Just call them the Four Weathermen of the Apocalypse. We’re talking about the chief meteorologists at channels 5, 9, 12 and 19, all who apparently never met an impending disaster they didn’t hype.

Like the Biblical four horsemen of the Apocalypse, they take tremendous joy in foreshadowing terrible famine, pestilence and troubled times. And exactly in character, no sooner did snowflakes start flurrying in mid-December than did their cries of panic blanket the airwaves with guarantees of the imminent White Death. If one station were to trademark the phrase “killer storm,” what would be left for the other three to plug into their newscast promos?

Of course, no major blizzard swept through town, just a light dusting and some damp showers. Yet it’s a cycle of weather prediction that seems to occur year after year, as the Chicken Littles at our favorite news channels cry “the sky is falling, the sky is falling” all the winter season long. The fact that the weather rarely gets as awful as predicted could be a case that our stations’ resident soothsayers are practicing a difficult craft that’s more art than science. As Woody Allen once quipped, “Predicting is very difficult, especially about the future.”

Or it could make you wonder if all the weather warriors own stock in Kroger, what with all the panicked runs they inspire for last-minute staples and driveway salt. (Those four bags of road salt currently crammed in my garage are, in no way, to be construed that I fell for the histrionic hype, once again.)

Maybe the weathercasters should move out of town. As the old broadcasters’ joke goes, “The climate here doesn’t seem to agree with them.” Ba-da-bum.

Or, perhaps this is more than a random case of a newsroom Nostradamus who can’t foretell the correct temperature. There could be something a little more insidious going on — a case of prophets vs. profits.

Think about all the money and effort that goes into the marketing of weather reports: “News5 WeatherPlus!” “The Power of 5 Radar Network!” “StormTracker!” “Ultimate Doppler 9!” “Channel 12 The Weather Authority!” “Fox 19 FirstWeather!” And the ever-popular “Rated #1 by WeatherRate!” You can practically visualize the marketing masters inside station offices dreaming up these catchy slogans as they stumble over each other for viewers — which equal ratings, which equal advertising revenues.

We’re sure their motives are pure (as the driven slush) and that the rush for Nielsens has nothing to do with all the hue and cry devoted to every passing cloud. Still, predictions of boring cumulus patterns don’t make for audience-grabbing teasers, do they?

 Some winters, the family television set seems to shovel out more fluff and flakes than what lands on our driveway. What really sends my barometric pressure up are the stations that, a full day before any precipitation is present, use stock images of previous snowstorms as background for their weather warriors to deliver their dire warnings.

The same cycle repeats during tornado season, as overblown TV newscasts attempt to convince my family to dash to the basement — located in Anderson Township, which has never seen a twister, much less Dorothy and her little dog Toto. That’s true, not up for debate, so don’t make me get out my flying monkeys.

It all makes one long for the days of gregarious Ira Joe Fisher and his equally jovial colleagues on the Cincinnati airwaves. They may not all have boasted the same scientific AMS credentials as today’s Doppler divas, but they were amiable on air and told an amusing story or two. These light-hearted goofs treated weather reporting as entertainment, akin to Tarot cards and fortune-telling. (Remember Ira Joe’s trademark transparent chalkboard? What a hoot.)

There are options to relying on the current crop of seer-suckers, of course. Instead of depending solely on television stations that are financially inclined to over-dramatize, you can try listening occasionally to the NOAA weather radio’s Cincinnati forecast, found on cable Channel 22 and streaming live on the web (www.erh.noaa.gov/iln/nwrweb.htm). Nobody at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or the National Weather Service, apparently, is trying to drum up an audience with scare tactics. (And if the computer is busy, there’s nothing wrong with looking out the ‘ol reliable AccuWindow.)

Comedian George Carlin used to do a hilarious riff as weatherman Al Sleet, in which he’d parody meteorologists who don’t really tell you much in the way of true facts (“Tonight’s forecast: Continued dark throughout most of the evening, with some widely scattered light towards morning.”) Carlin was onto something.

Tonight, go home, turn on the news — just as an experiment — and if a blaring meteorologist swoops into your living room, lunge for the remote control and immediately switch stations. Surely there’s an all-Ira Joe Fisher all-the-time channel somewhere on cable.