Frontiers

In ‘Toon with the Weather

Grad student Roger Turner explores the surprising connection between comic books, military training and the TV weather report.
July 2008

While researching aviation’s role in the history of meteorology, doctoral student Roger Turner uncovered a surprising connection between comic books, military training and the television weather report. While researching aviation’s role in the history of meteorology, doctoral student Roger Turner uncovered a surprising connection between comic books, military training and the television weather report.

"Even as we confront climate change today, we learn about the weather from a format that was invented to keep pilots safe during World War II." - Roger Turner

Turner, a member of the History and Sociology of Science graduate group, found that the US military created comic books to train soldiers and pilots during World War II.  In dozens of manuals, cartoon characters teach pilots how navigate through bad weather. After the war, former military meteorologists became the first generation of TV weathermen. They invented the television weather report by adapting the same comic strategies to the TV screen. From cartoon suns to animated weather maps, the legacy of these techniques is familiar to us even today.

In this audio slide show, hear Turner talk about his research while viewing vintage cartoons pulled from his collection of World War II pilot training manuals.