is a meteorologist?
When the public hears the word meteorologist, they often think
of the person on TV presenting the forecast. Many weathercaster are only
weather reporters, although increasingly many are highly trained scientific
professionals. Meteorologists also work for the National Weather Service,
preparing forecasts and warnings and making observations. But there are
many other activities in which practitioners can be called meteorologists
or alternately atmospheric scientists, atmospheric physicists or atmospheric
chemists. So what is a meteorologist? According to a guideline of the American
Meteorological Society, it is a person with specialized education, using
scientific principles to explain, understand, observe or forecast the earth's
atmospheric phenomena and/or how the atmosphere effects the earth and life
on the planet. This requires at least a four year college degree in meteorology
or related sciences. A masters or even doctoral degree is often required
for many of the more advanced jobs. Many meteorologists also obtain degrees
in fields such as chemistry, mathematics, electrical or computer engineering,
or other branches of the physical science and then become involved in studying
What is atmospheric physics?
Many scientists with training in physics work on atmosphere-related problems.
These can include issues related to radar and radio wave propagation,
optical propagation, acoustics and spectroscopy, to name just a few. The
field can be highly theoretical and mathematical. There are also many
observationally oriented programs in which new sensing systems are developed
such as Doppler lidar, radar and acoustic profiler and satellite sounding
is atmospheric chemistry?
Atmospheric chemistry is the scientific discipline that deals with the
chemical constituents in our air. The problems addressed, often at a very
highly theoretical level, include understanding and predicting stratospheric
ozone levels which are now known to be strongly influenced by chemicals
injected into the atmosphere by humans. Closer to the ground, unraveling
the problem of regional smog has remained a major challenge. The fate
of many chemicals released into the atmosphere and their interactions
with ecosystems is under close study. The emissions of natural pollutants
from trees, soil microorganisms and geological processes is vital to understanding
global chemical balances. There are now more than 10 million manufactured
chemicals that have been identified. Many of them are released into the
atmosphere with as yet unknown consequences. This field is also heavily
involved in global climate change research.
meteorology a good career?
According to The Jobs Ranked Almanac, the career of meteorologist now
ranks seventh out of 250. This is a big move up from 38th place in the
1988 edition. The rankings are based on factors such as environment, employment
outlook, stress, security, physical demands and income. The really interesting
thing about the field is that you can be involved at many levels ranging
from taking observations to working on high end theoretical problems on
supercomputers. You can find employment within many federal government
agencies, the military, state and local government, universities, broadcasting,
utilities, private industry, engineering consulting firms or be a self-employed
meteorology be a good career for you?
Ultimately the answer to the above questions is the same as for any career
- do you enjoy the work? Here are some questions you may wish to ask yourself
if you are considering a career in meteorology:
Am I curious about the physical world about me, and why it is the
way it is? Have I always watched the sky, read books on science and weather,
taken my own observations?
Would I like to work in a field of science that has many applications
in human affairs?
Am I intrigued by the concept of using mathematics as a language
to describe things that happen in the natural world? Do I enjoy working
Do I have the ability to conceptualize three-dimensional physical
Do I enjoy and do well in my math, physics, chemistry and computer
Am I open to change, working in a field where developments occur
at a breakneck pace?
(For those interested in forecasting and/or broadcasting) Am I
willing to work shifts and be transferred to a number of job locations
until becoming established?
Many meteorologists swear that you are born with the love of weather.
Many were weather freaks as kids and thought nothing of staying
up all night to watch a snowstorm. Many others, however, have entered
the field from other disciplines as interests and opportunities developed
How many meteorologists are there?
In the United States it is estimated that there are about 30,000 to 35,000
men and woman whose professional activities involve some aspect of the
atmospheric sciences. Some of the professionals might call themselves
atmospheric scientists, environmental engineers, or atmospheric physicists
or chemists, but they all deal with the atmosphere in some way or another.
Very closely allied to meteorology are the oceanographic, limnological
(study of lakes), and hydrological fields. Some of the wide variety of
jobs that involve some aspects of meteorology or another include:
operational forecaster, satellite meteorologist, radar meteorologist,
agricultural forecaster, climatologist, commodities trader, hydrological
engineer, aviation forecaster, emergency planner, instrument designer,
fire weather forecaster, broadcaster, flood forecaster, high school or
university teacher, national laboratory researcher, data communications
engineer, remote sensing specialist, air quality forecaster, air quality
modeler, hurricane researcher, atmospheric chemist, global change or acid
precipitation researcher, atmospheric optics researcher, radio propagation
researcher, severe storm forecaster, numerical forecasting modeler, air
traffic control assistant, computer visualization specialist, bioclimatologist,
lightning researcher, wind energy prospector, paleoclimatologist, forensic
specialist, technical writer or editor, etc. etc. etc.
