Meteorology offers a ­variety of career paths

For students with math, science and computer skills, a career in meteorology could prove both challenging and rewarding.

Meteorology is the science of the atmosphere. It takes its name from the Greek word “meteoron,” meaning events in the sky.

The ancient Greeks understood that weather affected farmers and sailors. We now know that short- and long-term weather changes greatly impact our environment and society.

Education for meteorologists has traditionally included course work in physics, chemistry and mathematics. Knowledge of statistics has become increasingly more important as observational databases have grown.

Strong computer-related skills, like programming and data base management, have become a necessity. For decades, meteorologists have used complex dynamic weather forecast models to predict day-to-day weather patterns. They need advanced computer skills not only for future model development, but also for graphical presentation of modeled and observed data.

Meteorologists make up the front line of scientists studying climate change. They have developed global climate models to estimate temperature, rainfall and sea level rise patterns out to the end of the century. Programming challenges in the near future include statistical and dynamic downscaling of global model output to local levels.

I believe it is important for any student to find an internship while still in school. Employers value good grades, but real world work experience will open many doors.

Government and university research programs are a leading source of careers in meteorology. The National Weather Service, which is part of the Department of Commerce, employs degreed meteorologists to provide local weather forecasts and weather safety messages to the public.

There are also job opportunities in the private sector. For example, meteorological consulting firms offer forecast services for railroad and trucking companies as well as sporting events. Meteorologists also consult to commodities traders concerned about the effects of weather on crop production and prices.

The aviation, shipping and utility industries often have in-house meteorological staffs. Airlines and ocean shipping companies use weather forecasts to safely and economically route airplanes and cargo vessels. Utilities use temperature forecasts to estimate electric and gas demand and to predict storm-related outages.

Forensic meteorology is another interesting branch. These professionals provide expert testimony by reconstructing conditions during a weather event that has resulted in court proceedings. Examples include weather-related auto accidents, train derailments and wildfires.

Students with math, physics and computer science backgrounds may want to take a look at the field of atmospheric science. Several California universities offer undergraduate and graduate degrees in meteorology, including San Jose State, UCLA and UC Davis.

For more information on careers in meteorology, check out the American Meteorology Society’s website at