US Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook
Atmospheric science is the study of the atmosphere—the blanket of air covering the Earth. Atmospheric scientists, commonly called meteorologists, study the atmosphere’s physical characteristics, motions, and processes, and the way in which these factors affect the rest of our environment. The best known application of this knowledge is forecasting the weather. In addition to predicting the weather, atmospheric scientists attempt to identify and interpret climate trends, understand past weather, and analyze today’s weather. Weather information and meteorological research are also applied in air-pollution control, agriculture, forestry, air and sea transportation, defense, and the study of possible trends in the Earth’s climate, such as global warming, droughts, and ozone depletion.
Atmospheric scientists who forecast the weather are known as operational meteorologists; they are the largest group of specialists. These scientists study the Earth’s air pressure, temperature, humidity, and wind velocity, and they apply physical and mathematical relationships to make short-range and long-range weather forecasts. Their data come from weather satellites, radars, sensors, and stations in many parts of the world. Meteorologists use sophisticated computer models of the world’s atmosphere to make long-term, short-term, and local-area forecasts. More accurate instruments for measuring and observing weather conditions, as well as high-speed computers to process and analyze weather data, have revolutionized weather forecasting. Using satellite data, climate theory, and sophisticated computer models of the world’s atmosphere, meteorologists can more effectively interpret the results of these models to make local-area weather predictions. These forecasts inform not only the general public, but also those who need accurate weather information for both economic and safety reasons, such as the shipping, air transportation, agriculture, fishing, forestry, and utilities industries.
The use of weather balloons, launched a few times a day to measure wind, temperature, and humidity in the upper atmosphere, is currently supplemented by sophisticated atmospheric satellite monitoring equipment that transmits data as frequently as every few minutes. Doppler radar, for example, can detect airflow patterns in violent storm systems, allowing forecasters to better predict thunderstorms, flash floods, tornadoes, and other hazardous winds, and to monitor the direction and intensity of storms.
see more: http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos051.htm
Median annual earnings of atmospheric scientists in May 2006 were $77,150. The middle 50 percent earned between $55,530 and $96,490. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $39,090, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $119,700.
The average salary for meteorologists employed by the Federal Government was $84,882 in 2007. Many meteorologists in the Federal Government with a bachelor’s degree received a starting salary of $35,752, or slightly higher in areas of the country where the prevailing local pay level is higher.
The above wage data are from the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey program, unless otherwise noted. For the latest National, State, and local earnings data, visit the following page: Atmospheric and space scientists - http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes192021.htm