What Atmospheric Scientists, Including Meteorologists Do
Research meteorologists study atmospheric phenomena such as lightning.
Atmospheric scientists study the weather and climate. They may compile data, prepare reports and forecasts, and assist in developing new data collection instruments.
Atmospheric scientists typically do the following:
- Measure atmospheric properties, such as temperature, dewpoint, humidity, and windspeed
- Use computer models that analyze atmospheric data (also called meteorological data)
- Write computer programs to support their modeling efforts
- Conduct research to improve understanding of weather phenomena
- Generate weather graphics for users
- Report current weather conditions
- Prepare long- and short-term weather forecasts using computers, mathematical models, satellites, radar, and local station data
- Plan, organize, and participate in outreach programs to educate the public about weather
- Issue warnings to protect life and property threatened by severe weather, such as hurricanes and tornadoes
Atmospheric scientists use instruments such as radar systems, satellites, and weather balloons to monitor the weather and to collect data. They also use graphics software to illustrate data in forecasts and reports for their clients or the public.
The data that atmospheric scientists collect and analyze are critical to understanding issues related to weather and climate. Atmospheric scientists may work with geoscientists, hydrologists, or other scientists to help solve problems in areas such as agriculture, commerce, energy, the environment, and transportation. For example, atmospheric scientists may work with hydrologists and government organizations to study how rainfall and temperatures impact the water supply and its management.
The following are examples of types of atmospheric scientists:
Broadcast meteorologists give forecasts to the public through television, radio, and digital media, such as streaming videos. They use graphics software to develop maps and charts that explain their forecasts. Not all weather broadcasters appearing on television are meteorologists or atmospheric scientists; reporters, correspondents, and broadcast news analysts may present weather conditions and forecasts but do not have specific training in meteorology.
Climatologists study how climate changes over time so that they can interpret long-term weather patterns or shifts in climate. They may examine data from remote sensing imagery, either analyzing the images by software or combining them into color composites to highlight details not visible to the naked eye.
Forensic meteorologists use historical weather data to reconstruct weather conditions for a specific location and time. They investigate whether the weather was a factor in events such as traffic accidents and fires. Forensic meteorologists may be called as experts to testify in court.
Research meteorologists develop new methods of data collection, observation, and forecasting. They also conduct studies to improve understanding of climate, weather, and other aspects of the atmosphere. For example, they may study severe weather patterns to understand why cyclones form and to develop better ways of predicting hurricanes and tornadoes. Others focus on environmental problems, such as air pollution.
Weather forecasters use computer and mathematical models to produce weather reports and short-term forecasts ranging from a few minutes to more than a week. In addition to developing forecasts for the public, their forecasts for business clients—including airports, utility companies, or grocery stores—help these clients plan for weather events that may affect demand for products or services. They also issue warnings for potentially severe weather, such as blizzards and hurricanes. Some forecasters prepare long-range outlooks to predict whether temperatures and precipitation levels will be above or below average in a particular month or season.