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The work of a Weather Forecaster ...
14 November 2017

Weather Forecaster, Liz

 

I work as a weather forecaster with Met Éireann and am responsible for issuing public and marine weather forecasts for Ireland. I’ve been in this role for a little over a year. Before this, I worked for an energy company in the UK for about 2 years helping them to forecast their electricity and gas demands which is primarily driven by the weather. For example, if it’s cold and wet, most people tend to stay indoors and turn on the heat and use lights and electrical appliances a bit more. Knowing this in advance, allows the energy company to plan and make sure they have a sufficient supply to keep the lights on. Before working in the UK, I worked for the Meteorological Service in New Zealand for about 5 years. It was there that I first trained to become a forecaster receiving my Meteorologist Certification as per the World Meteorological Organisation requirements. The weather in New Zealand is quite unrivalled in its diversity and complexity and they tend to get a lot of, what would be termed “extreme weather events”. Forecasting in that environment was challenging but also hugely rewarding and I learned a great deal and saw a wide variety of weather, all with the weather systems rotating the opposite way around and upsidedown to the way they do in the northern hemisphere!

A typical day at work

I work on a shift roster as part of the forecast team at Met Éireann. There are always at least two meteorologists on the forecast desk 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The weather doesn’t stop and neither do we. When I arrive for my duty, the first thing I do is get a briefing from those working the previous shift. The meteorologist who is coming off duty relates the salient points of the forecast – what the meteorological situation is, what the expected forecast is, how the numerical weather prediction models are handling the situation and whether there are any warnings out or if any may be warranted in the next few hours. I then settle into my tasks by opening preferred guidance. This will vary depending on the weather, but it will usually be a mix of observations (satellite, radar, ground-based and upper air observations) and numerical weather predicting models with varying degrees of resolution and displaying multiple weather parameters (pressure, wet bulb potential temperatures, winds at varying levels in the atmosphere, forecast precipitation). Deterministic models are generally used for days 1 to 2 forecasts, while ensemble models become more important for forecasting further ahead as they provide a better idea of the uncertainty in the model forecast. Once I have looked at all of the data and made some judgements on it, I set about writing forecasts. My role is operational so I work to deadlines. I must have certain forecasts completed by a certain time, so I need to make decisions quickly and translate the complex meteorological information, including the certainty or uncertainty in that information, to a short and easy to understand description. Some days are busier than others. Often there will be phone-calls from local radio stations and journalists asking weather related questions, as well as niche customers wanting to know the probability of this or that happening on any particular day. As well as warnings that go out on the website, we also send warnings to customers via email and text. These customers include local authorities, the AA and the ESB among many others. As well as writing the forecast, I also write scripts for both television and radio. RTÉ television presenters use scripts, prepared by meteorologists, for their morning and lunchtime broadcasts - but the broadcasts after 6pm and 9pm news bulletins are always presented by professional meteorologists. 

My favourite part of the job

I’m a scientist and weather enthusiast at heart and it never ceases to amaze me what a wondrous thing it is to be able to use physics and maths to approximate what will happen outside our windows in the future. It’s the instant gratification of seeing your forecast happen right there in front of you. Of course, it doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does it’s an amazing feeling! It’s also the feeling of being part of a team - when you work really hard together on something like a severe weather warning and it ends up doing exactly what it was meant to do – protect life and property.

What did I study?

I always loved Maths at school. I studied Natural Sciences in Trinity College Dublin (specialising in Chemistry) and I did a Masters in Meteorology at UCD.

 
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