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The work of a Research Meteorologist ...
17 November 2017

Research Scientist, Emily

What does a typical day at work involve?

As a research scientist at Met Éireann there is no such thing as a typical day as the work that I do constantly evolves. I work as a numerical weather prediction modeller; a job that involves making improvements to the HARMONIE-AROME model, which we use for short-range weather forecasting.

Scientists from 26 countries around Europe and North Africa are constantly developing and improving this model to ensure that the forecasts it produces improve over time. HARMONIE-AROME is a large mathematical model, mostly written in Fortran computer code. Because of the complexity of the model, the equations in it cannot be quickly solved at every geographical location. Because it is necessary to have a model that can run fast enough to produce forecasts within a usable time frame, Met Éireann runs the model for a domain that includes Ireland, the UK and part of Northern France. This domain is represented by a mesh of grid boxes similar to that shown in the figure below, with the mathematical calculations computed at each grid point.

Figure: Typical weather model grid representation (from Wikipedia)

In particular, I work on the development of physical processes included in the model such as the representation of solar radiation, clouds, glaciers and more recently soil processes. I work with scientists from all around Europe and closely with researchers from Finland, Denmark, Estonia and the Czech Republic. A typical day involves writing computer code, analysing data, writing scientific papers, preparing or travelling to scientific meetings and conferences and supervising the odd student project here and there.

What other jobs have you previously done in the field of meteorology?

Prior to my current position, I spent 2 years working as an operational weather forecaster and 5 years as climate change scientist. The latter involved managing all aspects of climate projections run by Met Éireann using the EC-Earth earth system model. These projections fed into the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) AR5 climate report. I have also recently been involved in a multi-decade climate reanalysis for Ireland called MÉRA which has uses in research, planning, agriculture, the renewable energy sector and more.

How did you become a meteorologist?

I studied Experimental Physics and Chemistry, followed by a Ph.D. in Submillimetre Astronomy, a masters in Meteorology and a diploma in statistics – safe to say that I enjoy maths and science! These degrees have been invaluable preparation for my current role because the problem solving and computer programming skills that I developed during these courses are the most important attributes needed to carry out my scientific work.

What is your favourite part part about your work?

There are many aspects of my job that I enjoy. In particular, I really like working as part of a European team of experts and the fact that my job is highly varied, interesting and a topic discussed by almost everyone on the planet. I am very interested in science communication and outreach. I have been secretary of the Irish Meteorological Society, part of the Institute of Physics scientific committee and am currently involved with the European Meteorological Society.

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