The “Emergency Response Meteorologist” Curriculum Development at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Prescott, Arizona

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Wednesday, 7 January 2015: 2:00 PM
125AB (Phoenix Convention Center - West and North Buildings)
Gary R. Woodall, NOAA/NWS, Memphis, TN; and C. N. James and B. A. Klimowski

For many years, the National Weather Service (NWS) has required a series of specific college classes for its meteorologist positions. These requirements currently include courses in atmospheric dynamics and thermodynamics, analysis and prediction of weather systems, physical meteorology, remote sensing/instrumentation, and appropriate prerequisites. Many universities provide meteorology degree programs that meet or exceed the NWS requirements. Past experience shows that graduates who enter the NWS are generally well prepared for the meteorological aspects of their new jobs.

A culture change within the NWS is currently underway. Guided by concepts such as “Weather-Ready Nation”, the NWS is shifting its focus toward impacts-based services. NWS staff members collaborate more closely with key partners to identify critical decision points and to provide NWS services that take these decision points into account. Expert interpretation of data and forecasts, in a format that is familiar to key partners, will be an important part of future NWS services. Briefings to partner agencies, and on-site support to public safety staff at large events may become more common. The NWS of the future will need a meteorologist who is skilled in both communications and weather forecasting.

In late 2013, representatives from the NWS Offices in Flagstaff and Phoenix, AZ, met with faculty and staff members from the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) campus in Prescott, AZ. The ERAU staff members were interested in expanding the influence of their meteorology program. In follow-up discussions, the NWS officials described the skills needed in the future NWS and the role that ERAU could play in developing these new meteorologists. Specifically, in addition to meteorology, the skills that were discussed included:

* Ability to brief and communicate in a crisis environment * Knowledge of EOC/first responder operations * Knowledge of the societal/human impacts of weather incidents * Ability to develop clear, informative graphical communications * Understanding of social media, especially in government operations

Following these discussions, the concept of an “Emergency Response Meteorologist” course track began to take shape. In addition to the core meteorology classes in the ERAU curriculum necessary for meeting NWS criteria, these supplemental course topics will be incorporated as an optional course track. Additionally, since some of the classes fall under the umbrellas of psychology and communications, they could be used to satisfy certain general education requirements in humanities.

We anticipate that the Emergency Response Meteorologist course track will produce meteorology graduates who have a solid scientific foundation and critical communications skills. These graduates would be prepared for careers in the National Weather Service or any meteorological position which requires direct, frequent contact with customers during high-impact events.