When most people hear the word meteorologist, the first image that comes to mind is probably one of the person on television who delivers the daily forecast. While television jobs may be the most well known private-sector career choice for a meteorologist, it certainly isn’t the only one. Because weather impacts people and businesses, there are several industries outside of television that benefit from getting accurate forecasts, and go so far as to hire their own meteorologists.
The energy industry is one of them. Offshore oil companies need critical weather information when it comes to dangerous storms such as hurricanes, that can affect their crews and equipment. The price you pay at the pump can skyrocket when storms are forecast to impact coastal refineries or offshore rigs. Gas and electric companies use meteorologists to help them balance supply and demand, increasing efficiency. When power companies know a heat wave is forecast, they can prepare in advance to make sure enough juice is flowing to keep people’s air conditioners on. Companies that want to profit from wind energy may consult with meteorologists to determine prevailing wind speed and direction, in order to scout out the best location and positioning of wind turbines.
The transportation industry is another area where meteorologists can find jobs. The scheduling of road construction, the hiring of snow plow operators, and the knowledge of how much de-icer to purchase all rest on what mother nature has coming. Accurate forecasts mean that city/county governments can keep roads safe for travelers without wasting resources.
Would you believe companies like Federal Express hire meteorologists? When packages just “have” to get delivered somewhere, it makes sense not to send your drivers through severe thunderstorms or winter snow storms, when the timing or route could be customized to avoid such weather hazards.
Commodities traders hire meteorologists to help them make better investment decisions. Having advance information about a potential freeze in the orange producing state of Florida, or potential crop damaging storms in the Midwest can help such investors increase their profits.
One of the most interesting areas a meteorologist can work in, is in forensics. Meteorologists may be asked to give expert witness testimony in insurance cases where someone is claiming storm damage, in cases involving auto accidents where weather may have been a factor, and even in murder cases where time of death needs to be determined based on decomposition of a body – a process which is affected by weather conditions.
One of the most extreme examples of a weather related job, is the job of storm chase tour guide. Believe it or not, there are some meteorologists (and even some storm chase hobbyist without any formal meteorology schooling) who will take people on a guided hunt for tornadoes and other severe storms across tornado alley.! How about that for your next family vacation?
One final example, though I definitely did not cover them all, is my job of writing columns about weather for the Spokesman-Review. Though not quite the adrenaline rush that storm chasing brings, or full of the mystery that is forensics, it is satisfying work, especially when I get feedback from readers like you letting me know that you are learning something and enjoy reading the columns.
Local journalism is essential.
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