The Future of Meteorology

15   Dec ,  2011 | 14
comments

The Future of Meteorology still looks bright to me.  Even though the weather job market is tough right now, I believe employers in meteorology will hire again.  And I feel most of the jobs will come from a few specific sectors in meteorology.  I believe the future of meteorology will lie in 3 core areas:

1) Weather Modeling (risk, renewable energy, and resolution)

2) Weather Derivatives and Insurance (hedging weather risk)

3) Private Weather Forecasting/Consulting for Corporations  (being warned ahead of time)

As many of you know, 2011 is officially the worst year for weather damage in the US with 12 separate billion dollar weather disasters.   You can read the full article in the Washington Post, here.  NOAA also estimates that a third of our GDP utilizes weather data in some capacity for their operations and/or risk management.

2011 has definitely been a wake up call for many corporations, cities, utilities, and other business entities to take severe weather more seriously and better model it in their overall risk portfolio.   So let me get into why I feel the 3 areas I listed above will be the future of meteorology.   Let’s start with weather modeling.

1) Weather Modeling:  I believe employers will continue to hire in areas of catastrophe risk modeling, weather modeling for the renewable space, and higher resolution modeling.  Insurance companies and risk management companies continue to hire catastrophe risk modelers to assess weather risk for clients and government agencies worldwide.  One of the top risk management companies, RMS, does hire meteorologists for severe weather modeling.   Companies in all sorts of industries need to understand how weather can affect their business operations.

As the renewable sector continues to grow (and as long as Congress keeps providing major tax breaks for renewable energy companies), there will continue to be a demand for higher resolution weather modeling for the renewable space.  I talked about this in my previous post about whether “computer models would take away wind meteorologist jobs

According to a paper Marquis, the more precise and accurate the weather models are, power can be dispatched more efficiently from cities and utilities resulting in 1-4 billion dollars annually in savings overall.   (ie generators will generate how much is required and not overuse)

2) Weather Derivatives and Insurance:  I will be talking about Weather Derivatives and Insurance in depth in a separate post, but I’ll give you a brief introduction to it here.   Bottom line, governments and corporations can hedge their weather risk in two ways:  1) Weather Insurance  and 2) Weather Derivatives.    I think Investopedia defines these terms the best and gives an excellent example.   Investopedia says, “weather derivatives cover low risk, high-probability events, while weather insurance typically covers high risk, low probability events.

For example, “a company might use a weather derivative to hedge against a winter that forecasters think will be 5° F warmer than the historical average (a low-risk, high-probability event). In this case, the company knows its revenues would be affected by that kind of weather. But the same company would most likely purchase an insurance policy for protection against damages caused by a flood or hurricane (high-risk, low-probability events). “  (Source: Investopedia)

If you are a business whose operations and revenues are affected by the weather, it’s highly recommended you have one (or both) of these in place.   I’ll discuss this in more detail soon and also point out how meteorologists may come into play in these sectors.

And last but not least…

3) Private Weather Forecasting/Consulting:  As cities, states, utilities, companies, individuals, etc continue to realize that weather can be a major impact on operations and hence their revenue, there will continue to be a demand for weather forecasting to help warn them in advance of adverse weather.

There is a great article from Inc. that came out earlier this year about this very subject.   Have a look when you have a chance, here.

As you may have noted from the article, many large corporations are hiring meteorologists (or private weather consulting companies/vendors).  I think private weather forecasting will continue to be an area in meteorology where there will be substantial growth in the future.   Large weather vendors should have a bright future ahead.

Where do I see limited growth?  Unfortunately, I believe like there will be further consolidation in the TV markets, budget cutbacks at various government agencies (that employ meteorologists) due to our debt issue, and weaker growth in most operational weather sectors outside of energy meteorology.  I believe energy meteorology will continue to see growth (both in the renewable sector) and on the energy trading floor.  I’ll definitely discuss my reasons for this in future posts.

Bottom line, there is a bright future in meteorology but I think it’s geared towards weather risk, private forecasting, and the weather modeling side of the field.    The more hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, floods, and other severe weather phenomenon that continue to impact our lives (and private company operations), it will continue be a wake up call for corporations and governments.   2011 should be a stark reminder that Mother Nature is a serious business and meteorologists can provide significant value to their bottom line.

Do you agree?  Where do you see the future of meteorology?  (Photo credit:  celebritycartoons.net)

Posted by AJ on December 15, 2011

  • Meteorologist/Forecaster

    I generally agree, but I don’t think this is really much different than it has been the past 10 years, really. Government jobs in meteorology are pretty limited with the private weather sector and energy seeming to be the significant percentage of hiring. I am not convinced private weather will be seeing large, growth, however, as many of their contracts are also funded via the government and/or state level. Skilled meteorologists can add significant benefit to forecasts, but budget issues may push private weather companies to push for more automation to deal with budget constraints. I think more than ever graduating meteorologists need to show they can add skill to the forecast. Unfortunately I see too many “load and go” meteorologists these days.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for your input Meteorologist/Forecaster. I’m curious…what do you mean by “load and go” meteorologists? I think you’re right in that we’ve seen energy hiring spike in the last 10 years…but my point is I think a lot more “corporations” will start getting involved in hiring private meteorologists or weather vendors for their operational needs as severe weather continues to hit their operations.

      So perhaps we’ve seen this hiring trend in last 10 years…but in 2000-2005 we didn’t have this skyrocketing debt issue…and that will unfortunately take a greater toll on hiring additional government meteorologists.

