If you want to be a meteorologist, every resource is going to tell you to study as much math as possible. Weather Wiz Kids tells students “If your school offers calculus and physics, take these two classes because they’ll help you a lot once you get into college.” I would argue that writing skills are just as important as mathematics.
To be honest, I’m biased about this. I’m a meteorology student who was diagnosed with a mathematics learning disorder in high school; I freaking hate math. I was devastated after a senior atmospheric science professor told me “if you can’t do the math, you can’t study weather”, and he was right. Yet in that same month, I was working in the weather department at the local news station and killing it. I wasn’t even in Pre-Calculus yet and I was writing online forecast discussions, building graphics and helping forecast the daily weather alongside atmospheric science graduates.
I agree that math is crucial for understanding the nuts-and-bolts of meteorology; however, the only way to communicate that information to the public as a forecaster or academic researcher is through writing. Your writing must explain complex science to an audience unfamiliar with weather terminology. One book I would recommend to every meteorologist, including all science majors is Writing Science in Plain English by Anne Greene.
Greene makes the brilliant point when she cites the book Unscientific America “[there is] a crisis in communication between scientists and ‘everyone else’ that could be improved by training ‘Renaissance scientists’ who can communicate more effectively.” Considering rising science illiteracy, climate change denial, a threat to cut NOAA’s funding and a general disinterest of facts in the American public; I think it’s important that we meteorologists start communicating with people more effectively through writing.
The next time you’re forecasting a major event or studying a complicated meteorological topic, practice explaining its dynamics in relatable terms while also using your own passion and excitement to interest people. For example, instead of sounding like an area forecast discussion:
“Deep convection ahead of the cold front has developed in the mid-60s dewpoint air from far northern AL to southeastern TN, with increasing support from upper divergence associated with a 140+kt jetlet at 300mb.”
Try something like this:
“A ‘wall’ of cool air rushing southward will clash with warm, thick and humid air over northern AL and southeastern TN, creating violent bubbling motions in the atmosphere (called convection) and forming strong thunderstorms. Meanwhile, high up at airplane cruising altitude, a narrow jet of 160+ mph winds will create a suction effect above these storms, making them stronger and more dangerous.”
Weather blogs and websites like Atmolife are great places to practice writing and reach out to people. Also, consider making your own weather blog and writing for folks in your local community.
It’s important to help the public understand how meteorologists inform them and save lives and property. The first step to improving our communication is by engaging them with our writing.