Tom Skilling

Tom Skilling, WGN-TV chief meteorologist, appears weekdays on WGN Evening News from 5-7pm, WGN News at Nine and WGN News at Ten. He celebrated his 38th anniversary with WGN-TV in August 2016.
Starting his successful career at the unheard-of age of 14, Tom was hired by WKKD in Aurora, IL, while attending West Aurora High School. He joined WLXT-TV three years later, while going to school during the day.

In 1970, Tom moved to Madison, WI to study meteorology and journalism at the University of Madison-Wisconsin, while continuing to work in radio and television. Tom’s first television job was at age 18 in Aurora, IL, at WLXT-Channel 60. Then come WKOW-TV (ABC affiliate) and WTSO radio in Madison, WI before going to work for WITI-TV, Milwaukee from 1975-1978, where he was rated the city’s #1 meteorologist.

Tom joined WGN-TV on August 13, 1978. Since then, he has established himself as a respected meteorologist both locally and nationally, known for his in-depth reports, enthusiasm, and use of state-of-the-art technology. For over 30 years, Skilling was chief meteorologist on WGN Midday News and now appears weekdays on WGN Evening News from 5-7pm, WGN News at Nine and WGN News at Ten.

In early 2004, Tom helped coordinate the Tribune Weather Center, which combines the meteorology resources and expertise of WGN-TV, CLTV and the Chicago Tribune in one location. The weather center includes the installation of a state-of-the-art computer graphics system that enables Tom and his team to track details of weather across Chicagoland. He has also received an immense response for WGNtv.com weather blog.

Since 1997, Skilling has been a driving force behind the Chicago Tribune’s weather page. Another element in the column is “Ask Tom Why,” in which Tom takes viewers’ questions and answers the “why” behind the weather.

In October 2008, Tom and the Weather Center started providing weather reports to WGN Radio.

Skilling continues to be active in educating the public about the critical issue of climate change and has hosted World Environment Day programs covering that subject at Chicago Botanic Garden and public screenings of the award-winning documentary “Chasing Ice,” which looks at the melting which is underway in the arctic regions of our planet. He and Nobel Prize-winning climate research scientist Dr. Don Wuebbles of the University of Illinois have hosted seminars discussing the subject of climate change for corporate planners.

This April marks his 37th year if Skilling’s Fermilab Tornado and Severe Storms Seminar. As host of the event, Skilling as welcomed the who’s who in the severe weather research and forecast community, including famed University of Chicago tornado researcher Dr. Ted Fujita. Participants in the program for the past four years have included the Director of the National Weather Service Dr. Louis Uccellini, Storm Prediction Center Director Dr. Russell Schneider, and Dr. Wuebbles, who has served as an advisor with the White House’s climate change group. The Fermilab programs have been attended by thousands over the years, and are not streamed to even larger audiences online and have been offered at no cost to all who have attended.

In addition to his work on TV, radio and in print, Tom has created many weather specials over the years, which have included: “Ten Inches of Partly Sunny,” “Chasing the Wind,” “Hurricane: The Greatest Storm on Earth,” “Alaska: Where Winters Are Really Winters,” and “A Winter Weathercast” to name a few. Tom’s award-winning tornado documentaries, “It Sounded Like a Freight Train” and “When Lightning Strikes,” were widely distributed for use in educational and public awareness efforts. He also received an Emmy nomination for his work on “Tsunamis on American Shores program,” which looked at the deadly tsunamis that have hit Alaska. Tom’s documentary work has also received praise like his Emmy award-winning “The Sears Tower Versus Mother Nature.”

He has received multiple honors including: Illinois Broadcaster Association for “Best Weather Show” and “Best Television Weathercast,” as well as Emmy Awards in the “Best Weather Anchor” category. WGN-TV also received the environmental reporting award from the Audubon Society, an accomplishment that is due to Tom’s leadership in reporting such stories.
In 2015, Tom worked with the Field Museum and the University of Illinois in Chicago (UIC) to hold public forums discussing the 20th anniversary of Chicago’s deadly 1995 heat wave. He held a town hall meeting at the Field Museum and innovatively live web-streamed the event. At UIC, Skilling was the leading speaker at the, “1995 Chicago Heat Wave: Then & Now,” event.

Tom still continues to help educate many people on threats that climate change has posed to the Earth and to the many different societies in the world. He participates annually in the “World Environment Day” program at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Most recently, in April 2016, Tom, along with James Hansen, Ph. D., a leading climate researcher, led a public discussion on climate change at Benedictine University.

Tom is a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society, the National Weather Association and Alum of the internationally known, Sigma Chi Fraternity. The American Meteorology Society (AMS) named Tom as recipient of the 1997 Award for Outstanding Service by a Broadcast Meteorologist. He serves on the AMS nominating committee and holds the AMS’s Television Seal of Approval.

Tom has received many Honorary Doctorates including an Honorary Doctorate of Humanities from Lewis University in Romeoville, Illinois in 1995, an Honorary Doctorate of Science from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota in May of 2014 and an Honorary Doctorate from Aurora University in 2015.


