Fresh AJ Weather Blog

FreshAJ is hosting a contest!

By: FreshAJ, 1:14 AM GMT on January 31, 2012

Here at the FreshAJ blog, I’m constantly looking to create new, effective ways to help students, graduates, and career professionals get juicy insights into the weather industry.

Recently, I’ve received quite a few emails from meteorology students and young professionals asking for feedback on their weather resumes in order to stand out and get an employer’s attention. And I noticed that many of the resumes needed considerable improvement. Even at the student conference at the AMS, the recruiters expressed frustration on many poorly written resumes.

So, it got me thinking…wouldn’t it be nice if a weather expert(s) reviewed a resume before it was actually sent it to an employer?

I’ve personally had the opportunity to review hundreds of weather resumes and have seen first hand what it takes to break into various sectors of operational meteorology. Having an excellent resume is a solid first step.

So, I thought the best way to start would be to select 2 meteorology students, graduates, or career professionals and have their resume reviewed and analyzed FOR FREE.

In addition to the resume review, the (2) lucky candidates will also receive FOR FREE:

1) A 15 minute follow up phone call discussing your red-lined resume.

2) Some guidance/thoughts on which companies you should apply to (or connect with) given your experience.

3) Answer any questions you may have about weather job opportunities (full time, part time or internships), your resume, and/or any sectors of meteorology.

4) Some personal introductions via LinkedIn to successful weather professionals in any sector of meteorology who may be able to help you advance further in your career.

Now for the fun part…in order to select my 2 meteorology winners fairly, I am going to host a weather forecasting contest and choose the top 2 winners.

Interested in joining? Check out the contest rules and join the contest at www.freshaj.com/resume_contest. It’s Free!

Let me answer some more questions about signing up for this contest.

When should you sign up by?

I am accepting sign ups until February 12th 2012. Once you join, you will receive an email about the contest date, contest time, and cities to forecast for. If you do not sign up for the contest, unfortunately you will not be able to participate.

Who should sign up?

Meteorology students, graduates, and young to mid level weather professionals who want to move up in their career should sign up for this contest.

Why should you sign up?

Well, first you have nothing to lose. It’s free to join the contest. Second, you’ll have the opportunity to showcase your forecasting skills. Plus it’s fun to compete against your fellow students and weather professionals! And if you win, you get to have your resume analyzed and reviewed for free.

**As a bonus, if the winners allow me to, I will announce the (2) winners of the forecasting contest on my blog, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn that reaches thousands of weather professionals. **

Where should you sign up?

Again, please sign up for the weather forecasting contest by going directly to the link at www.freshaj.com/resume_contest.

If you have any questions, please let me know!

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Is Meteorology turning into Computer Science?

By: FreshAJ, 5:39 PM GMT on January 27, 2012

I just got back from the AMS conference in New Orleans. You can read a lot of details about the AMS conference from the wonderful writers of the Front Page of the AMS blog.

I was able to attend the student conference career fair on Saturday, the energy committee meeting for students on Sunday, and the climate, energy, and new economy talks on Monday. I was able to network with a lot of wonderful meteorology students, young professionals, senior level executives, energy trade floor meteorologists, and just readers of my blog too. The conference is still going on now, so I can only speak of the 3 days I attended. From what I saw, my friends at the AMS put on an amazing conference!

Now with that being said, let’s get onto my post. Is Meteorology turning into Computer Science? Why am I asking this question?

Well, in my previous post of “The Future of Meteorology” at FreshAJ.com, I discussed that the three main areas of growth will be 1) Weather Modeling 2) Weather Derivatives and Insurance 3) Private weather forecasting. But I never got into what skills would be required for the future of meteorology. Today that’s what I want to discuss based on what I saw at the AMS student conference.

After attending the student conference at the AMS career fair, I spoke to each private employer that was hiring meteorologists. Some of the employers I spoke to at the booths were, “Unisys, Climate Corporation, Wunderground, Accuweather, Impact weather, among others.

And here’s what was very intriguing: a majority of these employers are looking for meteorology developers (ie people who are excellent at programming but also understand meteorology).

Meteorology programmers are a growing trend in today’s meteorology job world. Whether it is programming using Python, C++, Objective C, or PHP, the “new” graduate in meteorology in today’s economic climate should probably have these skills under their belt. When I spoke to a few of them…they mentioned if someone is a MS or PHD with programming skills, they would like to talk with them. Some of them even mentioned they were prepared to throw ridiculous amounts of cash if you met those qualifications…so if you’re interested in learning more, let me know!

Many of these private weather corporations deal with large data sets. Since there is a great demand from the private and public industry on high resolution and accurate modeling, many firms are hiring in these areas of the meteorology. So being able to understand database programming and statistics is very important too.

