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.
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.
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.