What qualifications do I need to be
According to The Jobs Rated Almanac, the number of new positions for trained
meteorologists will continue to grow over the next decade. This would
appear especially true for students with advanced degrees in the atmospheric
sciences and who are highly trained in computer-related skills. While
there are a few low-level jobs for those with only high school education,
the vast number of meteorologists and atmospheric scientists have four
year college bachelor degrees. Many have graduate level masters and doctoral
degrees. The nature of most work in atmospheric sciences is such that
a companion discipline besides classical meteorology is becoming almost
essential. Meteorology students often take extra course work, double majors
or advanced degrees in areas such as physics, computer science, electrical
engineering, physical chemistry, numerical methods, ecology, horticulture,
hydrology, etc. In almost all cases a strong foundation in computer sciences
and applications is essential.
do you get training in meteorology or atmospheric sciences?
The first university in the United States to have a formal meteorology
degree program was the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The department
was founded in 1928 by Swedish scientist Carl-Gustaf Rossby. There are
dozens of institutions of higher learning that offer formal degree programs.
A complete listing of these universities, their faculties, facilities
and course offerings can be obtained from the American Meteorological
Society which periodically publishes its Curricula in the Atmospheric,
Oceanic, Hydrological and Related Sciences. A recent census showed
that there were at least 77 universities offering Ph.D. level programs,
with an additional nine only going to the masters degree level, and 18
providing only bachelor level programs. The number of doctoral (Ph.D.)
degrees currently granted by U.S. universities in meteorology and related
fields is estimated at about 100 per year. The military services will
provide in house training for the specific tasks they need
to have accomplished. Many officers are also enrolled in university degree
all meteorologists work for the National Weather Service or TV stations?
These two groups, with whom the public has the most contact, do employ
a large fraction of the nations meteorological practitioners. About
a thousand meteorologists are actively working in the media. The National
Weather Service employs approximately 5000 professionals. But many other
organizations hire those with meteorological training including engineering
and environmental firms, private weather forecasters and consultants and
over a dozen federal government agencies. At least 8000 meteorologists
are working in the rapidly expanding private sector.
is the private sector?
With the end of World War II, thousands of returning military meteorologists
were looking for work. At that time the only significant employers were
the (then) Weather Bureau and universities. Many introduced to the science
during the War wanted to stay active in the field. Thus was born the private
sector. Many small companies providing specialized forecasts were started.
After a period of initial antipathy from the government establishment,
the relationship between the two groups has generally been harmonious
and mutually beneficial. A recent survey of private sector meteorologists
listed their job responsibilities in general descending order of practitioners:
Weather forecasting, broadcast meteorology, general consulting, air quality,
computer programming, research & development, environmental impact
studies, systems integration and climatology.
do you get on radio and TV?
Many aspiring meteorologists yearn to get into television.
It is possible, but it is not always easy. First you need the basic training
in meteorology, particularly in the practical aspects of forecasting.
You should be reasonably telegenic, or at least have an engaging on-air
personality. Computer skills are most valuable. College courses in communications,
if available, are often also very valuable. Starting out working at campus
radio or TV stations gets a foot in the door, as does volunteering for
summer intern work (often without pay) at the local commercial TV station.
Having a mentor who already works in the business can be a big help. At
some point you have to have a tape to be able to send to news
directors at various stations so they can see how you come across on the
air. Getting that first demo tape is often a challenge, but sometimes
it can be part of the deal for working as a summer intern or at the campus
station. And getting on the air usually doesnt mean big city lights
and lots of glamour at first. It usually means starting with the 6 AM
weather cut-ins in Bozeman, MT, working your way up to weekend weather
in Quincy, IL or Pocatello, ID - and then maybe the morning show in some
market bigger than Boise. It usually takes ten years or more of service
in the smaller markets before you can expect to become an overnight
sensation in a major market where they make the big bucks. Plan
to move a lot. And also plan for the fact that your job security may be
zilch. A new news director may be appointed, and if he or she doesnt
like your face, you are history. But media work can be very professionally
rewarding, some meteorologists do stay at the same station for decades,
and even if you dont stay in the business forever, it is a good
springboard to other activities.
is the AMS Broadcast Seal of Approval?
