Craig Allen ’79 is always excited to come back to Stony Brook University. Whether mentoring students at an alumni networking mixer or, most recently, moderating the Town Hall on the New York Climate Exchange with President Maurie McInnis, Allen feels right at home on campus.
After graduating with a BS in Earth and Space Sciences, Allen has carved out a highly successful career in meteorology. He is currently the chief meteorologist for WCBS/AM-880, and has held that position for over four decades. He also spent time at WCBS-TV, Fox5-WNYW, WPIX-TV and now at News 12.
As both a leading meteorologist and a proud alumnus, Allen is thrilled to have been part of the university’s recent historic announcement: being selected as the anchor institution for the development of a world-leading climate solutions center on Governors Island in New York City. Noting that, as a student from the days of ‘the bridge to nowhere,’ it is truly inspiring to see these bridges being built across the country and around the world.
You stated that Stony Brook University is building bridges around the world. What does this mean to you as an alumnus?
It makes me proud to think about how far Stony Brook has come since I was a student in the 70s. At the time, the university was known for the ‘Bridge to Nowhere,’ a pedestrian bridge that went across John S. Toll Road from the student union to the library, and was never finished. Now, here we are, anchoring this new climate solutions center in New York City and reaching out to so many institutions around the world and throughout academia.
They are going to be studying climate change at Governors Island, which is a hot-button topic. How do you think Stony Brook’s plan will help find solutions? What should they be focusing on?
We are too far into global climate change to just stop it. We can, however, slow it down and give the planet more years to live. Many people have ideas for what to do, and as this center grows, it will allow more people to come together in order to come up with solutions. Some of the world’s most brilliant minds, including Stony Brook University students and professors, will be able to work on this project at Governors Island. The New York Climate Exchange will be exactly that: an exchange of ideas, thoughts and ways to try out new solutions. Even if there isn’t a comprehensive resolution, there are things that are going to get done sooner.
Why do you feel it is critical to study climate change and search for solutions to help?
We are quickly speeding up the process of global climate change. Data shows that the earth is warming faster than computers predicted only a decade ago, and we need to figure out how to slow it down. Here on Long Island, we are seeing new insects and plants that have made their way up from the south. These are plants, weeds, trees and insects that, at one time, could not survive here.
Everything is shifting gradually across the globe. Our winter on Long Island doesn’t start until January or February. And, as much as I enjoy the warmer weather, it just wasn’t intended to be this way. This is why it is so essential to get the New York Climate Exchange going as soon as possible so that people from all across the world can start working on solutions.
The School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (SoMAS) will play an important role in this new initiative. What is your advice for a student or an alumnus who wants to get involved in this project?
I am so proud of what Stony Brook is doing. I think it’s wonderful that Stony Brook has SoMAS and that students want to learn about global climate change and how to slow it down. It’s critical for students to ask questions and dive into the topics that interest them.
The world is also more open to students now. The Exchange will bring an influx of new ideas that Stony Brook students can use to test their thoughts and theories. They will also have the opportunity to use their knowledge and abilities to help other researchers. The possibilities are remarkable. It boggles the mind.
After graduation, I went into the field of broadcast meteorology. It was because of the understanding of research and development that I gained at Stony Brook that I was able to prepare my forecasts and present the information to the public. This is exactly what Stony Brook allows students to do: to know how to research and present information that can be used to solve a problem.
What was your time like at Stony Brook? Did you get involved in any clubs?
When I got to Stony Brook, I took on way too much in my first semester and was put on probation. After that, I learned my lesson. I improved my GPA and got off probation. I realized that I just had to learn to take it slow. I recommend that freshmen not overdo it their first semester and take time to adjust to college life.
During my freshman year, I joined the meteorology club. We would meet every Tuesday and Thursday. We would also meet the night before storms and wait by a giant fax machine in the engineering building for the weather maps to come out, and we would try to prepare a forecast.
I worked for a private weather service on weekends throughout my senior year. I would go home to Massapequa and work from a little office in my basement. In those days, we didn’t have any of the equipment we have today. I only had a phone on the wall and would use it to call the radio station. I was lucky enough to have both a job while attending Stony Brook and a job waiting for me after graduation. From a very early age, I knew that weather was what I wanted to do.
What initially drew you to become a meteorologist?
Fear. As a child, I was terrified of thunderstorms. I used this fear to learn about what was actually happening during storms. But once I learned about the different types of lightning and thunder, I started enjoying the sound of thunder. It was so fascinating.
By the time I was 12, I would take a chalkboard, outline the United States on it, and draw what I saw the meteorologists show on TV. Then, I would head to the dinner table every night and predict the weather forecast. And no one was allowed to eat until I gave my forecast.
What advice would you give students or alumni on following their career in meteorology?
It all depends on which path they want to take. There are so many different careers in meteorology now, from broadcast meteorology to synoptic, dynamic, and thermodynamic. And the research and development side of meteorology is critical because we’re trying to expand and become even more accurate. We need researchers and developers to create programs to predict all types of weather events, from day-to-day forecasts to the bigger storms that cause devastation. We want to be able to try to predict hurricanes and tornadoes better than we ever have before and to save as many lives as we possibly can.
If you are interested in a meteorology career, keep your options open. If you’re interested in the media industry, remember that there are other jobs in weather services that aren’t on television or radio. And, of course, if you’re not comfortable being on air, there is the research and development side or even the storm-chasing side. The possibilities are endless when it comes to careers in weather and climate change.
What is it that you love most about Stony Brook?
Stony Brook is always changing. Every time I have gone back over the last 30 years, there is something new to see. I also love the friendships that I made there. I still keep in touch with many of the people I met at Stony Brook.
Stony Brook set me up for what life would be like. It taught me about failure and how to overcome it, like in my first semester. Stony Brook is great at pushing people to succeed. If you fail, professors and colleagues are going to push you to try again. Stony Brook showed me different models of success and failure, which helped me get to where I am today.
Watch the full Town Hall below.