is the study of the atmosphere -- the blanket of air covering the Earth.
Atmospheric scientists, commonly called meteorologists, study the
atmosphere's physical characteristics, motions, and processes, and the way
in which these factors affect the rest of our environment. The best known
application of this knowledge is forecasting the weather. In addition to
predicting the weather, atmospheric scientists attempt to identify and
interpret climate trends, understand past weather, and analyze today's weather.
Weather information and meteorological research are also applied in
air-pollution control, agriculture, forestry, air and sea transportation,
defense, and the study of possible trends in the Earth's climate, such as
global warming, droughts, and ozone depletion.
scientists who forecast the weather are known as operational
meteorologists; they are the largest group of specialists. These scientists
study the Earth's air pressure, temperature, humidity, and wind velocity,
and they apply physical and mathematical relationships to make short-range
and long-range weather forecasts. Their data come from weather satellites,
radars, sensors, and stations in many parts of the world.
Meteorologists use sophisticated computer models of the
world's atmosphere to make long-term, short-term, and local-area forecasts.
More accurate instruments for measuring and observing weather conditions,
as well as high-speed computers to process and analyze weather data, have
revolutionized weather forecasting. Using satellite data, climate theory,
and sophisticated computer models of the world's atmosphere, meteorologists
can more effectively interpret the results of these models to make
local-area weather predictions. These forecasts inform not only the general
public, but also those who need accurate weather information for both
economic and safety reasons, such as the shipping, air transportation,
agriculture, fishing, forestry, and utilities
Meteorologists use data collected from sophisticated
technologies like atmospheric satellite monitoring equipment and
ground-based radar systems. Doppler radar, for example, can detect airflow
patterns in violent storm systems, allowing forecasters to better predict
thunderstorms, flash floods, tornadoes, and other hazardous winds, and to
monitor the direction and intensity of storms. They also monitor surface
weather stations and launch weather balloons, which carry equipment that
measures wind, temperature, and humidity in the upper atmosphere.
While meteorologists study and forecast weather patterns in
the short term, climatologists study seasonal variations in weather over
months, years, or even centuries. They may collect, analyze, and interpret
past records of wind, rainfall, sunshine, and temperature in specific areas
or regions. Some look at patterns in weather over past years to determine,
for example, whether a coming season will be colder or warmer than usual.
Their studies are used to design buildings, plan heating and cooling
systems, and aid in effective land use and agricultural production.
scientists work exclusively in research. Physical meteorologists, for
example, study the atmosphere's chemical and physical properties; the
transmission of light, sound, and radio waves; and the transfer of energy
in the atmosphere. They also study other atmospheric phenomena, such as the
factors affecting the formation of clouds, rain, and snow; the dispersal of
air pollutants over urban areas; and the mechanics of severe storms.
Environmental problems, such as pollution and shortages of fresh water,
have widened the scope of the meteorological profession. Environmental
meteorologists study these problems and may evaluate and report on air
quality for environmental impact statements. Other research meteorologists
examine the most effective ways to control or diminish air pollution.
Note: Some resources in this section are provided by the the US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.