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What Does an Atmospheric Scientist Do?

An atmospheric scientist studies weather patterns, climate trends, and atmospheric phenomena. They use sophisticated technology to forecast weather, analyze climate change, and improve our understanding of the earth's atmosphere. Curious about how this impacts your daily life? How does weather forecasting affect your daily decisions?
Daniel Liden
Daniel Liden

An atmospheric scientist is an individual who studies the Earth's atmosphere, which is the layer of gases that surrounds the planet and is essential for the existence of all life on Earth. Some atmospheric scientists may also study the atmospheres of other planets, but because of its relevance to human life, the Earth's atmosphere is a much more common object of study. Atmospheric science is actually a very broad field that encompasses many other fields, so an atmospheric scientist might be a meteorologist, climatologist, atmospheric physicist, or any of a wide variety of other types of scientist. The actual work conducted within the atmospheric sciences varies significantly and may involve anything from predicting the weather to research aimed at preventing the degradation of the Earth's atmosphere.

The best-known and most public role of the atmospheric scientist is in the field of meteorology. A meteorologist is an atmospheric scientist who generally, but not exclusively, focuses on atmospheric phenomena such as weather. Meteorology is a well-known field because most news outlets employ meteorologists for the purpose of weather prediction, so meteorologists are commonly seen on television. Governments and companies dependent on or based in atmospheric phenomena often commonly hire meteorologists as well.

Hurricanes are among the phenomena studied by atmospheric scientists.
Hurricanes are among the phenomena studied by atmospheric scientists.

The Earth's atmosphere and the atmospheres of other planets are made up of mixtures of a variety of gases that interact with each other and are sensitive to a variety of different chemical, magnetic, and other types of stimuli. As such, an atmospheric scientist may choose to work primarily in atmospheric chemistry. One particularly important focus of atmospheric chemistry is the interaction between man-made chemicals and the gases in the atmosphere. Many gases produced through human actions, such as burning fossil fuels or waste products, either react with chemicals already in the atmosphere or are added to the atmosphere. This can drastically impact the Earth because such chemical changes in the atmosphere are capable of causing significant climate change.

Atmospheric scientists can work in industrial, commercia, or scientific settings.
Atmospheric scientists can work in industrial, commercia, or scientific settings.

An atmospheric scientist can find work in a variety of different scientific, commercial, or industrial settings. News companies, airports, and government agencies often require a single atmospheric scientist or a team of such scientists for the purpose of weather prediction. Laboratories and businesses focused on researching and improving air quality may employ an atmospheric scientist to monitor air quality and other atmospheric conditions. These professionals often work in laboratories or offices, or may conduct fieldwork. Some, for instance, fly into and around hurricanes, tornadoes, and other weather phenomena in order to take measurements and gather data.

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Discussion Comments


If one takes the position of an atmospheric scientist, and attempts to gather data by chasing storms and flying into hurricanes, I can imagine that it would be a dangerous job. Not only are you putting your life on the line, but what if something were to go wrong? However, in spite of being such a dangerous job, we can see just how determined some people are to gather the information they need. In fact, many people do jobs on a day to day basis that's for the benefit of others.


I have seen many meteorologists on TV before, and while they have been right about the weather several times, sometimes, my expectations have disappointed me. Perhaps one thing we need to understand about them is the fact while their weather predictions might ring true, they shouldn't always be relied on. Obviously, that's not to say they aren't right about the weather most of the time.

However, considering the sporadic weather patterns of this day and age, it's hard to know just what the outcome will be. For example, let's say that a meteorologist predicts a snowstorm for a Monday evening. It's possible that though it might snow really hard the next day, that's it. So while the meteorologist was half right, there wasn't a snowstorm. It's just my thoughts on the issue.


I have yet to work as an atmospheric scientist, but I also imagine that it would be an interesting job. Over the past few years, and especially in this day and age, our atmosphere and weather is constantly changing. One day it can be sunny and dry, but the next day, it can be cold and rainy. However, by looking at these patterns in the weather, they will easily be able to tell what kind of patterns are going about. It may not be easy, especially with all the strange weather that's been going on. However, it can also show us the cause of these patterns, and whether its man made or not.

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    • Hurricanes are among the phenomena studied by atmospheric scientists.
      By: razlomov
      Hurricanes are among the phenomena studied by atmospheric scientists.
    • Atmospheric scientists can work in industrial, commercia, or scientific settings.
      By: Vasiliy Koval
      Atmospheric scientists can work in industrial, commercia, or scientific settings.