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Job-a-palooza - Meteorologist
by Suzanne Alexander

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“Is it going to rain? Is it going to snow? Should I wear my rain jacket or should I wear my warm coat? Better check the forecast.” Forecasting weather is very important. Meteorologists, who are scientists that study the weather, warn people of thunderstorms, tornados, hurricanes, blizzards and other dangerous conditions. If you are curious about nature’s wild weather and how it is predicted, then meteorology could be an exciting career for you.

Meteorologists also study the atmosphere, the air that surrounds the earth. They look for changes in the atmosphere that will affect the weather and climates around the world. Meteorologists gather weather information that will help everyone from farmers, who try to prevent their crops from freezing, to pilots who avoid flying in storms. Most of us depend on the weather.

Meteorologists Can Work In Many Areas:

Weather Forecasting – Does the challenge of forecasting the weather interest you? Then consider being an operational meteorologist. These meteorologists study the air pressure, temperature, humidity, and wind speed to make short- and long-range weather forecasts. They receive their information from weather satellites, weather balloons, radar, aircraft, and observers throughout the world.

Research – If you like searching for answers to tough questions, then you might enjoy a career in atmosphere research. For example, some of these meteorologists are looking into what causes droughts and how they impact farming.

Broadcast Meteorology - If you communicate well with others and want to work in television or radio, this could be the area of meteorology for you. Broadcast meteorologists produce weather forecasts and related graphics for television, radio, and even newspapers.

Interview with Josh Fitzpatrick, Television Meteorologist:

Weather always has fascinated Josh Fitzpatrick, a meteorologist with WSAZ, an NBC station in West Virginia. “It was a blizzard in southern Ohio that sparked my interest in meteorology,” Josh says. “I was 10 and remember watching WSAZ chief meteorologist Tony Cavalier warning viewers about the approaching storm. When it hit, I awoke to whiteout conditions! I had never experienced anything like it before. The snow drifts were nearly over my head!”

“After the snow melted,” Josh explains, “I wanted to know what caused the storm in the first place. I checked out as many weather books as I could find in the local library. So, ever since that storm, I’ve been hooked.”

A couple of years later, Josh took a tour of WSAZ’s studio and Weather Center. “I finally got to meet chief meteorologist Tony Cavalier, and I told him that one day I would be working with him as a meteorologist,” Josh says. “I am sure he just smiled at my big goal, but I was determined to reach it.”

After graduating from high school, Josh studied broadcast meteorology and geography at Mississippi State University. Upon graduation, Josh landed a job at an ABC station in West Virginia, and after three years, became the youngest chief meteorologist in the country. Soon after, Josh applied for and got the job as a meteorologist at his hometown TV station, reaching his long time goal to work alongside Tony Cavalier.

Josh likes the responsibility of informing people about the weather and helping them plan their day. “It is important that a television meteorologist has an appealing on-air personality,” Josh states, “and that you connect with people through a television camera.”

Surprisingly, you need to develop good hand and eye coordination when in front of the camera. The weather map that you see behind the meteorologist is really a green screen called a chroma key wall. “The technical people add the maps and graphics behind me as we are broadcasting,” explains Josh.

“I actually am looking at monitors off to the side so I can see where to point. This can be tricky since it is a mirror image.” Josh also can change those weather maps, charts, and graphics with a hand-held clicker.

What is Josh’s favorite part of his career? “I enjoy the variety,” he says. “Being a television meteorologist is never dull. There is always something going on.”

“The most difficult part is the hours I keep. This is not a 9 to 5 job. For example, since I am the weekend meteorologist, I am at the station by 3:30 a.m. on Saturday mornings going over weather charts, satellite photos, and radar images. I update the weather on our web channel and send out personal forecasts to viewers who subscribe to this service by email or phone. I also work on the television graphics that go with my forecast for our 6 a.m. broadcast.”

With some breaks through the day, Josh leaves the station around midnight. The hours can vary depending on the weather conditions. “The long and changeable hours simply come with the job,” Josh says, “but it is a job I love.

What You Can Do to Get Ready:

If you are interested in a career in meteorology, Josh recommends reading all you can about weather in books and magazines, and on the Internet. Also, take a tour of a weather center or shadow meteorologists as they go about their duties.

“Meteorologists need to be good at math and science,” Josh says, “so be sure to take these classes in high school, especially calculus and physics. Computer classes are also helpful.”

To become a meteorologist, you will need to go to college and get a 4-year Bachelor of Science degree in Meteorology or Atmospheric Sciences. If you want to do research or teach, you may need a Master’s Degree or even a Ph.D.

What it Pays:

The salary for meteorologists ranges from approximately $20,000 to over $100,000 per year depending on your degree, your experience, and the job’s location.

Other Resources:

Check out Weather Wiz Kids to discover information about weather as well as weather careers, safety, games, jokes, and more.

Go to Scholastic’s Interactive Weather Maker and create some weather.

Explore the online career center at the American Meteorological Society’s website.

 
 

 

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