Green Jobs in Atmospheric Science - dummies

Green Jobs in Atmospheric Science

By Carol L. McClelland

If you are working on an eco-conscious career transition, don’t forget to include atmospheric science in your green job search. Atmospheric science is a key component of environmental science, and one of the first places to find experts on climate change. Meteorology and its focus on the relationship of the earth, its atmosphere, and life on the planet will certainly play a role in the green economy.

Two specialties within atmospheric science are critical to understanding global warming and its effects.

  • Climatologists study long-term climate variations by looking at past weather data and using complex computer models and datasets to project how various factors such as greenhouse gases, volcanic activity, and solar flares impact our climate. Climate data is used by architects, land use planners, and industries that are influenced by weather events such as agriculture and insurance companies.

  • Environmental meteorologists use their expertise to study and evaluate environmental problems, including climate change, air contaminants, greenhouse gas emissions, fresh water shortages, droughts, and ozone depletion. Environmental meteorologists may be called upon to conduct environmental assessments and prepare environmental impact reports on their findings.

Where atmospheric science is today

In a transition document for the new administration and Congress at the end of 2008, several earth-centric organizations noted that more than 75 percent of the world’s natural disasters are triggered in some way by weather events from hurricanes, flooding, and tornadoes; to fires, droughts, and severe winter storms. As the climate shifts due to global warming, weather-related disasters are likely to become more intense, cause far more damage, and cost more for recovery.

Furthermore, industries that are highly sensitive to weather and climate events contribute more than 25 percent of the U.S. gross national product. If these industries are damaged or taken offline temporarily, the entire economy will feel the effects.

Although atmospheric scientists and climatologists have been studying and tracking issues related to these natural disasters for several decades, budget cuts and reduced grant money over the years have hindered their ability to upgrade their systems, programs, and technology. Although large-scale modeling has provided broad-brush results, scientists have not had enough detailed information to assess the local and regional impact of weather-related phenomena.

Future trends in atmospheric science

Atmospheric scientists and climatologists should be on the front lines when it comes to research on global warming and climate change. Their knowledge, skills, and technology have played and will continue to play a critical role in our understanding of climate change and global warming. Research results are likely to provide insights to help us mitigate the effects of higher temperatures and changing climate patterns on the Earth.

To fulfill this mission, scientists are clear that they need support from the government in the following ways:

  • Scientists must have the equipment, both satellite and ground instruments, to observe conditions on the Earth. Funding is needed to bring the existing observation system up to current standards.

  • More computer power is needed to process data for research projects, predictions, and other applications.

  • Research and computer modeling projects must be undertaken at a much finer scale to provide regional results for decision makers.

  • Society as a whole must become more literate when it comes to climate issues and the forces that influence our planet. Education and training programs that promote climate literacy are critical.

  • Systems must be put in place to ensure that investments made toward these endeavors are well managed and serve the nation.

Sample jobs in atmospheric science

Below are some jobs you could consider, if a career in atmospheric science is calling your name

  • Basic and applied research: Atmospheric scientist, meteorologist, synoptic meteorologist, climatologist, physical meteorologist, research meteorologist, atmospheric measurements and instrumentation designer, manufacturer, technician

  • Forecasting: Broadcast meteorologist, weather analyst, operational meteorologist

  • Consulting: Environmental meteorologist, air quality analyst, air quality controller, forensic meteorologist, tech support for meteorological software, meteorology information services

  • Teaching: Teacher, professor, instructor, administrator