Hurricane Harbor

A writer and a tropical muse. A funky Lubavitcher who enjoys watching the weather, hurricanes, listening to music while enjoying life with a sense of humor and trying to make sense of it all!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Women in Meteorology & Northern LIghts

I want to discuss a few topics today and this image above hits on two of those weather related topics.

Jennifer Watson is a meteorologist, specifically a female meteorologist, tweeting incredible pictures of last night's very photogenic display of the Northern Lights. Let's take a look at that picture up close and personal. If only I could have seen it really in person up close and personal, but sometimes the Internet is as close as you can get.


You see "weather" is about meteorology which is an atmospheric science. It's all about the atmosphere. The first meteorologists without degrees were sky watchers who took note of coincidences and kept records if only in their own diaries. An example of this would be Benjamin Franklin. 

You know Benjamin Franklin from the half dollar coin and standing outside in the rain fame during a lightning storm and an appreciation for cougars....yes THAT Benjamin Franklin...

He watched the weather from early on ... obviously you think he was standing out there in the thunder storm with a kite randomly?? You can read about his personal discovery of how he discovered "storms" move and his appreciation for storms & hurricanes in the link below.

But for generations it seems when you think of a weather person you think of a "weatherman" despite the fact that there are a good number of incredible female meteorologists. Many, choose careers in "good government jobs" that provide benefits for their family, continuity and they don't have to worry how they will appear on screen on TV.  In fact, maybe women doing the weather locally are not meteorologists, but women in the field of journalism who have always been closet weather fanatics. And, many like the men in that field of early television go back to school and pursue the golden degree of meteorology to back their knowledge of weather up with the credibility of the degree.

A good example of this is Miri Marshall in Baltimore who is an on air personality well respected for her weather forecasting and stories covering...the weather.

Miri is what you call a "Weather Anchor" in the news business. You can follow her on Twitter at:

I was in Baltimore recently. I have a love/hate affair with Baltimore. It's close to the water, in the South officially, has a football team with purple on their jerseys and a rich history in all fields I love from weather to history to politics. And, yet it's hard to see myself living there which is something I have pondered on many times. On paper it's perfect. While driving down Reistertown Road I keep thinking why can't they clean it up? Much the way I feel at the Inner Harbor...why can't they clean it up? 

I digress... the point here is I plan on trying to highlight as many female meteorologists this coming hurricane season as I can and feel free to refer me to your favorite "Weatherwomen" and I mean that. I've never been much to get into the war of the sexes. It's not my style. I enjoy being a girl (yes even at my age) and yet I realize sadly that when you think of weathermen you think of weatherMEN. 

In truth, when I am at the NHC or AOML it hits me nonstop how there are so many more men in our field than women.  A close friend of mine is Howie Friedman, a meteorologist that many professionals know well, but one that is not well known by the average Joe or Josephine in the general public.

Howie and I were sitting in the van once on a long ride down to Key West where he was attending a conference at the Navy Base ...if I remember that part well... and we talked on why he keeps working when so many of his colleagues have retired. One... he loves what he does and MAINLY he told me he values the chance his position gives him to help mentor minorities and WOMEN in the field of meteorology. He has mentored interns down to the point of offering to car pool them to AOML offices far from where they live up in Broward County. He has pushed the agenda for women further than most I know. I kept wondering to myself if this really is so hard...for women and minorities to make it in the weather business. He's right. It is hard, it is not easy breaking into the brotherhood of male meteorologists. Personally, I love that there are so many men in the field. Nothing like going to a conference and standing there wedged between men like Dr. Bill Gray who towers over me and other great male mets, but I do notice there are few women there besides me. That can be nice at times ;) but it doesn't tell the whole story.

Note from Howie's bio online.

"He is the director of AOML's Office for Equal Employment Opportunity, a former member of the NOAA EEO and Diversity Councils, the Science Advisory Panel of the Museum of Science and Discovery (Ft. Lauderdale, FL), past chairperson of the AMS Board on School and Popular Meteorological and Oceanographic Education and, the AMS Board on Women and Minorities."

He has worked hard at that goal and many fine meteorologists have their degrees and jobs because of his dedication to that goal he set for himself. 

Meteorology is more than going online and trying to understand the plethora of models both global and otherwise. To the amateur trying to make a forecast is like trying to pick the winner of March Madness.

Note this paragraph from the link below. "This education usually includes a bachelor's or higher degree from a college or university. Many meteorologists have degrees in physics, chemistry, mathematics, and other fields. The broader term "atmospheric science" often is used to describe the combination of meteorology and other branches of physical science that are involved in studying the atmosphere."

It's all about understanding the climate (history of every day weather averaged together...), how geography affects weather, how ocean currents affects weather, how sun storms affect a hurricane season, how every little detail of Earth Sciences connect mathematically with a deep understanding of chemistry and physics. And, that is the cliff notes version. 

People ask me how come I didn't study meteorology in college for a degree. Well, I did. I studied meteorology, geography, geology and oceanography for my degree in International Relations. I studied English for my degree in ...English, something not too visible in my blogging or my tweeting but trust me I graduated with honors... back in the days before the Internet. Weather is my passion, it's not a job I would want to do 24/7 as to be honest the nitty, gritty behind the scenes mathematics is a bit boring for me . . .   Meteorology is more than just people dressed nice on TV standing in front of a blue screen looking bigger than the East Coast of America pointing to cold fronts and an occasional hurricane.

For whatever reason... women tend to go into communications and men into meteorology. Women tend to always interview the head of the NHC. Maybe one day that will change.

The real "glass ceiling" that needs to be broken is not in politics but in meteorology and especially the National Hurricane Center.

This is a picture of some of the best in the field, that ran the NHC.

In order to really understand how this began, it's worth understanding where most early government meteorologists were made... not in college but in the armed forces during various wars. The field of hurricane research came out of trying to understand the Pacific Typhoons that plagued the American forces in the Pacific arena during WW2.  Name one of the greats at the Hurricane Center or on air covering Hurricanes and it's hard to find one that was not in WW2.

Remember John Hope from TWC?

That was the way it was once upon a time. 

Today the winds of change are out there...and yet we still have a long way to go.

Then again, another problem...  Meteorology does not pay as well as other jobs. And, as I've said before when Josephine thinks on a career in meteorology (her true love) and then realizes what she can get at Amazon or Google ...she studies Computer Engineering and follows the weather models in her spare time. Maybe she creates an app or a weather model. 

As Hugh told me in the car once... it's a hard job working at the NHC and most of what your job as a director involves is trying to get more money in the budget. I've had a lot of great conversations with meteorologists and forecasters in moving vehicles it seems.

Hugh is at FIU these days.

So, this rant on weather and women was brought to you because of a tweet made by Dr. Marshall Shepherd.  It opened up a Pandora's Box of discussion. 

Fluff being defined as dressing up as a penguin or an elephant, feeding an elephant, tasting food and and interviewing Rockettes during the weather segment. I'll add in showing pet pics endlessly two days before a possible catastrophic winter storm or hurricane.

The debate goes on...............

I'll be in Seattle for a while soon. Looking forward to seeing how women handle the weather there and waiting for it to be clear enough to see the mountain or as they say there "the mountain will be out today" as we gotta love Mt. Rainer.

Besos Bobbi (to suggest your favorite female meteorologists) 

PS... Now that I'm off the soapbox if you are wondering on the Northern Lights still here's the hashtag.

Northern Lights AKA Aurora Borealis. Incredible pics. 

 Check out

Oh I bet you want a song or a video right?

Here, enjoy.... yes there are Aurora Chasers but I'd bet money that most are also storm chasers ;)


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