Questions From A 9th Grader

Cory Miller, a 9th grader from Marriotts Ridge High School in Ellicott City, emailed with a few questions he wanted answered for his science project.  Our web team thought others might have the same sort of questions for the Insta-Weather Plus team, so I thought posting the answers I sent to Cory might be of some interest.

1. What data do you look at when formulating your weather forecast?

We check computer models that use math equations to predict temperature, precipitation, relative humidity, wind and air pressure 3 to 7 days into the future. We check the temperature, dewpoint, wind and air pressure data gathered by weather balloons launched around the world twice each day. We look at satellite images, radar images and maps of current surface weather conditions around the mid Atlantic region and across the country.

2. Have you ever had a job in a different part of the country? If so, did you notice a difference in the difficulty of predicting weather between here and there?

I have worked in Atlanta, GA, Bluefield, WV, Cleveland, OH and here in Baltimore. All of these areas had weather that was difficult to predict. Anyplace in the middle latitudes of the globe, where weather systems are moving through every couple days, will have hard to predict weather.

3. What type of qualifications do you need to be a meteorologist?

Meteorologists usually have at least a bachelor of science degree in meteorology. In addition to the degree most meteorologists on television are now required to have their work certified by the American
Meteorological Society.

4. Do certain landforms such as the Appalachian Mountains affect weather patterns?

Geography plays an important part in weather patterns. Wind blowing into mountains results in lifting the air and increased precipitation. Wind blowing over and away from mountains causes the air to sink which causes it to warm up and dry out. Air moving across a bay, ocean or lake will pick up moisture and increase the amount of clouds and precipitation.

5. Do the said landforms make the weather easier or harder to predict?

The geography complicates the weather forecasting.

6. What type of instruments do you use to help collect data for your weather report?

The most important weather instruments are: barometer, thermometer, hygrometer, anemometer.

7. How much of your forecast is based on facts and data versus your personal experience and judgment?

I would estimate that 70% of the forecast is based on facts and data, with 30% based on experience.

8. Do areas near large bodies of water have more distorted weather patterns that make it more difficult to predict the weather?

The moisture of the nearby water body adds clouds and precipitation, but once the local influence of the water body is understood the affects are actually rather predictable.

9. Do you find that online sources such as weather.com and their 10 day forecast are reputable and reliable sources of information?

No, because they usually take the raw data produced by computer models without any human interaction or modification.  So these sources of weather information do not usually handle complicated weather situations very well. They are somewhat useful in standard weather patterns.

10. Do you confer with other meteorologists at your station or other stations when you formulate your forecast or do you create strictly your own individual predictions?

We share forecasting ideas within the Insta-Weather office and we read forecast discussions from the National Weather Service, but we do not interact with meteorologists at other television stations.

Tom Tasselmyer

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