Meteorology is the science that is concerned with the study of the atmosphere, while a meteorologist is a scientist studying virtually everything about the weather, including the sky, clouds, and wind. There are different specialties within meteorology including those areas related to flying. An aviation meteorologist is a person who applies the knowledge of meteorology to the field of aviation. This scientist interprets data and makes a prediction, or a forecast, as to what the weather is likely to be.
Aviation forecasting is ever fluid; predictions often change as the data such as wind speed and direction shift without warning. When an aviation meteorologist makes a prediction, pilots may use the information to avoid bad weather, flying over or around storms whenever possible for safety reasons. This is especially important for small planes, since they are more vulnerable to wind and weather than are larger planes. Despite this, pilots of even the largest commercial airliners do take the forecast of an aviation meteorologist into account, especially as it pertains to hazards such as large storms and conditions such as wind shear that may adversely affect the aircraft.
People sometimes think that the person they see on the TV news giving weather updates and bulletins is a meteorologist. While this is true some of the time, in many cases this person is actually only a forecaster or an announcer. A meteorologist typically has at least a four-year college degree, and some go beyond that. This is often the minimum level of education necessary to become a meteorologist; many have advanced degrees such as a Master of Science in Meteorology; continuing education is also frequently required.
An aviation meteorologist may be employed by an airport, an airline, or other transportation company to provide weather information related to business operations. Sometimes an aviation meteorologist may choose to be self-employed, offering his or her services to those who need it on an independent basis. Either way, this type of scientist typically collects data from around the world to form a complete view of current and forthcoming weather conditions. It is important to be flexible so that forecasts are altered to fit the changing data when it is necessary to do so. Failure to recognize when conditions have changed could result in a disaster for pilots and their passengers.