In addition to the student conference career fair, I also attended a presentation about how NOAA/NWS is working with the DOE and the private energy world in providing more resources for these companies to use. The concentration of the presentation was about the WFIP model and how they are working with private industry leaders to make short term wind forecasting more accurate.

I think the meteorology community has plenty of weather models to access now…but the hard part is integrating and customizing them into the private world for them to effectively utilize them. In addition, as I’ve mentioned before, the weather modeling world is continuing to enhance the features of the model, along with it’s accuracy and resolution. And that’s why I feel this is a growing trend and a need for programmers who understand meteorology.

This trend is very interesting to me because when I went to the student conference 10 years ago (yes now you know how I old I am ;) ) ,the majority of the positions I saw were operational meteorology jobs.

To be honest, none of the private employers I talked to at the student conference even mentioned they were hiring operational meteorologists. So in today’s tough economic climate, it requires you to think outside the box. And that also means taking other positions within weather companies (or government) in order to get your “foot in the door”. Once you have your foot in the door, it’s easier to work your way internally to where you want to be.

Bottom line, if the growing trend is to hire meteorological developers, and you happen to be a good developer…you should start applying to these jobs or contacting private employers. Even though you may want to be in forecasting…it’s better to at least “get in” to a company than “wait” for a forecasting job to open up. Hope that makes sense! (photo credit: bloggertechgirl)

Are any of you seeing the same hiring trend out there for meteorologists? Do you think meteorology is turning into Computer Science? Would love to hear your perspective, and your thoughts on the AMS conference, too. Thanks!

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A hydrologist as a career option for a meteorologist?

By: FreshAJ, 5:32 AM GMT on January 19, 2012

You bet…it’s definitely a possibility! Hydrologists and meteorologists work very close together, especially in the energy world. In my previous post, I discussed why hydrologists are very important for west power trading. In today’s post, I thought I would offer a more detailed perspective about the option of working as a hydrologist (in lieu of a meteorologist.) My focus is going to be in the energy world…one of the sectors where I mentioned the future of meteorology will also reside. I’ll also be highlighting the NW hydro operations in greater detail, too.

For an energy utility that owns and operates hydropower, the hydrologist would be forecasting inflows and helping to plan river operations and optimize storage for the water year (Winter-early spring). The meteorologists would help forecast precipitation, snow, temperatures – especially in the short term – which would be fed into a hydrologic model to generate streamflow forecasts.

These forecasts would then be fed into a reservoir operations model for the given hydro system. The reservoir operations model would then calculate river flows, storage use, reservoir levels, power generation, etc given operating constraints (fish flows, spill constraints, power prices, etc).

Also, there are many consulting firms that help utilities develop in-house models and systems. Most utilities develop streamflow and river models in-house, with assistance from engineering & consulting firms.

A hydrologist on an energy trade floor typically works on a much larger and less detailed scale. For example, they would be looking at the entire NW hydropower system rather than a specific plant. Their goal would be to understand the influence of hydropower on regional prices based on snowpack conditions, reservoir operations, etc. Although one plant that does have a pretty significant influence is Grand Coulee (my photo above). The Grand Coulee dam is based in the NW along the Columbia River and is the largest electric power producing dam in the United States.

Depending on the region and time of year, hydropower can have a small or large influence on market prices. High impact seasons on market prices would be Winter and Spring…low impact seasons would be late Summer/mid-Fall. And hydrologists would not only model, analyze and gather this information, but they would communicate it to traders as soon as new fundamentals are released.

Because the hydro system can be complex (due to many variables affecting the stream flow forecast), your communication skills need to be strong too. In the NW, hydro forecasts can sometimes be as important (if not more important) than the weather itself for west power traders.

If all this is new to you, that’s okay. It was all new to me too when I joined the west power trade floor in Portland, OR. The hydrologist and I did work very close together because a lot of the “input” for these hydro models did come from the weather side. Take a breather…and here we go.

Teleconnections such as PDO and ENSO have started to be modeled in longer term hydro forecasts. Just like meteorologists try and forecast for upcoming seasons (or even 12 months ahead) by using teleconnections, analogs, and climatology, hydrologists also base their long term streamflow forecasts more or less on climatology too.

There is always a wide range of possibilities starting the water year – using ENSO/PDO helps tilt the odds only slightly in favor of wet/dry conditions.

And then as the season progresses, actual basin conditions become more important, especially when snowpack becomes the predominant storage mechanism. And that’s a key time frame when meteorologists matter significantly. Beyond 12 months, most would base assumptions almost entirely on historical record & climatology.

Also , the actual storage in reservoirs in any given basin will play a large or small part on the streamflow forecasts. Some reservoirs have multi-year storage while others only have week’s or day’s worth of storage and hardly impact future runoff. And as you know from my previous post in West Power trading, predicting future runoff is one of the key variables for a West Power Trader.

