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MeteorologistsThe meteorologists "predict the weather" by looking at satellite pictures of the earth and atmosphere. They really are not predicting, just telling you what the picture says.
They use the data on wind patterns and past history to make their predictions. Barometric pressure is a key indicator. Putting it all together allows them to make an educated guess as to what is going to occur next.  Computer ModelsMost forecasting today is based on mathematical models. In this sense, a "model" is a very complex computer program that starts from the current conditions and uses mathematical representations of the atmosphere to make a forward prediction of the state of the atmosphere. Two centers that specialize in this form of prediction are the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Prediction and the European Center for Medium-range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF). Both develop models and provide forecasts for the near future (about ten days.)
Crucial to these forecasts is good initialization of the model, that is letting the computer know what the state of the atmosphere is now, so it can make an accurate prediction of the future. To achieve this, real time measurements are critical, which requires dense surface networks, balloon measurements, sea buoys, and satellite observations.
Computer models don't predict everything, so a good human forecaster with a well-developed intuitive sense of the behavior of the atmosphere is still a critical factor in short term forecasting, say less than 36 hours. Real time observers are also critical to monitoring immediate dangerous events like severe storms.

 Training and Education

Meteorologists require at least a B.S. in meteorology/atmospheric science or something very similar. The coursework is very heavy in math and physics. Specifically, there are typically a couple semesters of calculus-based physics before you can proceed to one of the fundamental courses, thermodynamics. After that, you'll have to take about a year of atmospheric dynamics, which is essentially fluid dynamics of the atmosphere. You'll also take a physical meteorology course which involves the microphysics of clouds/precipitation as well as radiation. Everyone also takes some forecasting classes, obviously more if that is your intention. And of course, there is the essential remote sensing course which covers satellites and radar. Some programs require at least 1 course of differential equations, some don't; it's good to have either way. Finally, and especially these days, it's great to have some computer classes such as Linux, C++, FORTRAN (yes, we really do still use it, and are the last ones on earth who do!), and various programs specific to meteorology.

It's not for the weak, and a passion for the subject isn't enough to get you through. You will have to take these courses whether you go to a top school like Cornell/Penn State/Oklahoma, or a smaller much less selective school.


There are relatively limited numbers of jobs with government organizations when you get out of school, such as the National Weather Service in the United States. Many graduates are hired in the private sector, which includes the Weather Channel and Accuweather, but also very small companies that forecast for marine interests, aviation, energy, and other specific clients. Recent graduates who intend to be TV meteorologists often find jobs in very small markets, maybe helping out with other things and beginning to get air time on weekends. I.e., no one goes straight to NBC in New York to do the weather. Pay is usually pretty low at first - it varies too much regionally to give numbers - but it's respectable after enough time.
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