Meteorologist

Meteorologists study the weather and atmosphere and use scientific research and mathematical models to predict patterns and forecast changes in weather conditions. This involves investigating and researching into the physical nature of the laws governing air movement, pressure and temperature changes to determine the causes which bring about the various atmospheric conditions.

Today meteorologists play a vital role by studying the causes and effects of climate change, raising awareness and advising others on global environmental issues. Work activities typically fall into two main areas: Forecasting and Research.

Forecasting:
Meteorologists are probably best known as weather forecasters, although this is just one area of the job. Strictly speaking though, a weather forecaster is solely involved in producing weather forecasts. Met Éireann staff in the forecasting offices are all fully trained meteorologists, with the capacity to become involved in the other areas of the service such as climatology and research.

Research:
Meteorologists are also involved in research which can include research into climatology, marine meteorology, the development of new forecasting models and techniques, research use of weather satellite and radar data, development of computer graphics and plotting systems, developing and providing training for new recruits and environmental monitoring.

In addition, staff at Met Eireann may have to deal with legal and insurance queries by being an expert witness in court cases testifying as to the weather condition at time and place of accidents.

Job description

Work activities

In weather forecasting, typical work activities involve:

  • Using sophisticated computer systems to collate the flow of data from satellite images, radar, remote sensors and weather stations all over the world.
  • Using physical and mathematical models to analyse and interpret the results to make short- and long-range weather forecasts.
  • Presenting weather information to a wide range of communities, including aviation, shipping, the utilities, the armed forces, farmers, the insurance industry, the emergency services and the general public.
  • Liaising with colleagues and clients from around the country and worldwide.

In research, typical work activities include:

  • Studying air flow, clouds and precipitation, and climate change.
  • Developing mathematical representations to help predict atmospheric processes and improve the accuracy of forecasts.
  • Monitoring and predicting climate change, pollution, ozone depletion and their effects on the global environment.
  • Researching seasonal forecasting, ocean forecasting and climate prediction.
  • Presenting findings to colleagues, governments and policy makers.

Work conditions

Travel: not a normal part of the working day but can involve attendance at court cases, or field trips to gather data.
Working hours: rotating shifts to provide continuous cover is common for forecasters including weekends, evenings and public holidays. Researchers are more likely to work regular office hours, Monday–Friday.
Location: can involve remote locations.
Opportunities for self-employment: unlikely except for those with extensive experience who may work as consultants.

Typical employers

Met Éireann and the Department of the Environment are core employers in this area. There are also opportunities in industry, agriculture and teaching.

In the UK the Met Office and the Royal Meteorological Society are the main employers, though opportunities also exist in areas like insurance, offshore oil companies, and private forecasting and consultancy firms.

Career development

Meteorologists can specialise in different areas of research or stay in the forecasting branch. Radio and TV broadcasting are popular areas though for the latter the team is selected in conjunction with RTÉ.

While a few meteorologists appear on television as weather forecasters, most of this work in the UK is carried out by professional broadcasters after a short training course at the Met Office College.

Entry requirements and training

Specific degree subjects required

Republic of Ireland: Recognised first or good second class honours degree in one of the following or equivalent subjects: mathematical physics, mathematics, meteorology and physics.

Northern Ireland and UK: The Met Office offers a comprehensive training programme for those with a suitable degree and a proven interest in the weather. Degree subjects can include: meteorology, electronics, oceanography, physics, mathematics, environmental sciences, GIS and geography.

Postgraduate study

A pre-entry postgraduate qualification is not a requirement.

A Masters course in Meteorology is available at the UCD Meteorology & Climate Centre

Training

Met Éireann provides metrological training to new entrants. A six months training period is spent in the British Met Office and Met Éireann will support staff who wish to increase their qualifications.

The Met Office in the UK has its own college in Exeter, providing training courses for new entrants and for continuing professional development.

Meteorologists in the UK are encouraged to pursue the Royal Meteorologist Chartered Meteorologist Accreditation Scheme (CMets) - a chartered accreditation, identical in concept and scope to chartered accreditation in other professions such as chartered accountant. Continuing professional development is provided by the Royal Meteorological Society and maintenance of this is actively monitored by the Society for all CMets.

Tips for applications

Join the Irish Meteorological Society and/or Royal Meteorological Society.

Skills and qualities

  • An enquiring mind with proven ability in maths and physics.
  • Accuracy and attention to detail with a methodical approach to work and ability to plan research projects.
  • Analytical mind and the ability to evaluate complex material.
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills.
  • Ability to explain complex issues to people who may not have technical knowledge.
  • Excellent IT skills.
  • Enjoy working as an individual, as well as being part of a social network that requires liaising and working with colleagues from around the world.