What is a Climatologist?

Climatologists are often confused with meteorologists. While meteorologists study current weather conditions, climatologists focus on long-term trends which can affect energy usage, the survival of endangered species and much more. However, this is not by far the only task of a climatologist. Do you want to know what would you do for the environment as a climatologist, or which industries could you work in? From its ancient history to the salary of a climatologist we discuss everything in this article. 

Understanding the Climatology as an Ancient Science

Climatology has been an important role for humans since ancient times. It provided information on diseases, helped to understand agricultural patterns and clarified geological processes. Climatology as we know it today has been created from two distinct directions. From a geographical and a physical one. Geographical explorations enabled humans to define climate as a local characteristic of a place. On the other hand, physical studies generated a set of tools and theories that provided a more comprehensive understanding of the climate.

Climatology as a type of occupation has been recognized around 1720 when James Jurin successfully established an organized system enabling the collection of weather data from several different locations. 60 years later in 1780, the very first meteorological society was founded in Germany, introducing themselves as The Societas Meteorologica Palatina . Their focus was on the collection of weather information from all around Europe. From then, it took climatology almost 200 years, to be acknowledged as an existing science field. Yet it is essential to highlight, that without the help of western explorers, thus the investigation of all parts of the world, climatology could have not been as advanced as it was by that time. However, in the 18th century, science was finally able to acquire data on current climate events, yet the systematization of information was still lacking.

Later on, in the 19th century, the examination of botanicals facilitated climatology to further understand the distinct changes in weather. Another contributing element to the evolution of data systematization was the recent knowledge of sea navigation. By investigating different sea route mappings, scientists were able to identify winds, events of the sea, the circulation of the atmosphere, and the temperature and depth of the sea. While throughout the upcoming decades, further studies and explorations helped to better understand this science, the introduction of the technological revolution marked a big change in the history of climatology. One of the most outstanding figures of this time was John von Neumann, who began to solve atmospheric circulation equations with the first computers. His work was only the first step towards the later-created Earth System Models , which provide the current understanding of our climate system.

The fastly increasing knowledge of climatology has encouraged the establishment of several international collaborations, which eventually formed an international climate research community. The work of such research teams eventually raised a concern towards global warming and its relation to climate change. On this account, the United Nations adopted the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) , which aimed to reduce and stabilize the concentration of greenhouse gas. Along with UNFCCC came the creation of Global Climate Goals and the establishment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) , an international entity involving worldwide academic experts on particular topics of climate change.

What does a Climatologist do?

Climatologists are often confused with meteorologists. While meteorologists study current weather conditions, thus generating short-term forecasts, climatologists focus on long-term trends which can affect energy usage, food production, survival of endangered species and human health and life calculations.

In other words, a climatologist studies climate change, variability and the effect of climate on the biosphere.

What are the daily tasks of a Climatologist?

Since climatology includes the examination of all climate-related elements and events, the life of a climatologist can be very diverse.

Some climatologists work as private consultants others for government research. By evaluating distinct climate events, climatologists also contribute to the work of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). The following area will describe some of the daily tasks of a climatologist.

  • Studying and interpreting data, map reports, photographs and charts to predict long-term patterns
  • Using computer models to predict patterns
  • Preparing forecasts and briefings for industrial, commercial and governmental clients
  • Gathering data from weather stations, satellites or radar stations and providing this information to the media
  • Preparing and making scientific presentations
  • Applying knowledge to problems such as global warming, agriculture and natural disasters
  • Conducting research into the processes behind weather events
  • Analyzing historical climate information to help predict future trends
  • Dealing with information and media requests
  • Reviewing past climate conditions and using models to conduct predictions of future climate trends
  • Providing information and advising policymakers on environmental topics

What are the different industries of Climatology?

Several sub-fields can be differentiated within Climatology. Each category focuses on a different aspect of the climate. The American Meteorological Society identifies three main sub-fields: descriptive climatology, scientific climatology, and applied climatology.

  1. Descriptive Climatology – This field of climatology investigates the observed temporal distribution of meteorological observations.
  2. Scientific Climatology – This field puts the focus on nature, the different influential aspects of the Earth’s Climate, and the cause of climate change.
  3. Applied Climatology – This field as the name states it as well, addresses a more practical side of Climatology. It involves planning, design, operations, and other decision-making activities of climate-sensitive sectors.

Along with the three main fields of Climatology, several further branches can be highlighted. These are the followings:

  • Palaeoclimatology – the study of this field steps back to the beginning of times by seeking to understand ancient climate events. The aim of this field is to further clarify and sometimes reconstruct records such as data on ice cores and tree rings. This field also involves the determination of hurricane frequencies.
  • Historical Climatologist – focuses on climate events related to human history. Therefore this field of climatology only goes back a few thousand years compared to Palaeoclimatology, which investigates ancient times.
  • Boundary-layer Climatology – the aim of this field is to examine exchanges in water, energy and momentum near the surface.

Further identified smaller fields are:

  • physical climatology
  • dynamic climatology
  • Tornado Climatology
  • Regional Climatology
  • Bioclimatology
  • Synoptic Climatology
  • Hydroclimatology

Where can you find a job as a Climatologist?

However, working as a climatologist can be a complex occupation, as the above-mentioned paragraphs show, it is also a diverse and evolving industry. If you are looking for a job as a climatologist you can check out all the sustainability jobs on our platform. Or check out other sustainability jobs in Europe

Find your dream job within the categories below:

How can you become a Climatologist?

In order to become a climatologist a strong background in math and physics is required.

For those who intend to pursue a career in Climatology, it is highly recommended to take classes in high school related to mathematics, biology, physics and computer sciences.

Entry Level Position

An entry-level position within this field requires a bachelor’s degree in climatology or a related field such as meteorology or atmospheric sciences. The educational program involves courses on meteorology, climatology, agriculture, biology, computer and natural sciences. Since climate data can be acquired from several different fields (as it was mentioned above), a broad knowledge is required including biology and other core elements of Earth.

Research and Academic Position

A research and academic position a Master’s or PhD.

What are the financial benefits of becoming a Climatologist?

An average salary of a climatologist is $63,312 /year.

Moreover, the following states within the United States have the highest ranking regarding the salaries of climatologists:

  1. Alaska – $70,973
  2. California – $70,720
  3. District of Columbia – $70,422
  4. New Jersey – $69,998
  5. Massachusetts – $86,884

What are the environmental impacts of the work of a Climatologist?

One of the main tasks climatologists do on a daily basis, is to investigate the different changes and events of weather. This provides information on how much human activities are affecting the overall climate of Earth, such as increased average temperature. As a result of that climatologists also examine climate-related phenomena caused by society such as greenhouse gases and their link to global warming.

Climatologists also contribute to the establishment of new climate policies through their work with organizations such as the IPCC.

Advantages of being a Climatologist

We have collected a couple of advantages as sort of a summary as well as why to become a climatologist.

  • Climatologists have access to a broad knowledge regarding climate, the current event on Earth and historical backgrounds about ancient knowledge regarding our current weather formations
  • Several different fields that you can choose from within Climatology
  • You can generate a positive impact on our planet while understanding the core elements of our climate
  • Working within a field that always changes and evolves, thus you have the opportunity to grow and constantly learn


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