Not everyone presenting forecasts on radio or television is a trained
meteorologist. Some are simply broadcasters who rip and read,
hopefully without their own embellishments, forecasts prepared by the
National Weather Service or a private forecasting company. But there are
many professional meteorologists working in the media. In order to help
the viewers identify those weathercasters who indeed have the training,
experience and judgement to communicate the complex weather information
in a professional and reliable manner, the American Meteorological Society
has established its Seal of Approval awarded to Certified Broadcast Meteorologists.
Each weathercaster must pass a qualifying exam as well as submit sample
program tapes to a review board of his or her peers who accepts or decline
their petition. The Seal once granted must be renewed periodically, encouraging
the broadcasters to be involved with continuing education courses and
upgrading the quality of their presentations.
is the American Meteorological Society?
The primary scientific and professional society for atmospheric sciences
in the United States is the American Meteorological Society. It has over
11,000 members who work in the various disciplines of meteorology, oceanography
and hydrology. The objectives of the Society are the development and dissemination
of knowledge of the atmosphere and related oceanic and hydrological sciences
and the advancement of their professional applications. Membership is
open to all. There is a grade of Associate Member for those who are interested
in the goals of the Society but not educationally qualified for full membership.
Student membership is available for those enrolled at least-half time
at an accredited institution of higher learning. The AMS publishes a number
of major technical journals including Weather and Forecasting, Journal
of Climate, Monthly Weather Review, Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences,
and the Journal of Applied Meteorology. The official publication of the
AMS is the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. Their headquarters
are located at 45 Beacon Street, Boston, MA 02108-3693. Their web site
there other professional organizations serving the atmospheric sciences?
Many atmospheric scientists are members of the American Geophysical Union
(2000 Florida Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20009, www.AGU.org).
The AGU conducts numerous scientific meetings which span the breadth of
geophysics and publishes a number of well regarded technical journals,
including Geophysical Research Letters and the Journal of Geophysical
Research. Those interested in forecasting and the operational aspects
of meteorology often join the National Weather Association (NatWeaAssoc@aol.com).
The NWA publishes the National Weather Digest.
financial aid available to students interested in the atmospheric sciences?
Aside from the numerous financial aid programs offered by colleges and
universities, there are several scholarship programs administered by the
American Meteorological Society. Contact the AMS for information. Check
with the Meteorology Department office at the college and university for
details. The military weather services in the Air Force and Navy are a
career option. If you choose to enter as a commissioned officer, youll
normally be awarded a ROTC scholarship to complete your bachelors
degree. After graduation, you attend Officer Training School.
do you find out about jobs in meteorology?
Networking and keeping your ear to the ground is probably the number one
way to find out about positions. Asking people already in the business
can be a big source of job leads. Starting out as an intern can be invaluable.
The AMS publishes monthly listings of employment opportunities. Many college
departments keep job announcements posted on the bulletin boards near
the department office. Weathercasting positions are sometimes advertised
in Broadcasting. Organizations such as the National Weather Service and
the National Center for Atmospheric Research routinely publish their open
positions. Many private sector jobs are arranged through personal contacts.
If you have the training, good references, and healthy work ethic, chances
are the work will find you. No matter what the position, you must be able
to provide any employer with professional competence and good work habits.
Web sites covering employment in atmospheric sciences include:
www.AmetSoc.org/AMS (go through
navigation to Employment Announcements)
(Penn State University)
(National Center for Atmospheric Research)
environmental firms hire meteorologists?
Meteorologists have played a central role in much of the air quality research
and control efforts in the United States over the past several decades.
Atmospheric conditions play a key role in predicting the diffusion and
transport (collectively called dispersion) of pollutants. If a new power
plant is to be built, it is necessary to know the impact of the pollutants
that it will release. Since one cant measure pollution concentrations
before the plant is built, numerical models of pollution dispersion simulate
the atmospheres influence upon the plume once it leaves the proposed
smoke stack. In an effort to control regional ozone, meteorologists work
with chemists to create numerical photochemical grid models
in which the known pollutant emissions are used to predict the ozone levels.
Once these models are verified, then one can predict the consequences
of planned emission controls, such as cutting automobile hydrocarbon emissions
by 10% or power plant oxides of nitrogen releases by 30%. The complex
models are necessary because the actual results of such controls can often
be quite different from what might be expected.
is industrial forecasting?
