Climatologists try to forecast major long-term changes in climate based
on past climatic history. Long-term changes in climate are important. They
have an impact on things like our use of power and energy, our ability to
produce food, our health and the survival of endangered species.
Pam Knox is the assistant state climatologist in the Georgia State Climatology
Office. She says climatologists are scientists who study long-term trends
in climate. They are different from meteorologists. Meteorologists study current
weather conditions and make short-term forecasts.
Climatologists who do research usually become specialists in a certain
area -- such as snow cover, solar radiation or the effects of heavy rainfall.
Paleoclimatology is a unique branch of climatology. Paleoclimatologists
study climates hundreds or even millions of years ago. This information is
important because it helps to predict future conditions.
Climatologists and paleoclimatologists use computer models to develop their
forecasts. They use data that they have collected, or that other climatologists
Climatologists often work in teams. That's because the issues they study
are complex and require input from people from various backgrounds and countries.
For example, global warming affects the entire world. It must be addressed
by governments, industry, environmental agencies and others.
Climatologist David Phillips explains that climatologists could take old
weather documents and generate statistical information that is used by city
planners, construction companies, farmers, governments and many others. People
use the information to increase profits, to make life safer and more enjoyable
and to prevent disasters.
Climatologists are sometimes asked to testify in court as expert witnesses
in cases in which weather is a factor. They need good oral and written communication
Climatologists must have excellent research skills. They need to be able
to get information from databases, archives and other sources of information.
Climatologists translate complex scientific data into information that
the public can understand.
Many climatologists provide interviews, articles or written reports to
the media. They could be interviewed on television or radio. "When we had
a major snowstorm, I gave 18 interviews in one day," says Dave Robinson. He
is the state climatologist for New Jersey.
Phillips says that climatologists work in all sectors. They could work
for government agencies, as he does. They could also work in universities
or utility companies.
According to Phillips, many people do climatology as one aspect of their
work, but it is fitted in with other responsibilities. For example, they could
be doing city planning and climatology is worked into water balance work or
E. J. Hopkins is a climatologist with the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
He says that a person with disabilities could work as a climatologist under
some circumstances. People using a wheelchair could do most aspects of the
work provided the facility was wheelchair accessible. Visual impairment or
loss of motor skills would be more problematic.