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Friday, 28th January 2011

Observatory recruitment Q&A

People often ask us how to join the Observatory as a weather forecaster. Our answer usually surprises them. To do meteorology, you have to have a scientific background. That is, as a minimum, a degree in a relevant science subject such as physics, mathematics, statistics, computer science.

The word 'meteorology' dates back at least to Aristotle's time. A European visitor recently told us that the Greek word for 'meteor' means 'high in the air'.

A follow-up question could be: would knowledge in geography help? Well, certainly. However, a relevant science degree is still needed. The reason for this is that meteorology is the study of weather, and this requires knowledge in atmospheric sciences which encompass a wide range of subjects including mechanics, thermodynamics, electromagnetism, hydrology and chemistry.

People also ask: is there any advantage of having a degree in meteorology? The answer is: certainly. However, this is not enough. A successful candidate has to have broad knowledge and very good understanding of the basics in science. The reason for this is that the work in the Observatory involves many areas besides meteorology. They range from seismology, oceanography, to computing and instrumentation, and these are normally learnt on-the-job. Those who read widely and grasp the basics well are expected to be flexible and adaptable enough to enable themselves to learn new things. Moreover, in the course of time they are among those most capable of adapting to advances in science and technology and bringing changes to Observatory's work.

Most of the new entrants to the Observatory do not have previous exposure to meteorology. They are given training in such, either locally or elsewhere. The purpose is to equip them with the basic knowledge in weather and weather forecasting. This is followed by on-the-job learning and shift duties at the Observatory's Meteorological Centre (previously the Central Forecasting Office). From then on, they may be posted to office-hour work which includes scientific studies, applications, computing, instrumentation as well as development of services and products to meet public needs.

Figure 1     Training for new entrances to prepare them to take up operational forecasting duties at the Observatory's Meteorological Centre
Figure 1      Training for new entrances to prepare them to take up operational forecasting
duties at the Observatory's Meteorological Centre

It can thus be said that learning never stops at the Observatory. As a matter of fact, the initial training makes up only a small portion of the training for the entire career. In other words, the bulk of the training, or learning, takes place throughout the years a colleague works at the Observatory. Apart from on-the-job training, this includes self-learning. Everybody is encouraged to complete a certain number of hours of learning or reading each year: half on the relevant sciences, and the other half on anything he/she is interested in.

Hope this helps.

B.Y. Lee

Last revision date: <17 Jan 2013>