To everything there is a season

Just before he returns to the US, Adam Daum talks about being Israel’s very own American weatherman

Adam Daum521 (photo credit: Ben Goldman)
Adam Daum521
(photo credit: Ben Goldman)
It’s a hot and sunny day in Jerusalem, and Adam Daum knows why.
“Today is warmer than normal,” he says. “There was a cool-down on the coast because of winds coming out from the southeast and winds coming in from the northwest. The winds cool off the middle of the country, but they don’t make it all the way [to Jerusalem], so the temperature here has stayed the same.”
Talking about meteorology, Daum, 29, gets visibly excited, and in the span of just a few minutes he has explained the weather patterns extending from Jordan to the coast and from the Sinai to the Golan Heights. Though Daum is a self-described “weather geek,” knowing the behavior of weather is more than just a hobby; it’s his job. As a forecaster for the Israel Meteorological Service, he is part of a team of 10 who are tasked with predicting the weather for all of Israel and relaying that information to the relevant authorities, along with recommended courses of action.
On any given day, his information might ground planes, close highways or, as was the case this year, influence the Jerusalem Municipality to spend more than NIS 1 million preparing for record snowfalls.
As Daum puts it, it’s a ton of responsibility for a job that often goes “under the radar” in the public’s eye.
“If you go to Ein Gedi on a rainy day, you won’t be let in. Why? Because we close the park. You might try to drive from Jericho down to Eilat, and Road 90 is closed. Why? Because it’s flooded and we’ve had to instruct them to close the roads. It comes up, but people don’t think about it. They see the airport has a fog, but who keeps the airport closed until the visibility rises? It’s us.”
And according to Daum, it’s been a crazy year for a weatherman. In one week alone, his office helped the government combat the spread of locusts coming in from the Sinai by predicting wind patterns, and it influenced the municipality of Tel Aviv to move the full marathon due to unseasonable heat.
“My boss was on the phone with the city [of Tel Aviv] saying it’s gonna be 38 degrees on Friday, and if participants are running a 42-kilometer marathon, you’re gonna kill people.”
The city heeded their warning and postponed the full marathon by a week but went ahead with the halfmarathon and other events, during which one runner died and dozens more required medical attention due to the searing heat. Ultimately, the Tel Aviv Municipality nixed the full marathon entirely, as the heat wave continued to blast the region.
“The fatality and injuries were terrible to hear about, but some say it had nothing to do with weather, while others blame the heat,” Daum says.
Though tragedies such as the one that occurred at the Tel Aviv Marathon events bring the work of meteorologists like Daum into the spotlight, he is still perhaps best known through his weekly appearances on some of Israel’s largest radio and TV stations, such as Army Radio and Channel 1 News. But despite his pervasiveness in Israeli life, Daum himself is not a native Israeli but hails from a distant land with very different weather – Long Island, New York.
FROM A very young age, Daum had been fascinated with the weather.
“When I was a kid, I used to ask why the weather is like this or like that. And people never knew.”
Daum says it was his grandfather who helped direct his curiosity towards what would later become his career. “He would always do geography with me, and we would study maps of the United States and learn where it snowed the most. We would watch the weather together and get to know the songs on the weather channel. Really geeky stuff,” he says.
Daum then channeled that “geekiness” into a career. After attending Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, which has one of the world’s foremost meteorology programs, he worked as a weatherman for the New York 1 News station, then for NBC’s The Today Show under America’s most famous weatherman, Al Roker.
But Daum says that his experience working in TV left him lacking and as his discontent grew, he began toying with the idea of moving to Israel, a place he became exposed to during his experiences as president of the Hillel club at Cornell and after founding a local chapter of the World Union of Jewish Students, which brought him on several trips to the country.
Then in 2009, Daum took the plunge and boarded a group flight for new immigrants to Israel.
His first year as an immigrant was a tough one, he says. After attending Ulpan Etzion in Jerusalem, he applied for a job as a weatherman with the IMS but was turned down due to inexperience with Israeli weather. He then spent several months working as a driver for a car rental company, a disruption to his career that shook his resolve.
“It drove me crazy,” Daum says.
But he persisted, and his big break came when he was drafted into the Israel Air Force, where he served as a meteorologist, providing weather data for air force operations. Daum says it was the nine months he served in the air force that gave him the experience he needed to land his current job with the IMS.
Since working with the IMS, he has become known as Israel’s very own American weatherman, reading his reports on the radio in fluent Hebrew but with a noticeable American accent.
“At first I was nervous and embarrassed to hear myself on air, but I quickly got used to it,” Daum says. “And before I worked here, another American had been doing the weather and was known for his accent as well, so I feel like I'm carrying the torch.”
But now, after only two years at the IMS, he is leaving his job and planning a move back to America, mostly out of a desire to be closer to his family.
“My priorities in life are probably family, Israel, then meteorology. After a few years of being here now, I realize that family is a value that I can’t ignore, and ignoring that value is keeping me from moving forward in life… There’s more to having a career – you have to have the whole package.”
Although Daum does lament being distanced from his family, he says that he doesn’t regret his immigrating to Israel. “I look back at this place and can say that it gave me immense perspective on life, and the world. Everything that happened here I feel like it happened for a reason, and things have come together in ways that I never could have anticipated. My only regret is that I couldn’t bring my family into it more,” he says.
One of the perspectives he gained? He no longer wants to work in TV.
“My time in the air force and working [for the IMS] makes my work in TV seem like a lower level… If I mess up a forecast on The Today Show, it will rain somewhere where it wasn’t supposed to rain and life will go on. But in the IAF, these are operations that have to be done right or else lives are at stake… My experience in Israel has let me see that there’s much more I can be doing with my degree and expertise.”
Though Daum doesn’t know exactly what he will do upon returning to America, this is something he seems to be okay with. After all, chance, uncertainty and forces beyond one’s control are all familiar concepts to a weatherman.