Amateur Meteorology: A Fun and Educational Hobby
The Weather Affects us All
Weather is something that affects almost every aspect of our lives, if you are going to do anything outside you pretty much have to check on what the weather is going to be like. This is one of the reasons that people have taken such an interest in the subject. It is not however the only reason, the subject of meteorology is fascinating simply as an area of study because of its complexity, there are a huge number of factors that affect the weather.
(Photo Courtesy of NOAA)
While many people take an interest in meteorology most will not pursue it is a career, the math requirement for the degree tends to put most people off. You do not have to be a professional or have a university education to enjoy studying the weather as a hobby, there are many amateur meteorologists around the world who do it just for the fun and opportunity to learn that it presents.
How Do You Get Involved in Amateur Meteorology?
Observing the Weather
The most common way that people get started as amateur meteorologists is by observing the weather themselves. There are of course professionals who do this at proper weather stations, usually located at airports. It can still be interesting however to do it yourself.
When you are first starting out you will probably just want to record the basic weather parameters like the sky condition, temperature, dew point wind and pressure. You can do this at any time of the day that is convenient for you. However if you are serious about the subject you may want to learn about how to make a proper weather observation and start doing them on a regular schedule.
In order to make a proper observation you are going to need a way to record things like temperature, pressure and wind speed, a will allow you to record all of the parameters that normally appear in a weather observation. If you don't have a weather station however you can still make observations on things like sky condition and wind direction. good home weather station
Choosing a Home Weather Station
If you are serious enough about the weather to pursue amateur meteorology as a hobby you are going to need a way to collect weather data, a home weather station is the best way to do this.
A good quality station should be able to collect all of the standard weather parameters, temperature, dew point, wind, pressure and rain fall. ideally it should also allow you to download the data directly to your computer.
Below you will find some of the best options that are worth looking into further.
What to do With your Weather Observations
The most likely thing that you are going to do with your observations is to keep a record of them. There are lots of computer programs that you can use for this and if you have a good home weather station it should allow you to download the data directly to your computer. You can of course also keep your observations in a notebook if you prefer the old school way of doing things.
Once you have collected several months or even better years worth of observations you will start to notice weather patterns. These can be used to help you make forecasts if you choose to get more involved in learning about meteorology.
There is one other thing that you can do with your weather observations and that is to share them online. There are networks that collect weather observations from amateur meteorologists, these networks are important because the more observations we have the better the data and the better the forecasts that the professionals produce will be. There is software available that will allow you to connect your weather station directly to your PC so that you can upload the data to your website twenty four hours a day.
Taking your Hobby to the Next Level
If after getting your feet wet with some weather observing you decide that you enjoy the hobby you can take it to the next level by learning more about the theory of meteorology. It is of course a very complex subject with more and more being learned all the time. That being said it is one of the more accessible sciences for the amateur because it is possible to understand the basic theory without necessarily being able to do the math.
Once you start to learn a little bit about weather theory you can use that to start creating your own weather forecasts. Forecasting the weather is a challenging and at times frustrating endeavor so it will take considerable practice to get good at it, the challenge is one of the things that appeals to a lot of people.
Amateur meteorologists of today have access to so much more information than in the past because of the internet and this has greatly improved the accuracy of the forecasts that they make. You can know get weather charts, satellite pictures and even weather models online that you can use to help you with your forecasting. The National Weather Service, NOAA and aviation weather websites are all great sources for this information.
If you really want to get serious about meteorology as a hobby you can even try your hand at original research. There is still a lot that we don't know about the weather so there are plenty of research opportunities. You may not be able to handle the big, complicated areas like cloud dynamics but there are plenty of smaller questions that need to be answered that you can look into.
Great Meteorology Books
As you get more involved with your hobby you are going to want to learn more about meteorology and the theory behind it. The following books should give you a good grounding.
Making a Career of Meteorology
If you decide that you are interested enough in the weather you can choose to make it a career. Most of the jobs in the field are with the government but there are some private employers as well. In general you will need a degree in meteorology although a degree in physics or chemistry may be acceptable as well. In the later case you will likely need to do a one year post graduate diploma in meteorology.
Not everybody will be able to get the necessary degree, meteorology is a hard science that requires some pretty serious math high level math. This does not mean that you can't pursue a career in the field.
The military offer careers as weather technicians for example that cover a lot of what meteorologists do without the requirement for a degree. You will obviously have a more limited scope of practice but you will do many of the same things. All of the branches of the military have weather technicians but those in the Air Force have the most training and the widest scope of practice.
Another option to consider if the military is not for you is a career as a flight dispatcher. They are basically weather briefers for the airlines. There is of course more than meteorology involved in the job as you will have to have a good handle on airline operations as well but a big part of your job will be assessing the weather and passing that information on to pilots.