Meteorology: How To Make A Living Off The Weather

Coming up with the correct forecast about cyclones like Gaja, or decoding the reasons behind cloudy summers, rainless monsoons and warm winters is what makes meteorology an exciting career option.

By Kannalmozhi Kabilan

Meteorology: How To Make A Living Off The Weather

The torrential rain and devastating floods brought on by Cyclone Gaja has caused widespread damage in Tamil Nadu. However, a large-scale loss of lives was averted as weathermen began following Gaja and passing on updates to the public. 

Time and again, meteorologists have correctly predicted the weather and saved the nation from incurring immense losses, which makes them seem like superheroes.

Meteorology is an unexplored area of study when it comes to popular media and modern cultural reference. However, it is a downright fascinating field once you get to know more about it.

Temperature, vapour and air pressure, their interaction with each other and the Earth’s surface, and their patterns and routine, affect every aspect of climate and weather conditions. Meteorology is the study of these phenomena and their effect on regional and global climatic models.

Specialists in the field of meteorology are called meteorologists or climatologists. A career in this field involves a study and research of the Earth’s atmosphere, the resultant weather patterns and climatic systems.

Nowadays, many children have begun to show a keen interest in following the weather. And, if your child is one of them, you can direct her new-found interest towards taking up a career in meteorology. But, do you know how to do that?

Getting started

“Everyone should be weather-wise,” says ‘Rain Man’ S R Ramanan, Director of Cyclone Warning Centre, Chennai. But, unlike a few other fields, say photography or poetry, the telltale signs of interest and passion are not all that easy to spot when it comes to a career in meteorology.

There are no pre-determined indicators that’ll help you guide your child in the right direction. Your child’s interest would largely stem from what he’s introduced to in his growing years.

Awareness of the basics of weather, the everyday business of sunshine and rain, the not-so-everyday business of climatic change and weather anomalies could steer your child into the field of meteorology, which otherwise doesn’t get its share of the spotlight.

The first steps

What to study

A strong aptitude for physics, chemistry, mathematics and technology is essential for a career in meteorology. “Any engineering degree would do,” says Ramanan. But, a majority of professionals in the field hold at least a Bachelor’s in Meteorology. A Bachelor’s in Engineering, Physics, Chemistry or Maths, followed by a Master’s or a Doctoral program in Meteorology would also be ideal. Some of the sought-after programmes in the field are:

  • M Sc Meteorology
  • M Sc Agricultural Meteorology
  • Diploma in Meteorology and Atmospheric Sciences
  • Ph D Atmospheric Science and Astrophysics
  • M Tech Atmospheric Science
  • M Sc Satellite Meteorology and Weather Informatics
  • Ph D Earth and Atmospheric Science

Where to study?

Meteorological courses are offered only in a few colleges in the country. The most-reputed universities in the field are:

  • Andhra University, Vishakhapatnam
  • Cochin University of Science and Technology, Kochi
  • Shivaji University, Kolhapur

These universities have a strong postgraduate programme in meteorology. The Indian Institutes of Technology of Delhi, Bengaluru and Kharagpur offer select courses and research programmes in meteorology and engineering sciences. Some of the other universities that offer related courses in the country are:

  • University of Pune
  • Centre for Earth Atmosphere and Weather Modification Technologies, Hyderabad
  • Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana
  • Agro Climate Research Centre, Coimbatore
  • GB Pant University of Agriculture and Technology, Pantnagar
  • Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences, Nainital

Also, graduate schools in countries like the USA, Canada, the UK and Singapore offer a wider range of courses to choose from.

Opportunities aplenty

Meteorology is a vast and diverse field that offers scope for incredible job opportunities in associated fields as well. With astonishing advancements in technology and the increasing incidence of environmental and climatic issues, the responsibilities of a meteorologist has also increased.

Weather broadcasting stations, aviation centres, military services, environmental agencies, meteorological institutes, climate research centres, the air force, space application centres, industrial weather research centres, global weather centres, radio and television studios are some of the organisations that employ meteorologists. Oil and gas exploration firms and hydroelectric plants too have opportunities for meteorologists.

“In India, the Indian Meteorological Department is the largest employer of meteorologists,” says Ramanan. Besides that, the National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting, the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, the Indian Space Research Organisation, the Indian Air Force, the National Remote Sensing Agency and the Defence Research and Development Organisation are other government bodies that employ meteorology graduates. Ramanan says, “Government institutes recruit through the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) exams. To build a career in meteorology, that is the starting point.”

In recent years, opportunities for meteorologists have started coming up in the private sector too. Skymet Weather Services, established in 2003, is India’s first private sector participant in the field of weather services. With large funding from renowned venture capitalists, Skymet is bracing for exciting times ahead.

Specialisations to pursue

Meteorology is a vast field of study with several specialised areas of expertise. Here are a few branches of meteorology that your child can choose from and specialise in:

Operational meteorology: Weather forecast is the primary function of operational meteorologists. They study weather conditions and apply mathematical and scientific techniques to come up with weather forecasts.

Physical meteorology: It involves the study of the physical and chemical properties of the atmosphere. Physical meteorologists observe the characteristics of light, sound and energy in the atmosphere. This field contributes vastly to our knowledge of energy management and conservation.

Synoptic meteorology: This deals with the study of large-scale weather systems – the lows and highs in air pressure, cyclone systems, the impact of large volcanic eruptions and so on. Synoptic meteorologists also help in developing new tools and technology for weather forecasting.

Hydrometeorology: This branch of meteorology studies the transfer of energy between the Earth’s atmosphere and its surface. Monitoring hydrologic cycles and their effects on climate systems are part of a hydrometeorologist’s job.

Environmental meteorology: This involves studying the effects of atmospheric conditions on the earth’s environment. Parameters like global warming, greenhouse emissions and so on are monitored by environmental meteorologists.

Agrometeorology: Agriculture meteorologists study the weather and climate patterns in conjunction with agricultural needs. They use the information for developing a holistic approach to agriculture, enhancing crop cultivation, increasing production and so on.

Reaching the summit

A career in meteorology has its own set of trials and challenges. In order to pursue a career that’s rewarding and satisfying, being equipped with a select set of skills and qualities is helpful. Strong mathematical skills are essential, considering a vast part of meteorology is applied mathematics. Problem-solving skills are an important pre-requisite too. Ramanan says, “One has to stay updated with the current information and trends. This is true for any field. One should be aware of the latest advancements and be able to apply it in everyday work. Communication skills are important too. One should be able to convey relevant information in the simplest of terms, especially while communicating directly with the public or media. It is one thing to be a brilliant meteorologist but something else to be good with the media.” Analytical skills would be a good complement.

Ramanan sums it up by adding, “It is important to be humble. The ‘I know everything’ attitude does not help. One must be open to learn constantly, and understand that nature is a good teacher.”

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