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Kevin Thiel, a junior studying meteorology, works in the Scalia Lab on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017. (EMILY MATTHEWS | PHOTO EDITOR)

Meteorology degree prepares students for more than local TV stations

Kevin Thiel sat near a window in Front Room Coffeehouse on Tuesday evening watching as a slow rain brought the day to a dreary end. As president of the Meteorology Club, it was not a coincidence that Thiel was just about the only person in sight with an umbrella handy.

“Meteorology is definitely a field that you know you want to do. You’re not just going to be like, ‘Oh, I don’t know what I want to do; I’m going to pick weather,’ ” Joanna Sokol, a junior studying geography-meteorology, said.

Studying meteorology opens a multitude of career opportunities for students, Thiel, a junior studying geography-meteorology, said. Many of those careers available to a meteorologist are not always obvious ones a non-meteorologist would think of.

The first and sometimes only career that comes to mind for most is an anchorman on a local weather channel, Thiel said. Meteorologists are needed, however, in research, environmental protection agencies, agriculture, new technological advancements, government agencies such as NASA, and companies such as Tropicana.

Thiel is interested in the research side of meteorology and said he wants to study lightning and electric properties in the atmosphere to predict better what storms are going to be more severe.

Observing the weather and those immediate changes is what has captivated Ethan Emery, a senior studying meteorology, since he was six years old.

“One winter, it snowed a few inches on the ground, and then a lot of wind came," Emery said. "And we had this phenomenon called snow rollers, and it looked like somebody had taken little sheets of snow and rolled them up."

Emery said he vividly recalled these “hay bale”-like snow products from his childhood and remembers craving to learn more about how the atmosphere works. Understanding the science and conveying that message to the public is what Emery plans to do upon graduating.

“I feel like this career is full of excitement because as a broadcast meteorologist, you’re telling the story of what’s going on in the atmosphere to the public," Emery said. "You’re able to help people through those (bad weather) situations, and that’s awesome.”

Understanding what to do during emergency weather situations is not something all people are well-informed about, Sokol said. Educating people on the safest ways to get through emergency situations is one path Sokol said she can see her meteorology career following.

Sokol’s pre-college schooling taught her the bare minimum when it came to weather and the climate, she said.

“When I came to school everyone knew everything about the clouds, but I never learned that in school," Sokol said. "So I feel like going back, if I were to teach, I could at least teach the basics … just keep people aware."

With climate change becoming a more alarming issue, meteorology and knowledge of weather patterns is increasing in value rapidly, Emery said.

Sokol said she believes that educating the public from an earlier age would be a huge step toward eco-friendly changes in society.

“Especially going on right now with the whole climate change debacle, it’s really important that people understand like what’s happening and what are the consequences,” Sokol said. ”The older you are, the more you stick to your ideas, and you don’t care what anyone says … I think it would be best to educate younger.”

So whether it’s educating, studying the changing climate or advising farmers, meteorologists are needed in many different areas.

“That’s kind of the great thing about meteorology: you can learn a concept, and then two hours later you can look outside, and you can actually recognize (it)," Thiel said. "It’s so continuous.” 


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