Why a Weatherman?

28 April 2010

I get this question a lot. Usually right after somebody asks me what I do for a living or what I studied at university. I catches most people by surprise that instead of Computer Science or Bowling, that I majored in Meteorology.

As you can see from above (that is a picture of my office currently) – the life of a meteorologist the not all the crazy antics that you see on your local news or the Discovery(tm) Channel. ?Sadly, most of it is spent sitting behind a computer screen… or two, for hours and hours. ?That is not saying that I have not gone tornado chasing many times in my life, and if there is exciting weather my entire work will take anĀ extended break?to go watch, but it can be kinda monotonous (especially during the summer – ahh the truth why I hate summer comes out! – minus severe season).

So when did this all start, what drove me to decide to look up at the sky (or at my computer screen) for a living. ?Well, it was sometime back when I was about 3 or 4 according to my mother. ?I really don’t remember the details, but she tells me that I would issue ‘weather alerts’ for all the other kids on my block so we could save our chalk drawings or cancel our sports games.Doesn’t surprise me at all, I still do that!

What I do remember is the large thunderstorms, hail, blizzards, and exciting weather I grew up dealing with in Colorado. ?I think at that point I decided that weather was probably my #1 hobby. Over the years, not too much changed. ?When I got my drivers licence I upgraded from chasing weather on my bike to a real car. I changed from begging my parents to drive at the thunderstorm to driving my parents car full speed at the thunderstorm myself.

Everything then changed my junior year of high school when I began applying for university. Instead of everyone else who was wondering where their friends or boyfriends were going, or trying to get into the top Ivy Leauge school, I was looking entirely for the top meteorology programmes. ?I quickly learned that some of the top programmes were at school that nobody really had near the tops of their lists. ?Schools such as the University of Oklahoma, University of Utah, University of Washington, and many many more.

In the end, I decided to apply to my 3 favourite schools in the western United States and Canada (I am not much of a fan of the east coast minus for visiting on holiday). ?They were the University of Washington in Seattle, the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, and the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. First I was not accepted to the University of Washington, while I was disappointed, they were the snobbiest of the schools and the professors in the department did not even want to talk to me. ?Second, the University of Utah accepted me and I went in visited. ?While the prospects of living in SLC were bleh, I immediatley fell in love with the school. ?Finally, I got an acceptance letter the University of British Columbia, along with the estimated cost to attend… eek! At that point, I was headed to Utah.

To sum up four crazy years of university I learned three very important things. 1) Have fun, real life starts soon. 2) Learn a skill and leverage it, lots. 3) GPA mean nothing (unless you are interested in grad school?scratch that, my 2.8 + work experience still got me into grad school).

Also, nothing was better academically for my programme than my senior year in forecasting class. ?Every day we had 50 minutes to forecast 20 different criterion for SLC and a random city which our capstone (senior project) grade was based on. An A meant you beat the professor, a B meant you beat the class average, a C meant you beat what the computer model guessed, and you failed if you could not beat the computer. Of course, I got an A.

By this point in my life I had also scored an internship at the National Weather Service office in Salt Lake City. ?Here, I found out that all the computer skills that I picked up along the way not only were great in exchange for homework, but also were a great job skill. ?And it panned out even better when I was awarded a full-time position when I graduated last May. ?I was proud to say that of the 6 people in the Meteorology graduating class (3rd largest in the country) that I was the worst person academically, had the most fun, and the only one with a job.

A year into my current job, its become a monotonous government job, but I am surrounded every day by co-workers that will, at a moments, notice steal the work car with me just so we can see the thunderstorm out by the airport. ?And while my computer skills sometime trump my meteorology tasks, its still one of my largest loves.

23 years into my life I still believe I have one of the most fun and interesting hobbies available in this world – a weather guy.