Meteorology is the science of the atmosphere. The term meteorologist is from an ancient Greek term meteor, or "things in the air," (www.weatherclassroom.com). It can be defined as, "a scientist who studies the atmosphere and atmospheric phenomena," (www.weatherclassroom.com). The ancient Greek observed clouds, winds and rain and tried to find the connection between them. In prehistoric times, weather watchers were the holy men who forecasted the weather for the rest of the tribe. The father of meteorology is Aristotle. He was the first person to not only study the atmosphere but also write a book about it (Meterologica, 340 B.C.). The first person to invent the thermometer was Galileo; other scientists went on to invent more accurate thermometers. RADAR began being used during World War II and today we use a very complex set of equipment to help us predict the weather. These pieces of equipment include: computers, satellites, more sophisticated Doppler RADAR and NEXRAD. All of these are used to study, forecast, analyze and predict the weather. Today meteorologists can be employed by the government, universities, television and radio stations, at nuclear power plants, airports, farms and fisheries, insurance companies, investment companies and much more. Their work far exceeds forecasting the weather, although this is a very important part of the job in our society which we heavily rely on. They can work in atmospheric research, teaching, and various other kinds of applied meteorology.
Meteorologists require the help of various instruments to help get their job done. The first types of instrument used are instrumented aircraft. These are airplanes that are equipped with measuring and sampling instruments and are used to observe different kinds of weather. One example is a "hurricane hunter." These aircrafts fly into the eye of the hurricanes. Another instrument that meteorologists use is RADAR. RADAR stands for, "radio detection and ranging." It was originally developed to detect enemy aircraft that flew under the cover of clouds or darkness. Today RADAR is also used by meteorologists to detect and measure rain and other precipitation. Doppler, which is a special kind of radar, can also measure wind speed and direction. This tool has become the best way to detect tornadoes and other kinds of severe weather. It also serves as a key element of the new wind-shear detection and warning system that many major U.S. airports have adopted. The last two instruments that are most commonly used by meteorologists are satellites and computers. Satellites are able to measure temperature, winds and other qualities of the atmosphere at different levels. They are also the most valuable tools for meteorologists because they cover the entire surface of the Earth. Computers also play a major role in the forecasting of weather. Meteorologists, using computer programs, can simulate the weather and therefore make a prediction about what is going to happen with our weather. Since they can make the weather happen quickly on the computer, they use it as a guide to what is really going to happen in the "real world". True predictions can only be made a couple of days at a time because our atmosphere's circulation is such an unpredictable system.
There are approximately 20,000 meteorologists currently working in the field and another 1,000 meteorologists enter the field each year. In order to become a meteorologist, students should start their building their foundation in science and math in high school. This means that students should take as many classes in science and math as possible such as physics, chemistry, and earth science. A foreign language would also be a helpful tool for a meteorologist to have. After graduating from high school, the next step is finding a university that offers a degree in meteorology. There are many universities in the United States that offer such programs. Another route to a career in Meteorology that is not as limited as a degree in meteorology would be math, physics or engineering. All of these degrees will allow a graduate to work in the field of meteorology but also expand beyond it or go in a different direction if they choose too.