  • John van Boxel

    Hi AJ,
    It is not the main issue, but if you state that 2011 is the worst year for weather damage in the US with 12 billion $US in damage, you probably forget 2005, when Katrina alone caused a damage 125 billion $US in the US (http://www.usatoday.com/money/economy/2005-09-09-katrina-damage_x.htm) and that does not even include the damage from hurricanes Rita and Wilma in the same year.
    John

    • John van Boxel

      For those who want to see the link (that was cut of by Linkedin) it is:
      http://www.usatoday.com/ money/ economy/ 2005-09-09-katrina-damage_x.htm
      (remove the spaces I inserted)

  • Anonymous

    Hi John, actually my earlier statement was not communicated properly. What I meant was 2011 was the worst year for weather damage with 12 separate billion dollar disasters…not $12B. Thanks for pointing this out and I’ve corrected it.

  • Dknollhoff

    What is your growth assessment of meteorologists within the environmental consulting sector?

    • Anonymous

      I think environmental consulting is fairly broad so it’s hard to say what particular aspect of it will be in a growth stage. My thought is those companies that are participating in giving their environmental consulting expertise to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the world will do well. Whether one believes in Global Climate change or not (not the focus here), countries around the world (and even many states in the US) are taking major steps to reduce emissions, especially in Europe.

      I think states and (countries) will continue to give more incentives to allow environmental consultants to come in and help reduce carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions. I see this happening a lot throughout the world…especially in Europe. And I see the trading of “carbon credits” and “renewable energy credits” becoming more of a factor in the US in the next 5-10 years.

      Thanks,

      AJ

  • John van Boxel

    Hi AJ,
    I followed the link to the Washington Post paper on the disasters in 2011 end watched the video on that site. In that video I hear the National Weather Service director Jack Hayes say: “with our challenging and changing climate the nation must be prepared for more extreme weather in the future”.
    Virtually every climate scientist in the US and outside will tell you that increasing the concentrations of greenhouse gasses will increase the greenhouse effect of the earth. A few degrees warmer in itself might not be too bad, but it also holds the risk for more extreme weather. In the Video Jack Hayes explicitly connects climate change en more extreme weather (see quote above). He then continues that communities have to prepare themselves to more extreme weather, but says nothing about the causes – the rising concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, especially carbon dioxide.
    Of course all this extreme weather will create a lot of jobs for meteorologists. But would we not serve the public better if we could convince the government to also do something about the causes. Or is that an entirely different discussion?
    John

    • Anonymous

      Entirely different discussion..and unfortunately this discussion becomes very political. I think some states are moving forward to curb fossil fuel emissions. California is one of them as they are trying to be 33% renewable by 2020. Europe is leading the charge on this in my opinion.

      But yes it will take a whole lot of convincing just to get people to agree what is causing this extreme weather. And there are still some very influential climate scientists that do not believe in Global Climate Change.

      We’ll definitely get into this later. Thanks for your comment!

      AJ

  • http://twitter.com/Chris_A_Dyke Christoher A Dyke

    From my experience and research, there are a couple of reasons why private meteorology will do well (AJ hit on them pretty well from a meteorology perspective). On the business side of the house there are a couple of big trends happening:

    1. Businesses have spent the last 3-4 yrs trimming down operations and streamlining processes to the point that there isn’t much room left for improvement. The next step for many businesses is to mitigate the risks to their supply chain through information. Weather impacts every aspect of the value chain and businesses are beginning to realize this. Even marketing efforts are impacted by the weather.

    2. Another trend in business is corporate social responsibility and making their operations more sustainable. This stems from a variety of reasons from public image to tax incentives. Many publicly traded companies have begun to incorporate a sustainability section within their annual reports to investors (some even have a completely separate sustainability report for investors).

    Both of these trends create opportunities in the market for meteorologists that know how to meet the need. From what I have seen, environmental consultants (as a whole) appears to have a positive outlook.

    Great article that highlights a lot of the trends currently taking place.

    Chris

  • Ulric Lyons

    The whole of meteorology will be facing a paradigm shift in learning and applying the new science of solar based forecasts.

  • Sean

    Can meteorology majors also branch away from forecasting and find jobs as module analysts for energy companies or even GIS/remote sensing jobs? I am a meteorology major with programming and GIS experience and I am not thrilled about the job outlook for entry level operational meteorologists with a bachelors degree. I have two remote sensing research internships at NASA Langley Research Center and was wondering what other types of jobs I may qualify for with this type of experience.

    Thanks for all the all the posts. They are very helpful and interesting.

    Sean

    • Anonymous

      Hi Sean, thanks for posting your question. Well, I could tell you this…because you are a meteorologist and programmer…you are in demand bud. There are a couple of companies that I know of trying to find your skill set. I think what may hurt your chances is folks who have MS or PHD’s and have programming experience. But in one of my posts, “Is Meteorology turning into Computer Science”…I wrote how many entry level mets need to get programming skills under their belts. It’s where the industry is heading…in my opinion. Believe it or not…there are not many folks out there that can code and also know the weather.

      So, I would target EarthRisk Technologies, Climate corporation, Unisys weather…and there are more I’m sure. But if you are interested in either of these companies above, I would be happy to make an intro to the appropriate person.

      Best,

      AJ

      • Sean

        Thanks for the quick response. I am still currently a junior in college so I have not began applying anywhere yet although I do frequently search for job openings. I will be sure to keep those companies in mind

        Sean