What is the role of an Aviation Weather Meteorologist?29 Oct , 2011 | 2
Aviation weather meteorologists play an important role in helping pilots navigate the complexity of our atmosphere. Aviation weather meteorologists (along with other top notch air traffic controllers) work around the clock to make sure pilots can get to their destination as safe and as smooth as possible.
Some Aviation weather meteorologists work for airlines, others work for private companies…and some for the government (FAA/CWSU). When I was an aviation meteorologist at Jeppesen (see how I got my role there), I forecasted for private pilots around the world and therefore worked for a private firm (which was owned by Boeing).
What was funny was a lot of the passengers on these jets were high net worth individuals like celebrities and CEO’s. It was always interesting to see which celebrity was flying with who…I’m sure TMZ would just love to get a hold of these passenger lists…but of course, client confidentiality was of utmost importance!
Now let me stop rambling and get back to where I was going with this. When I was an aviation weather meteorologist at Jeppesen, I had two main functions. Analyze models/draw maps and write flight briefs. Let’s discuss each of these:
Maps: We had two sets of maps that we drew…High Level significant weather maps and Low Level significant weather maps. Drawing maps was quite time consuming! It was our job to draw the maps for the entire world (yes, even both hemispheres too) and for both high and low levels of the atmosphere! As many of you know from class, all the fronts are backwards in the southern Hemisphere…was a lot of fun!
Imagine seeing a model of the entire world…and then layering on top of it turbulence intensity and levels, jet stream speed and direction, precipitation area and type, icing potential, cold/warm/occluded fronts, areas of high and low pressure, areas of thunderstorm potential, current hurricanes/typhoons, and much more! Since we were mapping the entire world, we had 3 huge monitors that we worked with. Pretty cool, if you ask me!
Now let’s talk about Flight Briefs: The flight brief is given to the pilot before they take off…so they have an idea of the weather enroute. Flight briefs were actually fun to write…except when you had to do more than 25 in one night. That was crazy! Basically what we were doing was writing a written forecast in paragraph format (and non-technical terms) for a pilot with a given flight path at a certain flight level.
For example, let’s say a pilot is flying from KJFK to KSFO at 12Z Aug 15th (Z means Zulu or Greenwich time (UK). We would run a flight plan through proprietary software, and find the best altitude for the pilots to fly overall from New York to San Francisco. We’d try to find altitudes where we could limit the amount of strong/moderate turbulence and strong icing potential. We’d also glance at the weather maps and alert the pilot of thunderstorms or typhoons/hurricanes in the flight path.
Bottom line, the flight brief was mainly used to show any major risks to the flight…mostly from thunderstorms, icing and turbulence.
Sound fun so far? In my next series of posts, I’ll discuss the work/life balance of an Aviation weather Meteorologist along with expected salaries for this field. Stay tuned!!