Riverside Technology & 3 Tier are the 2 main vendors that I can think of that offer short, medium, and long term streamflow forecasts for the energy space (outside of the government). Working at utilities and/or private energy companies like Iberdrola Renewables is another option for hydrologists. Then of course you have your government agencies like NWRFC (Northwest River Forecast Center) and the Army Corps.

Hydrologist salaries in the energy world are generally in line with meteorologists overall. If you can combine hydrology + optimization/operations research + meteorology then you have a pretty unique combination of skills that is valuable to utilities. With those three skills, you could branch into many different industries too.

Bottom line, I know a lot of us want to be “forecasters” in the meteorology world…but with forecasting jobs so limited it’s good to think ‘outside the box’. It could be worth exploring opportunities that are similar to meteorology like hydrology. And getting further educated (with some internship experience) in hydrology too might not be a bad option.

And even better…if you can offer “meteorology” plus “hydrology” to an energy company or utility…you could make the case to the employer that you don’t need to hire two people and that you know both equally well (and/or you could be a back up to a hydrologist on staff in case they are sick). Think about it.

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Personality matters during weather job interviews

By: FreshAJ, 6:08 PM GMT on January 09, 2012

In my previous post about “What is the opportunity cost to get a Masters or PHD in Meteorology”, I mentioned that in today’s economic climate experience matters more than a Masters or PHD degree. Outside of education and experience, I also mentioned that one key factor that also matters to a weather employer is personality.

Much of what I’m about to say is common sense…but you’d be surprised how many people shy away from their personality during interviews in an effort to act “professional.” Many times I’ve seen the candidate comes across as boring and “nerdy” in the interview…especially for private operational forecasting jobs.

Hiring managers need to get to know you on a personal level. Why? Because they want to see how you will fit in as part of the “team”. And they also want to see if you’re just an overall nice guy or gal with no drama or baggage. Yea it’s sort of like a relationship. Because your hiring manager and/or meteorology team will probably be spending more time with you than with their own family. Feel me so far?

So now the question is…how can you integrate more of your personality within weather interviews? Let’s start with a couple of non-verbal cues you can show to a prospective hiring manager.

1) Always look into the person’s eyes when you’re speaking. I know it can be a little weird sometimes…but it shows confidence.

2) Smile or Laugh on occasion. The more opportunities you have to smile or laugh, the more it comes off that you have an easy-going personality. It also gives the perception that you are “comfortable” in your current environment. Obviously you can’t fake it and it has to be sincere :)

Again, these are just some soft non-verbal cues you can give to the hiring manager to make you appear like a cool, confident, easy-going person.

But there are ways to integrate your personality even during “questions” that relate to the meteorology job itself. For example, let’s pretend an employer asks you the following question for a junior energy trade floor meteorologist role:

“Let’s say you have made an inaccurate forecast to a trader. How would you handle it if they were upset?”

So let’s say you answer it by saying “I always try my best to make accurate forecasts. But if I’m wrong, I’ll let the trader know that I’m sorry and it will not happen again.” (And yes, I’ve heard this before during my interviews with candidates)

Wow, this says a lot about your personality. Here’s what I would infer from this statement.

1) Saying “it will never happen again” is nonsense. Of course you will be wrong again, it’s part of the weather forecasting business.

2) You come off as “defensive”. I already gave you an example of making an inaccurate forecast, and the first thing you told me was “But my forecasts are usually accurate!” It infers to me that you can’t take criticism well.

3) Telling the trader you’re “sorry”. The trader wants to hear an explanation of what happened. Not that you are “sorry”. This is not elementary school.

Here’s what I would have liked to hear:

“I understand that each second matters on a trade floor…so I’d try to let them know of my inaccurate forecast as soon as possible. And if the trader was still upset with me, I would tell them exactly why I missed the forecast and physically show them what went wrong.

And here’s what I would now infer:

1) It tells me that you did your research and read the FreshAJ blog :) It infers you understand the fast changing dynamics of the trade floor.

2) It tells me that your customer service/communication skills are great because you care enough about your clientele that you would physically show them what went wrong.

3) It infers that you are not afraid of owning up to your mistake.

Bottom line, everything you say in your weather interview reveals your personality. And that’s why you have to be cognizant of how you answer your questions during the interview process. How you act in certain situations…what you like to do for fun, how you dress, or your etiquette during lunch tells a lot about your character and personality. Your goal is to leave a lasting impression on your interviewer. Remember that next time you have your next weather interview!

If you have any thoughts or comments, would love to hear them.

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About FreshAJ

Hi, I'm AJ Jain! I am a meteorologist, a family man, and a real estate investor. I've been on TV, in Aviation, and on the Energy Trade Floor.

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