During the summer of 1986, The Weather Channel began experimenting with background images and animations for the WeatherSTAR 3000. It is not known why they did this, but my theory is that they wanted to appeal to their satellite subscribers. Until recently, satellite subscribers did not get a local forecast.
When the segment ran, they would see something else. In the beginning, it was a pretty photo. Then it was blank blue screen. My guess is that satellite viewers complained about this, so The Weather Channel came up with a unique idea to hopefully please everyone. Cable subscribers had their local forecast with a nice background, while satellite subscribers just saw the nice background.
There were a surprisingly large number of backgrounds with a wide range of subjects and styles. From moving geometric shapes to still images and animations of animals. You'll probably find most or all of them to be quite primitive, but for the late 80s, this was cutting-edge stuff!
Around the same time the backgrounds were introduced, new songs were selected for the local forecast. The playlist took on a decidedly more serene and upbeat mood. It interesting to watch these local forecasts, in that it almost seems like the backgrounds were made to reflect the mood of the song.
Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your opinion of the practice) the graphical backgrounds didn't last long. The Weather Channel phased them out at the beginning of the next year (1987). The last local forecast I have with a background image was January 1987.
The Weather Channel said that viewers were complaining that they could not read the local forecast text. And after watching some of these local forecasts, it is easy to understand why. The white letters almost blend into the lighter backgrounds.
It wasn't until around September 1, 1988 when an idea came to fruition that pleased both cable and satellite viewers. This is when the "Travel Cities Forecast" began appearing. This feature from the local forecast had a more basic banner and no crawl. And the list of cities scrolled over and over until the local forecast ended.
If that wasn't exciting enough for satellite viewers, a new playlist was introduced for the national feed. This meant that satellite viewers would hear different music than cable viewers, as the WeatherSTAR 3000 playlist remained unchanged.
The practice of showing satellite viewers the "Travel Cities Forecast" continued until around 1998, when The Weather Channel started showing them a series of maps, satellite, and radar animations. Today some satellite subscribers receive their own local forecast, while others still receive the national feed.
Below are examples of my favorite backgrounds. And in case it isn't obvious, a brief explanation of the image or animation accompanies each video clip. You can see every background I have on the 1986 and 1987 pages of the local forecast videos section.