This biography of a living person needs additional citations for verification. (March 2017) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
June 6, 1956 |
Huntsville, Alabama, U.S.
|Alma mater||Mississippi State University|
|Employer||WBMA-LD (ABC 33/40)|
|Spouse(s)||Karen Spann (m. 1981)|
|Awards||Emmy award, 2001
NWA Broadcaster of the Year
AMS Award for Broadcast Meteorology
NATAS Silver Circle Award
James Spann (born June 6, 1956 in Huntsville, Alabama) is a television meteorologist based in Birmingham, Alabama. He currently works for WBMA-LD (ABC 33/40), Birmingham's ABC affiliate. Spann has worked in the field since 1978.
Spann began his broadcast career in Tuscaloosa, his hometown, in 1973 at WTBC radio. There, in high school, he worked the night shift, while current ABC 33/40 anchor Dave Baird worked mornings. Spann volunteered many hours following the 1974 Alabama tornadoes in Jasper, AL. He began his television career in the summer of 1978 at 33/40 predecessor WCFT in Tuscaloosa, the "33" in 33/40. That fall, he moved to WSFA in Montgomery as weekend sports anchor and part-time weatherman. After spending the summer of 1979 as afternoon-drive announcer at Top 40 station WHHY-FM ("Y102") in Montgomery, he was hired at WAPI-TV in Birmingham as chief weatherman, despite having no formal weather education. At the age of 23, he was one of the youngest chief weathermen in the country.
Channel 13 was sold to Times Mirror in 1980 and renamed WVTM-TV, and Spann impressed his new bosses enough that they moved him to sister station KDFW in Dallas in 1984. Despite having no formal education in weather, he was named the best weathercaster in the Metroplex by the Dallas Press Club in 1985, beating out such competition as KXAS-TV's Harold Taft and WFAA-TV's Troy Dungan. After only two years, he returned to Alabama as part owner of a small AM-FM radio station combo in Demopolis with Dave Baird. He returned to television in October 1989 as chief weatherman at Birmingham's WBRC-TV. At the same time, he enrolled in Mississippi State University's meteorology program, earning the NWA and AMS seals of approval upon his graduation.
He left WBRC in 1996 in a move that made local headlines. WBRC had just been purchased by News Corporation and was dropping its longtime affiliation with ABC in favor of Fox. Spann, a devout Southern Baptist, was unhappy with Fox's then-steady diet of reality shows and other programming. Spann followed several of his former WBRC colleagues to the newly formed ABC 33/40, which had merged WCFT with WJSU-TV in Anniston and a new low-power repeater in Birmingham, and had replaced WBRC as Birmingham's ABC affiliate. He has been at ABC 33/40 ever since.
He is the founder of The Weather Factory (formerly The Weather Company) which provides broadcast weather forecasts for a number of radio stations and weather data for industrial and business clients. Spann was the 33rd person in America to receive the AMS distinction as a Certified Broadcast Meteorologist. There was a tornado warning for western Jefferson County on April 8, 1998. Spann remained on television for ten hours. An F5 tornado struck Oak Grove High School before eight o' clock that evening. The next day, he spoke through a helicopter about the warning and the high school's damage.
He is well-known to viewers for his encyclopedic knowledge of Alabama geography. In severe weather coverage, he often locates storm system features by reference to tiny communities, obscure country roads, gas stations, and barbecue restaurants.
Beginning in 2007, Spann could be heard by listeners of the Rick and Bubba Show, a popular syndicated radio show based in Birmingham but heard throughout the country, mainly in the Southeast. Spann's tenure began when the show switched flagship stations in Birmingham to WZZK-FM, where Spann's forecasts had been heard for some time beforehand.
He is also the chairman and one of the founders of AllWorship.com, a non-profit organization webcasting three streaming radio stations which feature worship music in English and Spanish. The organization grew out of WRRS/Reality Radio, a commercial FM radio station that broadcast Contemporary Christian music in the Birmingham market from 2000 to 2001.
In 2004, Spann hosted a television special about severe weather safety. He interviewed Goshen United Methodist Church's F4 tornado survivors of March 27, 1994 including the former pastor, Kelly Clem and her husband, Dale. Later, he spoke about the tragedy and safety instructions to Brian E. Peters, Warning Coordination Meteorologist from the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Calera's Shelby County Airport. A video of the interviews can be found on YouTube. He is also the host of WeatherBrains, a weekly weather podcast and board chairman of the Children's Hospital of Alabama.
Formerly a longtime member of Hunter Street Baptist Church, Spann is the children's Sunday School teacher at Double Oak Community Church outside Birmingham.
