An obsession with the weather is a peculiarly British trait, research in 2015 suggested that the majority of the population in Britain have talked about the weather in the last 6 hours! But have you considered a career in meteorology, a sector offering a variety of fascinating and highly rewarding job roles?
The Met Office is the primary employer of meteorologists in the UK, they define meteorology as “the science of the atmosphere … embracing both weather and climate. It is concerned with the physical, dynamical and chemical state of the earth’s atmosphere (and those of the planets), and with the interactions between the earth’s atmosphere and the underlying surface.” The weather forecasts featured on TV and radio news bulletins are the very public face of the Met Office but behind this is a diverse variety of specialisms including for example, research science, scientific software, consulting, forecasting and observation.
What are the entry requirements?
Without wishing to state the obvious, a keen interest in the weather! Certain roles may have specific requirements but the Met Office typically recruit from STEM subject degrees. For scientific roles, problem-solving, analytical and numerical skills are undoubtedly very important requirements. As is the ability to work with other people, given the importance of team-work and developing relationships with clients in both the public and private sectors.
There are opportunities to gain insight and experience at the Met Office through the 3 and 12 month placement schemes . You may be an undergraduate with very relevant course content to demonstrate your interest and underpinning knowledge. But if not, and you are an engineer or mathematician for example, you may have the opportunity at your university to undertake modules from other degree disciplines and faculties that will enhance applications you may make. (The ‘challenges of climate change’ module for example, may be of interest to students at the University of Warwick). You could also look for opportunities to gain experience on campus at Warwick or in the community, volunteering on relevant projects.
What is the outlook for aspiring meteorologists?
It is undoubtedly a highly competitive sector. In addition to the academic requirements, your application will need to demonstrate passion and convincing evidence of your interest and enthusiasm. Research meteorologist and University of Warwick Physics graduate, Stuart Moore, describes how he developed his career in meteorology:
“After leaving Warwick I completed a PhD in the Meteorology department at the University of Reading. My PhD was in Physical Oceanography (looking at flow along irregular coastlines and how to properly represent this in numerical ocean forecast models). I joined the Met Office straight after the PhD as a Research Scientist working on the development and testing of the Unified Model – the model used to generate the Met Office weather forecasts. I also worked on a number of projects related to the Met Office’s commercial work, including the energy industry and renewable energy and wind forecasting in particular.
Whilst at the Met Office, I took a one year secondment to Wellington in New Zealand where I was helping a research institute out there, the National Institute of Atmospheric and Water Research (NIWA) to set up the Unified Model and its associated systems. I have now been working full-time at NIWA since early 2009 and continue to work on much the same modelling work (both scientific and technical developments) as at the Met Office. I also now do a lot more consultancy work for engineering and infrastructure firms in relation to extreme wind analysis around New Zealand, to help them comply with the design standards for tall buildings and the electricity transmission line network.
More recently I have gotten involved in dispersion modelling in relation to the volcanic ash, smoke and biological diseases risks (such as Foot and Mouth Disease) that New Zealand is susceptible to. As I result I now attend meetings and liaise with government departments as part of my work. I have also taken part in a number of damage surveys following natural hazards such as tornadoes and tropical cyclones in both New Zealand and Australia.
The general analytical and problem solving skills fostered during the Physics degree are used every day and, with few exceptions, most of the people I work with have all come from a Physics-degree background. The work is predominately desk/computer-bound but you get to ‘play’ on supercomputers and the programming (Fortran90, C, Python, Open MP, MPI and Unix scripting) that goes with that.”
Much like the UK climate, entry to this sector may be unpredictable and challenging…
If you are passionate about the weather however, meteorology could be an exciting career where you can use your STEM subject knowledge in a genuinely meaningful and rewarding way. If you would like to find out more about careers in this sector, the Royal Meteorological Society are hosting a students and early career scientists conference on July 5-6th at the University of York.