Talking about the weather is more than just empty chitchat for Joe Costin, an amateur weather blogger, forecaster and storm-tracker for more than two decades.
Costin, 33, has self-identified as a “weather geek” since pre-adolescence. He was alone among his contemporaries in his early dedication to The Weather Channel. Becoming a bar mitzvah at the South Philly shul where his parents were married may have been the proudest moment of Costin’s youth, but the infamous Philadelphia blizzard of 1996 was the most pivotal. Not yet 10, Costin had found his calling.
He’d make barometric pressure and dew point relatable; he’d demystify the heat-index and wind chill. He’d transform the position from convenient scapegoat and well-coiffed patsy to trusted friend and resource. He’d be a meteorologist.
He probably could’ve been one, too, if it hadn’t been for calculus. And calculus II. And then, also, calculus III. And statistics. And two semesters of physics.
Costin spent a year in Millersville University’s rigorous meteorology program before confirming two things: He loved talking and writing about the weather, and he was out of his depth in the meteorology curriculum’s STEM-heavy course load. He tried tutors but said there was simply no way forward for him in meteorology.
Undeterred, Costin pivoted, finishing with a degree in political science and a minor in English, which makes a good deal more sense after you read the weather-related e-mails Costin’s sent to a growing list of “subscribers” since 2000.
Around seventh grade, Costin began circulating the regular email that would transform him, an ordinary bar mitzvah-age boy, into the Jewish Weather Authority.
The weather emails are “just what they sound like,” Costin said recently. “They’re e-mails that talk about the weather.”
Sent to family, friends, friends of friends and old teachers, these emails are not mere predictions; they are comprehensive lessons, where future weather is placed in historical context and the science that makes that weather happen is presented in a way that is comprehensible, relatable and, oftentimes, entertaining.
“I like to write,” said Costin, shoulder-shrugging the ability that has led him to grow his periodic e-mail to more than 80 “subscribers” and his Jewish Weather Authority Facebook page to more than 300 followers.
“One of the classes I had to take in meteorology was writing up forecasts for the next week,” he recalled. “I aced that course. … Of course, I’d already been doing it for years.”
Today, Costin lives around the corner from where he grew up, with his wife Felicia, whom he married in 2018. He and his father, Murray, are the stewards of the shul mentioned above. The son leads weekly Shabbat services, and the father is the executive director of the lay-led, entirely donation-supported YPC Shari-Eli.
“My whole life has happened inside of a mile radius,” he said. “It’s the South Philly thing to do.”
His weather-related posts and emails are admittedly less frequent than they once were because he’s a “big boy now with a real job.” But they’re sufficiently frequent to engender loyalty, and his followers know that even scant possibility of a big winter storm will send Costin back to the keyboard.
“That’s what I love most. Cold, snowy weather is my favorite,” said Costin, who, around Thanksgiving, published his 17th Annual Winter Forecast, by far his most-anticipated posting.
Costin shares his weather musings and prognostications with local Facebook groups like Jews of Center City, Jews of West Philly and South Philly Born and Raised. And, for the most part, his storm tracking stays local.
That doesn’t mean Costin’s always playing it safe. See the time he live-streamed from Marconi Park in the middle of Hurricane Sandy’s 85-mph winds. The footage shows Costin, in professional looking all-weather gear, strafed by superstorm-charged rain.
In tagging that video, Costin wrote “A very unsafe outdoor storm report from a little earlier this evening.”
Costin’s “big boy job,” as he puts it, entails hearing Philly residents dispute citations they’ve received for violating municipal code. Not putting your trash out at the right time or not keeping your grass cut or not clearing snow from your sidewalk — these are all things that might grant you an audience with Hearing Officer Costin.
It might not be his original plan; it might be a little more prudent, a little more commonplace. But it hasn’t extinguished his first love, and, according to Costin, it never will.
“It’s a hobby that I love and will never give up,” he declared on his Facebook page.
“I know it’s dangerous, but I’d love to go to the Midwest one day, chase a tornado or something or, maybe, spend part of a winter up in Buffalo, where they get the lake effect snow.”
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