Former San Francisco Bay Area Meteorologist Joel Bartlett Dies at 81

By Kevin Eck 

Longtime San Francisco Bay Area meteorologist Joel Bartlett died last Thursday night at his home in Santa Rosa, Calif. He was 81.

Bartlett became a meteorologist while in the Air Force in the 1960s and later worked at PG&E before joining San Francisco CBS station KPIX in 1974. In 1989, he joined ABC owned KGO until his retirement in 2006.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed proclaimed last Wednesday Joel Bartlett Day in San Francisco.


“Throughout the 1980s, the KPIX Eyewitness News team, consisting of anchors Dave McElhatton, Wendy Tokuda, sportscaster Wayne Walker and Bartlett, was the team to watch. In 1982, KPIX’s Eyewitness News became the Bay Area’s most-watched newscast,” wrote Kevin Wing from the Media Museum of Northern California.

It was at KPIX that Bartlett, unbeknownst to him at the time, would create something that would become his trademark through the years.

“We had a big weather map, and I’d write the temperatures on that map with a big Magic Marker pen,” Bartlett explained to Off Camera in 2012. “While doing the weather, I started flipping the Magic Marker in the air. I started doing it occasionally, then I started doing it every night, when it was appropriate. I’d then tell viewers to ‘go out and make it a great day.’” That line, and the pen-flipping, would become Bartlett’s signature. Viewers loved it. In fact, Bartlett estimates he dropped the pen only three or four times while live on the air, out of the tens of thousands of times of throwing pens in the air.