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Mathline

Paul Zandt, Meteorologist

More Career Connections

Next time you're out for a walk in the park on a fine autumn day, you may not have mathematics on your mind. But believe it or not, the weather that surrounds you is mathematics in motion. That's right. Every type of weather -- a passing cloud, a sudden summer thunderstorm, or a wicked winter storm -- can be summed up by a series of mathematical equations.

Many, but not all, of the weather forecasters you see on TV are meteorologists. Some colleges offer degrees in meteorology. To become a meteorologist, a student must take courses in advanced mathematics. We study math to better understand how the atmosphere behaves. Different mathematical equations help explain which way the wind will blow and whether the temperature will rise or fall. These equations are programmed into giant computers, which then try to predict the weather for the next day, the next week, even the next month. Meteorologists rely on these computer predictions when they make the forecasts you hear on the radio or TV.

Unfortunately, the weather is often too complicated to be predicted accurately all the time. Even the most powerful computers can't keep track of all the subtle weather changes. Weather predictions are sometimes wrong, and forecasters can look a little foolish.

Not all meteorologists are weather forecasters. Some study climate changes. They also rely on computer models. Other meteorologists keep track of weather conditions around the world and use math to compile weather records.

Meteorologists could not do their jobs without a good understanding of mathematics. So if you think you might want to be a meteorologist some day, you'll certainly want to pay attention in math class!