MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The new Weather Watcher sign atop the WCCO building has been alerting TV viewers and passersby to changes in the air since the day after Thanksgiving.

That has prompted several Good Questions from WCCO viewers, including one from 10-year-old Alex of Glenwood City, Wis. He wanted to know: How do we decide when to change the color?

For example, flurries were in the forecast for Monday night, but warmer weather is on the way. The Weather Watcher was shining red.

“I was watching the news and it was showing red on the thing, and I looked at it and said snow is coming, too,” Alex said.

It’s a simple concept: blue for cooler weather, red for warmer temperatures, white for no change and green for precipitation … until two of the colors collide.

WCCO Chief Meteorologist Chris Shaffer says it can be a tough call.

“Snow has a bigger impact on people than a warm-up,” Shaffer said. “A warm-up will put a big smile on the faces, but I think the snow [is something] people would definitely want to know.”

Ultimately, Shaffer decided to stick with red because the potential for flurries was not significant, and the Weather Watcher had been shining green for the past day when several inches fell.

All four WCCO meteorologists can change the color of the Weather Watcher. It was only after Monday morning’s snow moved out that meteorologist Lauren Casey made the switch from green to red.

Changing the color is done from a computer in the WCCO weather center, and all it takes is one click of a button.

The meteorologists can also make the colors flash, which would be used in more urgent cases, like last week’s wind chills of minus 13 degrees.

“It’s generally a 24-hour span unless something big is coming up,” Shaffer said. “If we get a foot of snow coming, I will have that thing flashing green a few days out because I don’t want anyone to miss what’s coming.”

The new WCCO jingle is different from one people remember from several years ago. According to WCCO News Director Mike Caputa, the original jingle was trademarked and WCCO didn’t own the rights, so we looked for something new.

The colors are meant to be intuitive, like the warmer for red and colder for blue on a person’s shower or a restroom sink.

“Precipitation (green) was a bit of a head scratcher, but the other thought was we didn’t want to have too many colors because people would wonder ‘What’s yellow again?'” Shaffer said.

He considers the Weather Watcher as a “heads up” on what to expect over the next day or so.

“I don’t want anyone looking at that when severe weather is about to hit and say ‘What does that mean,'” he said. “There’s a simplicity to it.”

To listen to the WCCO Weather Watcher jingle, click here.

Heather Brown