Making the weather more accessible

Life in the day of a meteorologist

on April 8, 2015

When I’m in a taxi, talking to a waitress or chatting with someone at the gym and I say that I’m a weather forecaster they always say how great that is, but when I say I have to work 12 hour night shifts, weekends and holidays they seem surprised, they always assume a weather forecast has an easy life presenting the weather, but that isn’t true. Being a meteorologist is great, I get to talk about the weather all day, which if you ask my family and friends, I often do too much, but it is also exhausting and anti-social.

A meteorologist can be defined as a person “who uses scientific principles to explain, understand, observe, or forecast the earth’s atmospheric phenomena and/or how the atmosphere affects the earth and life on the planet” (American Meteorological Society 2015). Meteorologists tend to work more hours during the winter months than summer months as there are more hazards in the winter. For example during the winter snow, ice and frosts are more likely and road surface temperatures fall below zero. In the summer and winter there can be heavy rain, thunderstorms and strong winds. There is only one main hazard that only occurs during the summer months and that is high temperatures. This means that meteorologists can work more than 50 hours in one week during the winter, but only work 15 in the summer.


At MeteoGroup, where I work, shifts normally range between 7.5 and 12 hours, but night shifts are always 12 hours, from 7pm to 7am or 8pm to 8am. Usually a forecaster works 7-8 night shifts a month in the winter and 2-3 in the summer. Luckily I move into the Meteorological Services Analyst team during the summer so I do not have to work night shifts in the summer. The reason I am able to move away from forecasting during the summer is because there are fewer forecasting shifts during the summer as the weather is not as hazardous. In the winter, during the day there will be between 10-11 forecasters on shift and at night 3-4, whereas in the summer there will be 5-6 forecasters on shift during the day and 2 overnight.

At the start of any shift, whether day or night, the forecasters will compare the latest weather models, as well as check the latest observations, satellite image and radar. Additionally, they will receive a handover from the previous shift so they are aware of any issues as well as what is expected to happen weather wise. During a day shift the forecasters write many different forecasters whether it be for media clients, roads companies or energy companies. However, they will also answer phone calls from clients as well as speaking to journalists and posting on social media and the WeatherCast website. Overnight, a forecaster will monitor the evolving weather conditions closely and notify the clients of any changes to the forecast, as well as writing and sending further weather forecasts.

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Weather charts used on a daily basis

So there you have it, a weather forecaster’s life isn’t easy as it looks on the TV, in fact many of us do not appear on the TV, but work long hours making sure the roads are gritted, trains run on time and that the weather’s in the newspaper when you read it. The weather never stops, not even for bank holidays, so meteorologists work 365 days a week, 24/7.

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