How much does a "bad winter" cost the US economy? The harsh
winter of 1976-77 was estimated to cause $37 billion in direct economic
losses due to lost retail sales, increased energy consumption, difficulties
in transportation and industrial production and crop losses. Advanced
warning can help reduce some of these losses. Cold weather, for instance,
affects heating bills, thermal underwear sales, shipping-and video rentals.
In Cincinnati, at least, video rentals have been known to double on weekends
when the weather is exceptionally cold. Cold weather means hot pizza.
One Twin Cities pizza delivery establishment found that when it was bitterly
cold, even normally hardy Minnesotans would rather that someone else get
the frostbite - his sales increased $400-500 on really nippy evenings.
Knowing that in advance means bringing in more help to meet demand. Baseball
teams hire private forecasters to predict the beginning and end of rain
to help the ground crews decide when to put on the tarps. On a larger
scale, knowing that the temperature will jump ten degrees in New York
City tomorrow allows an electrical utility to purchase the needed extra
power before the demand soars and the prices of power go up with it. The
correct forecast of a few degree temperature rise or fall can save an
electric company millions of dollars. Precipitation predictions for mountain
reservoirs and drainage basins assist utility managers in planning hydroelectric
power generation. Forecasts of temperature for snow making at a ski resort,
rainfall on an outdoor movie set, relative humidity for a proscribed agricultural
burn and winds for a hot air balloon rally are just a few of the many
forecasts made for industry by the private weather forecasting firms in
is forensic meteorology?
The forensic meteorologist, who may act as either a background consultant
or an actual testifying expert, will collect, interpret and analyze atmospheric
data in support of insurance fraud claim investigations, civil and criminal
trials, and environmental regulatory actions. The forensic meteorologist
may be employed directly by an insurance company, the attorneys for either
the plaintiff or defendant in a case or, with increasingly frequency,
may be appointed by the court itself. Regardless of the employing party,
it is not the role of the meteorologist to be an advocate for either side
in a dispute, but to assist the judge and/or jury in understanding the
often complex facts in a case so that they may reach an appropriate verdict.
Some typical problems dealt with in forensic meteorology: The automobile
accident was caused by poor visibility - was that caused by natural fog
or pollutants from a nearby industrial plant? Was the building
damaged by a tornado or a straight line thunderstorm wind? A
person was found electrocuted near a downed power line - was it a fault
in the utilities line or a lightning strike? How can
we demonstrate that rain fell at a site that is located many miles distant
from any National Weather Service reporting station?
The forensic meteorologist may collect standard weather observations,
assemble weather radar and satellite imagery, process weather data taken
by a party in the case, or locate nonstandard sources of data such as
lightning ground strike reports or atmospheric data taken by air pollution
monitoring networks. These data are then used in a comprehensive analysis
of the meteorological facts pertinent to a case. There is increasing use
of sophisticated computer graphics and video animation of weather information
in trials and administrative hearings. Most forensic meteorologist have
had long and varied careers in the atmospheric sciences, and it is their
hard-earned expertise that is in demand. Few recent graduates can expect
to be heavily engaged in such activities until they have significantly
enhanced their resumes. Most successful forensic meteorologists have met
the qualifications of a Certified Consulting Meteorologist (CCM).
is a Certified Consulting Meteorologist?
The title of Certified Consulting Meteorologist (CCM) is generated by
the American Meteorological Society. It is a formal recognition on the
part of colleagues, acting through their Society, that an applicant is
considered well qualified to carry on the work as a consulting meteorologist.
The qualifications for certification are centered around the fundamental
characteristics of knowledge, experience, and character. The CCM program
is a service for the general public provided by the AMS, in order to certify
that certain individuals have been tested and found to meet or exceed
its high standards. The CCM designation provides a basis on which a client
seeking assistance on problems of a meteorological nature may be assured
a mature, competent and ethical professional counsel. Only about 5% (600)
of the Societys members have earned CCM certification.
do you find a certified consulting meteorologist?
Have a weather related problem in your business and dont know how
to locate a competent meteorological consultant or an expert witness for
a trial? The American Meteorological Society will be pleased to provide
a listing of Certified Consulting Meteorologists (CCMs) serving your area.
Contact the AMS at 45 Beacon Street, Boston, MA 02108 (617-227-2425) for
assistance. The web site is www.AmetSoc.org/AMS.
A listing of meteorological consultants is also published monthly in the
back of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. Many private
sector firms also advertise in the yellow pages and professional and trade