Career Examples in:
Atmosphere Field:Air Quality Specialist Meteorologists
Oceanography Field:Physical oceanographers
Written By a Professional:
| A Meteorologist, Environment Canada
|By Raphaël Brochu; The atmosphere is a perpetually moving fluid that transports heat and humidity. Non-linear equations drive its dynamic. Simply put, it means that the current weather can change abruptly, sometimes violently, and as such can produce adverse effect on health or human activities. The meteorological profession actually exists because the many numerical products that we use cannot perfectly model these sudden weather changes. Therefore, being a meteorologist means trying to forecast the weather—temperature, wind, cloud cover, precipitation type and amount—in the short term. By “short term”, we usually mean the next 48 hours, but certain types of forecasts, such as the aviation forecast, demand an increased accuracy over a shorter period. Operational meteorology includes different types of forecasts, but mainly focuses on public, marine, and aeronautical predictions. Based on your speciality, you will examine specific weather phenomena. For example, the aviation meteorologist will direct his attention to forecasting the low visibility caused by fog, snow, or blowing snow at an airport, as well as cloud ceiling heights. He will also assess icing and turbulence probability everywhere in his forecast area of responsibility.
The marine forecaster will concentrate mostly on wave and freezing spray forecasts, while the public forecaster will look at the evolution of air quality, as well as predict the usual weather elements. When working on a forecast, the meteorologist sits behind several monitors linked to powerful mainframe computers. Using near real-time data recorded by radars and by satellite, surface and upper air instruments, the meteorologist analyzes current weather conditions and immediately adjusts the forecast accordingly. With the help of numerical guidance, the forecaster extrapolates his analysis into the future and builds a likely weather scenario.
This scenario very often depicts centres of low or high pressure, and warm and cold fronts, but can increase in complexity. With experience gained over time, the meteorologist will readily link weather patterns to a conceptual model that he already knows and will quickly produce a forecast. In the end, he will adjust the forecast to include local effects and uncertainties associated with his weather scenario. Certain skills are necessary to become a competent operational meteorologist. Environment Canada’s Meteorological Operational Course will develop these skills, one of which is to be able to “find order in chaos”, be able to visualize the atmosphere in 3-D with the help of simple structures such as fronts, troughs, etc. The second skill, and likely the most important one, is to be able to absorb a vast quantity of weather data, and then to organize it and write a coherent forecast, even if some elements will always remain uncertain until they actually happen.
A good meteorologist knows that his forecasts will never reach perfection, but will make sure to indicate his level of uncertainty. Finally, the ability to work in teams and to communicate with colleagues and clients, in English, and if necessary in French, cannot be neglected. Being a meteorologist is really exciting, but demanding. Because the safety of our fellow citizens depends on timely forecasts, the weather desk must be manned 24/7, all year round. For the forecaster, this means a few night shifts a month. However, knowing that your work benefits the population will bring its daily reward. Having accurately predicted the arrival time of that thunderstorm or freezing rain will make you feel proud. The job changes with every season and always offers something new to learn. Being a meteorologist is really amazing and I invite you to look into it.