Case study

Senior operational meteorologist — Anna Flynn

Being proactive about finding work experience, shadowing and placement opportunities helped Anna start her career in meteorology

How did you get your job as a meteorologist?

After seeking out shadowing and work experience opportunities in meteorology prior to university, I also completed a Met Office summer placement on the weather desk. During the placement, I worked directly with meteorologists to help communicate weather impacts across the UK.

I then completed the Met Office's Operational Meteorologist Foundation Course (OMFC), qualifying as an operational meteorologist.

Following qualification, I spent around two years working at several Royal Air Force (RAF) bases across the UK, specialising in aviation meteorology and producing tailored forecasts to suit many aircraft types with differing weather sensitivities.

How does your degree help you analyse the weather?

My physical geography degree taught me how to handle and critically analyse large amounts of geographic data.

It also helped me develop a good understanding of the Earth's basic atmospheric processes and learn about remote sensing through working with satellite imagery. During my dissertation I studied orographic precipitation patterns.

What's a typical working day like?

Due to the changeable nature of the weather and numerous different forecast specialisms (known as benches), there is a huge variety in my role.

However, a typical day will start with a handover from the previous shift. After this, I will look at satellite imagery, radar and observations and compare this to the model output to verify how well the numerical weather prediction models (NWP) are performing.

If the models are verifying well, I'll use them to produce my forecast products for the day, but if not, I will identify the shortfalls and apply meteorological knowledge to adjust the forecast.

Adding value where you can, based on your local expertise and knowledge of the customer requirements, is a key part of the job.

At the start of the shift, I also check the internal guidance produced by the chief meteorologist as it's very important to ensure a consistent weather story across the organisation. Next, I create and deliver daily in-person briefings, and answer any ad-hoc telephone enquiries. I also continually monitor real-time observations and analyse new model data, amending my forecast if necessary.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

I have been promoted to senior operational meteorologist and have joined the marine forecasting bench at the Met Office HQ in Exeter. I produce specialist forecasts for the waters surrounding the UK and high seas in the North Atlantic, such as the famous Shipping Forecast.

My role has also developed through working at various locations across the UK. At each location, I have forecasted for different customers, with different weather sensitivities, across the world. As I have gained more experience, I have taken on secondary duties in my role such as line management and training new meteorologists.

With my promotion I made a move from aviation meteorology to marine forecasting, and I aspire to learn more specialisms within meteorology to continue furthering my meteorological knowledge.

What do you enjoy most about meteorology?

My favourite thing is the variety, with the weather constantly changing. I also enjoy working as a part of a team in a fast-paced operational environment and find it satisfying when I get the forecast right and can see the positive impact this has had on my customers' operations.

This reward is often instant as you are constantly monitoring the weather and verifying your forecast in real time. A highlight of my career so far was forecasting for the rotary aircraft of the King's Coronation Flypast.

Learning from colleagues and gaining experience as I see more weather scenarios is also fulfilling. Plus, I get the opportunity to work overseas and to actively engage with the latest science and technology in the field.

What challenges do you face as a meteorologist?

Shift working is the hardest part of being a meteorologist and since the weather is 24/7 there are very few jobs that do not involve working unsociable hours.

Another challenge is becoming comfortable with uncertainty and being able to confidently communicate the uncertainty in your forecast to customers. The weather is a weird and wonderful thing, but it also constantly changes and sometimes does not go as you expect.

What advice can you give to others wanting to get into this field?

You need to have a passion for the weather for a career in meteorology. Joining the Royal Meteorological Society (RMetS) is helpful, and it's aimed at anyone with an interest, from enthusiasts to students and professionals.

Seeking out work experience and shadowing opportunities is important, and you should do your research before applying for the job. Being a meteorologist goes beyond the media and simply being on TV. It's a very customer-orientated job and nearly all weather forecasts are tailored to suit a range of customers, which include the aviation, public, marine, space, surface infrastructure, environmental hazards, commercial and many other sectors.

A foundation in maths and physics up to A-level standard is useful. A Masters degree is not required, but those who have one often have one in meteorology.

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