Recent Articles
  • How are double rainbows formed?

    DearTom, How are double rainbows formed? J. Kestrel Dear J., A rainbow forms when sunlight is refracted twice (first upon entering a raindrop and then when exiting it) and reflected once within the raindrop. Sunlight enters a raindrop (on the side of the drop facing an observer) and is separated into its component colors (the first refraction), then reflects off the back side of the raindrop and refracts a second time (again on the side of the drop facing the […]

  • Does the addition of a day in the year every four years (Leap Day) could drastically change weather patterns

    Dear Tom, Please shed some light on whether the addition of a day in the year every four years (Leap Day) could drastically change weather patterns (as for example the mild temperatures that Chicago is now experiencing). — Sue Rowland, Frankfort Dear Sue, It does not have an effect. The addition of Leap Day every four years actually helps keeps the Earth in the same position relative to the sun on any given day of the year and therefore keeps […]

  • We’ve yet to have a sub-60-degree high this fall. Is that unusual?

    Dear Tom, It’s mid-October and Chicago has yet to log its first sub 60-degree high temperature this fall. How does that stack up to the average? Thanks, Pat Byrne Hoffman Estates Dear Pat, It’s very late and depending upon how long the upcoming warm spell lasts it could actually threaten the city’s record latest occurrence of October 29, 1963 when the mercury topped out at just 57 degrees. That date is an outlier with the city’s second latest onset of […]

  • Why are there no tides on the Great Lakes?

    Dear Tom, Why are there no tides on the Great Lakes? — Irma Horn Dear Irma, Even though the Great Lakes are considered to be essentially nontidal, like all bodies of water, they do experience tidal fluctuations caused by the gravitational pull of the sun and moon. However, they are so minute that they are unnoticeable, masked by much greater fluctuations of the lake level produced by wind and air pressure. On Lake Michigan, there are twice-daily tides of 0.5 […]

  • Why is Phoenix hotter than Miami in the summer even though it is farther north? Why is Seattle milder than Chicago in the winter even though it is farther north?

    Dear Tom, Why is Phoenix hotter than Miami in the summer even though it is farther north? Why is Seattle milder than Chicago in the winter even though it is farther north? Clearly latitude is not the only factor. — Gerry Talsky, Chicago Dear Gerry Many factors affect seasonal temperatures. Latitude is a major factor, though in the cases you have mentioned, it is clearly not the only influence on an area’s climate. Proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, which provides […]

  • What does a 30 percent chance of rain mean?

    Dear Tom, What does a 30 percent chance of rain mean? Ron Roth Dear Ron, It can have two different meanings depending on the weather situation, but it always means one specific thing: There is a three in ten chance that rain will fall exactly where you are. The forecast of a 30 percent chance of rain can mean all of the area will get rain if it rains, but the forecaster has only a 30 percent confidence that rain […]

  • Do the missiles and hydrogen bomb that North Korea has been testing have anything to do with the recent spate of hurricanes and our warm weather here in Chicago?

    Dear Tom, Do the missiles and hydrogen bomb that North Korea has been testing have anything to do with the recent spate of hurricanes and our warm weather here in Chicago? — Camille DiVito, Elmwood Park Dear Camille, No, they do not. Let’s first consider missiles. The missiles that North Korea has been firing are not the only missiles launched into the atmosphere in the past year. Several nations have been launching missiles, both for military purposes and for space […]

  • In forecasts for ‘well offshore,’ how far well offshore?

    Dear Tom, I listen to VHF radio when in Savannah, Georgia, to get weather forecasts for the Atlantic Ocean. They often say waves 2-4 feet near shore and 5-8 feet well offshore. What is considered well offshore? —William Choy, Chicago Dear William, Coastal marine forecasts along the Atlantic Ocean extend 50 miles outward. Wave heights often differ greatly in so large an area. The exact break between near shore and well offshore is at the forecaster’s discretion, but well offshore […]

  • How does the difference between Chicago’s average daily high and low temperature vary between summer and winter?

    Dear Tom, How does the difference between Chicago’s average daily high and low temperature vary between summer and winter? What are the extremes? —Terry Costlow Morton Grove Dear Terry, Comparing the average temperatures at the warmest and coldest times of the year, the typical winter span is 15 degrees in the Jan. 11-26 period, with an average high/low of 31/16. That difference increases to 21 degrees in the July 9-15 time frame, with an average high/low of 85/64. We had […]

  • What is the greatest number of deaths caused by a hurricane?

    Dear Tom, What is the greatest number of deaths caused by a hurricane? Bob Fisher Dear Bob, The maximum number is questionable, but the single greatest number of deaths resulting from a hurricane is in excess of 325,000 (possibly as high as 500,000) in the Bhola Cyclone (hurricane) of Nov. 11-12, 1970, in what is now Bangladesh. The storm, accompanied by 145 mph winds, came ashore with a 20-25 foot surge that swept miles inland over densely populated areas that […]