Some of the notable events that he covered include:
- Hurricane Frederic (One week after he signed on in September 1979)
- 1982 Ice Storm (One of the most crippling ice storms in Alabama history)
- 1989 Huntsville F4 Tornado (One month into his stint at WRBC)
- 1993 Storm of the Century (Alabama experienced the heaviest snow in record)
- 1994 Palm Sunday Tornado Outbreak (20 people were killed at the Goshen United Methodist Church in Cherokee County)
- 1995 Hurricane Opal
- April 8, 1998 Tornado (An F5 tornado that devastated Oak Grove, AL)
- December 16, 2000 Tornado (F4 Tornado that severely damaged the southern side of the city of Tuscaloosa)
- November 24, 2001 Tornado Outbreak (Two dozen tornadoes touched down, the most severe was an F3 in southern Lamar county)
- November 10, 2002 Tornado Outbreak (Two F3 Tornadoes paralleled one another in Fayette, Winston, Walker, and Cullman counties)
- Hurricane Ivan 2004
- Hurricane Katrina 2005
- Hurricane Dennis 2005
- April 15, 2011 Tornado Outbreak (45 tornadoes struck Alabama, seven fatalities occurred that day)
- April 27, 2011 Super Outbreak (62 tornadoes ravaged the state from 4 AM-10 PM that day, killing 252 people)
- January 28, 2014 Snowstorm (Massive humanitarian crisis)
- April 28, 2014 Tornado Outbreak (Close to two dozen tornadoes touched down; 2 fatalities in Alabama)
Spann was the 33rd person in America to receive the AMS distinction as a Certified Broadcast Meteorologist.
He won an Emmy Award with John Oldshue from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for live coverage of a deadly tornado in Tuscaloosa on December 16, 2000. (A camera mounted on the transmitter tower of the former Channel 33 captured live images of the tornado as it moved through the community.) The station won an Edward R. Murrow Award for this coverage.
Spann received two major national awards following his live coverage of the April 2011 tornado super outbreak, which claimed over 250 lives. The National Weather Association named him Broadcaster of the Year, in recognition of his "passionate dedication to serving the Central Alabama community with critical weather information for over 30 years, especially during the deadly April 27, 2011, tornado outbreak". The American Meteorological Society also awarded Spann the Award for Broadcast Meteorology "for his tireless efforts to advance the public's awareness of, and engagement in, the science of meteorology, particularly severe weather forecasting and response." 
Spann has been named the state's best weather anchor nine times (as of 2007) by the Associated Press, and best weather anchor in Dallas-Fort Worth by the Dallas Press Club.
In January 2007, Spann attracted worldwide publicity by disputing the theory that atmospheric temperature increases, better known as global warming, observed in the 1930s and since the 1970s were man-made. Instead, he asserts that they are naturally caused, as part of the climate's cyclical nature. 
He asserts that it is money from research grants rather than genuine science that fuels support for the global warming hypothesis:
Billions of dollars of grant money is flowing into the pockets of those on the man-made global warming bandwagon. No man-made global warming, the money dries up. This is big money, make no mistake about it. Always follow the money trail and it tells a story. Even the lady at “The Weather Channel” probably gets paid good money for a prime time show on climate change. No man-made global warming, no show, and no salary. Nothing wrong with making money at all, but when money becomes the motivation for a scientific conclusion, then we have a problem. For many, global warming is a big cash grab. 
Spann was countering a statement made by Heidi Cullen, a staff meteorologist with The Weather Channel, who had written that those who disagreed with the view that global warming was caused by man-made events should not be given the Seal of Approval by the American Meteorological Society. Spann's remarks in his station's weather blog were linked to by the Drudge Report, which thrust Spann — a well-known personality in north and central Alabama, but little known outside that area — into the larger spotlight. As of 2011, Spann has the most followers on Twitter and the most fans on Facebook of any local television meteorologist.
The declaration states:
"We believe Earth and its ecosystems — created by God’s intelligent design and infinite power and sustained by His faithful providence — are robust, resilient, self-regulating, and self-correcting, admirably suited for human flourishing, and displaying His glory. Earth's climate system is no exception."
- "I have been in operational meteorology since 1978." United States Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (Sen. James Inhofe) 
- "1230 TBC Jocks 1978" (JPG). WTBC 1230.
- "The climate of this planet has been changing since God put the planet here. It will always change, and the warming in the last 10 years is not much difference than the warming we saw in the 1930s and other decades." [ibid]
-  US Senate Website
- "Spann spawns cyber-storm". The Birmingham News. 2007-01-20. Retrieved 2007-01-26.
- Bergman, Corey (2011-04-15). Popular TV meteorologist in eye of social media tornado. LostRemote.com. Retrieved 2011-04-18.
- Prominent Signers of An Evangelical Declaration on Global Warming Archived 2012-08-30 at the Wayback Machine.