Meteorologists are atmospheric scientists. They continually analyze vast amounts of data, including surface and upper air observations of temperature, wind, pressure, and humidity, as well as weather satellite data, radar data, lightning strikes, and data from weather models. Based on this information, they might issue a warning or produce a public, aviation, or marine forecast. But not all meteorologists forecast the weather: other specialties include research into atmospheric chemistry, biological impacts, and computer modelling.

At a Glance

Imagine it is a warm, humid summer day. From your office window, you can see children playing in the park. But you know this scene will change in the next few days. You are a meteorologist and right now you are watching real-time satellite images of Hurricane Emily. You can see she is crossing the Atlantic Ocean, and your Nova Scotia weather observation office and this little park is in the middle of her path, along with thousands of other homes and businesses.

You and your team of meteorologists are about to kick into high gear and begin issuing hurricane warnings to the area. You want to give residents enough time to prepare for the storm and evacuate to safer locations if necessary. The city and its industries also need time to prepare for the hurricane in order to take the necessary precautions to avoid the potential for environmental catastrophe that comes with high winds and damaging debris. As a meteorologist, you have been tracking Hurricane Emily for days now, starting from when she first appeared on satellite images as a swirl of cloud thousands of kilometres off the coast in the Atlantic Ocean. You've watched her gain strength and pick up speed as she heads toward the United States coast.

In collaboration with other weather offices in Canada and the United States, your team has been gathering data to try to predict when and where Hurricane Emily will make landfall. You've looked at prevailing wind patterns for this time of year, current wind velocity and direction, air pressure and temperature isoclines, and the strength of Emily herself. You are confident she will first make landfall on the American coast, but her direction and strength indicate she will travel overland north to Nova Scotia to batter Canada's eastern coast.

Right now, you are looking for any indication that something might change and divert Emily, and if not, you want to know just how bad it will be. You need to let residents know if they will be safe in their homes or if they should evacuate, as well as let the city know the precautions it must take, for example protecting freshwater supplies and treatment systems or shutting off gas lines to avoid leaks and explosions. You and other meteorologists will spend the next few days gathering all the data you can in order to better predict and prepare for the onslaught of Emily.

Job Duties

Duties vary significantly from job to job, but the following list includes typical job duties one might encounter as a meteorologist:

  • Predict weather patterns to make short- and long-range forecasts, including specialized forecasts for marine, aviation, transport, and building industries.
  • Provide information to public and private interests on weather, UV levels, and air quality issues, for example, allergens and pollution levels.
  • Conduct research and develop meteorological models.
  • Analyze atmospheric models and data gathered from a variety of sources for trends and correlations.
  • Apply meteorological information to address issues in agriculture, forestry, air and water quality, pollution, transportation, and environmental management.
  • Make scientific presentations and publish reports for management, special interest groups, and the public.
  • Issue weather advisories and warnings regarding unusual weather, UV levels, or air quality conditions.
  • Answer media inquiries during special weather events and provide information to the public.

Work Environment

Meteorologists work in a variety of locations, including:

In the office:

  • Doing paperwork and analyzing data for reporting, including issuing forecasts and warnings
  • Drafting plans and models
  • Communicating on the phone and in meetings with clients, government departments, and the public
  • Consulting with other meteorologists and professionals

In the field:

  • Testing and calibrating equipment and instruments
  • Taking measurements and recording data

Where to Work

There are a number of places meteorologists can find employment. They include:

  • Federal, provincial/territorial, and municipal government departments
  • Colleges, universities, and research institutes
  • Environmental and engineering consulting firms
  • Television and radio news stations
  • Meteorological organizations
  • Resource, transportation, and utility companies

Education and Skills

If you are a high school student considering a career as a meteorologist, you should have strong marks or an interest in:

  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • Mathematics
  • Computer Science

In most cases, the minimum education requirement to work as a meteorologist is a university undergraduate degree. If you are a post-secondary student considering a career as a meteorologist, the following programs are most applicable:

  • Meteorology
  • Climatology
  • Physics
  • Mathematics
  • Environmental Science
  • Environmental Earth Science

Certification is not mandatory in order to work as a meteorologist, but most practitioners belong to a professional group such as the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society (CMOS).



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Role Models

Luc Paquin

Since someone working for Noranda, a mining company in Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec, told Luc Paquin there was an opening for a technician trained in meteorology, he hasn't looked back. Today he finds himself part of a team operating a critical air quality monitoring system that collects information from Environment Canada weather computers and Noranda's own network of monitors placed strategically around the town.

If the system detects pollutants like sulphur dioxide exceeding the allowable limits, the smelter cuts back emissions by scaling down its production. "Based on the information we receive from Environment Canada, we predict the effects that the smelter's daily operations might have on the air around us. Our predictions are based on how the meteorological conditions will affect the spread of emissions." "My job is mostly done independently of others," says Luc. "It requires a lot of meteorological knowledge. And I have to be familiar with the software because much of my daily work is done on computers.

I also make use of my writing skills when I compile the information I have collected. And I use my presentation skills when I share the information with other plant employees." What does Luc enjoy most about his job? "The diversity. Although there is some routine involved in my daily activities, there are lots of fresh challenges too. I collect information, make predictions, make presentations and work on different cases with other professionals from the smelter."

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