Bay in Wellington. In the UK everyone comes round but then, of course,
you’ve got the cold, you’ve got the wet ... everyone in the UK longs for a white Christmas – it usually rains. Whereas here you go to the beach or we’ve got the long evenings and you can just be outside barbecuing, so in that regard I think it’s better.
We all know you as Dan the Weatherman, but what does life outside presenting the weather look like for you?
Where my wife and I live we’re up very close to nice beaches so we like going to the beach. On our weekends we will sit there and just potter around the garden. It could be cutting the grass, vegetables – whatever it might be and once we’ve got all the chores out of the way then we hop in the car and head up to the beach, take a picnic or just go for a hike or something – laidback stuff.
How did you develop your presenting style over the years?
I’ve been really lucky because I’ve worked in so many different places. I’ve worked in the States. I started doing television in the States – everywhere from the east coast of America to Texas to Arizona. And, of course, working at the BBC for 10-15 years, you get to experience not only different styles of weather forecasting but also the styles of the presentation and the communication and you never want to sit there and mimic someone else, but you learn how to be comfortable and how to more or less tell the weather story.
How do you come up with all your visual cues?
I’ll look at all the weather maps all day, have the weather picture in my mind. All my weather is just ad-lib. I don’t have any scripts or anything. So when they tell me how long I have – four minutes, five minutes – I just talk to the time. When I start, it’s more or less what pops into my head – that visual. So I might be talking about a rotten weekend and it might just pop into my head, ‘Well this weekend’s going to be a bit ugly. You might be sitting indoors sitting with Grandma. It’ll be one of those weekends where you bake cookies as opposed to sitting on the beach.’ It just pops into my head.
You talk about mother nature a lot. If she was a person, what do you think she would be like?
It depends on what sort of weather she’s giving us. I always joke around. Sometimes I’ll say, ‘Be careful’ because if she’s in a bad mood or having a bad hair day she can really be a bit of a boisterous sort. But then in other cases she might just be a wonderful thing with flowers in her hair on a lovely sunny day type of thing.
Has anyone ever blamed you for bad weather?
Oh yeah. They say, ‘Oh you’ve ruined it. I had a barbecue all planned.’ Sometimes I have a laugh and I just say, ‘Look, I do have mother nature’s email address. Let me have your name and I’ll send a message next time.’
What are your thoughts on climate change?
You can never make a comment about it because everyone will have an opinion on everything. But what I always tell people is that when I was in university learning about it, we were taught that in so many years – and this is going back 30 years, hence all the grey hair – these things would happen to the atmosphere, to the weather. These extremes, storms that do this, storms that do that ... it’s happening. We learned it in school and it is happening. I deal with it every day.