Tom Skilling

Tom Skilling, WGN-TV chief meteorologist, appears weekdays on WGN Evening News, 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, Illinois, 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, Wisconsin, to study meteorology and journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, while continuing to work in radio and television. Tom’s first television job was at age 18 in Aurora, Illinois, at WLXT-Channel 60. Then came WKOW-TV (ABC) and WTSO radio in Madison, Wisconsin, before to going to work for WITI-TV in Milwaukee from 1975 to 1978, where he was rated the city’s number one 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 weeknights on WGN Evening News, WGN News at Nine and WGN News at Ten.

In early 2004, Tom helped coordinate the Tribune Weather Center, which combines the meteorological resources and expertise of WGN-TV, CLTV and The Chicago Tribune in one location. He has also received an immense response to his 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. That same year, Skilling took the social media world by storm when he joined both Facebook and Twitter, garnering a huge following almost immediately.

Skilling continues to be active in educating the public about the critical issue of climate change and has hosted several events, including World Environment Day programs at the Chicago Botanic Garden and the Annual Fermilab Tornado and Severe Storms Seminar in Batavia, Illinois. Open to people of all ages, the seminar was created to educate people about the dynamics and after-effects of severe weather. Thousands of attendees gather each year to see the country’s leading experts in twisters, severe and damaging thunderstorms and lightning lead discussions at this exciting event. Called “a weatherman’s weatherman” by many in the field, the National Weather Service honored Tom for holding these seminars. April 2016 marked the 36th year of Skilling’s Fermilab Seminar.
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
  • asktomnew

    Is there a distinctive smell associated with rain?

    Dear Tom, Sometimes there is a very distinctive smell associated with rain. Am I imagining it, or is it real? Matt R, Chicago Dear Matt, It is not your imagination. “Petrichor” is the name given to the phenomenon of the smell sometimes released during a rain. In studies conducted in the last three years at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Professor Cullen Buie and graduate students working with him have identified the mechanism by which raindrops cause aerosols to be […]

  • asktomnew

    How many consecutive hours did it snow during the Big Snow of 1967?? Wasn’t it mild and stormy before the snow?

    Dear Tom, We are approaching the 50th anniversary of the January 1967 Big Snow. How many consecutive hours did it snow? Wasn’t it mild and stormy before the snow? — Ron Nicholls, McHenry, and Art Azen, Gary Dear Ron and Art, The paralyzing 23-inch snowstorm of Jan. 26-27, 1967, still reigns as the city’s heaviest. Chicago weather historian Frank Wachowski informed us that the snow began at 5:02 a.m. on Jan. 26 and did not end until 10:10 a.m. the […]

  • asktomnew

    What is an “atmospheric river”?

    Dear Tom, What is an “atmospheric river”? Thanks, Joy Hajduk-DeGraff Dear Joy, According to NOAA, the parent agency of the National Weather Service, atmospheric rivers are flowing columns of water vapor identified by satellites, and are responsible for generating large amounts of rain and snow. They are usually about 250-375 miles wide and found in the lower levels of the atmosphere, often around 5,000 feet. They are a major feature of the global water cycle and are found throughout the […]

  • asktomnew

    What does wind direction mean? Is it the direction wind comes from or goes to?

    Dear Tom, What does wind direction mean? Is it the direction wind comes from or goes to? — John Stall, Chicago? Dear John, Wind direction is defined as the direction the wind is coming from. If you stand so that the wind is blowing directly into your face, the direction you are facing names the wind. That’s why a north wind generally brings colder weather temperatures to Chicago and a south wind implies a warmup. For general purposes, the wind […]

  • asktomnew

    How long did it take ice to melt from New Year’s Day 1948 storm?

    Dear Mr. Skilling, My siblings and I found the column on the 1948 New Year’s Day ice storm very interesting. How long did it take for the ice and snow to melt? Thanks, Mary Bergandine Wheaton Dear Mary, The 1948 New Year’s Day ice storm coated the Chicago area with up to half an inch of ice that was then topped with five inches of snow. The thick glaze that covered exposed objects began to melt by January 3 as […]

  • asktomnew

    Are the number of days of snow cover tracked?

    Dear Tom, Are the number of days of snow cover tracked? — Tim Guimond, Evanston Dear Tim, They sure are. Chicago climatologist Frank Wachowski provided us with daily snow cover statistics for Chicago dating back to the winter of 1884-85. Wachowski noted that in a typical winter, the city logs 43 days with at least 1 inch of snow cover. So far this winter, the city has recorded 17 days, but with our recent drought, none since Christmas Day. Chicago’s […]

  • asktomnew

    Could you give an update of the Pacific Ocean water currents and temperatures?

    Dear Tom, Could you give an update of the Pacific Ocean water currents and temperatures? — Fritz, Chicago Dear Fritz, Data supplied by the Climate Prediction Center show a weak La Nina pattern is continuing, with below-normal temperatures across the central and eastern equatorial Pacific. Also noted is a vast expanse of significantly colder-than-normal water from Russia’s Kamchatka peninsula, across the Gulf of Alaska to western Canada. Weak La Nina conditions are expected to persist through February. This suggests mild, […]

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    Cold weekend but then a warm up

    Updates at Chicago Weather Center

  • feature010617

    Winter running colder than last year; California & West brace for a week of storms with flooding rains/huge mountain snows; Chicago’s snow drought in sharp contrast to record snows in northern Michigan

  • asktomnew

    How can you predict the weather so far in advance?

    Dear Tom: How can you predict the weather so far in advance? What is the percentage of time it is accurate? My son’s wedding is Jan. 7. — Dee Dear Dee, Most forecasts are formulated using computer guidance. The advent and advancement of environmental satellite imagery allows nearly continual global sampling of the atmosphere. These massive and highly refined data sets are fed into supercomputers, which perform trillions of calculations using equations that simulate the atmosphere. Output from these computer […]