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Weather Forecasting

Predicting the Weather

At his desk, Jose Galvez looks at a weather map of South America.

Looking toward the sky

Jose Galvez’s interest in weather started early. “I always liked how the sky and weather constantly changed,” he said. “I was always very curious in understanding how the atmosphere worked to produce the observable changing weather conditions.”

Years later, Galvez now works in the Weather Prediction Center International Desks at the National Weather Service (NWS), which is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA). He’s the assistant to the coordinator and one of two NOAA instructors on operational weather forecasting for Latin America. He also researches new ways to forecast the weather. For example, he worked on a stability index that looks at convection (the movement of heat and moisture) in the tropics and subtropics.

This picture shows data using the Galvez-Davison Index—which was developed by Jose Galvez and Mike Davison in 2013 to help predict thunderstorms. It works best in tropical and subtropical areas. Can you imagine having a weather index named after you? (Image courtesy of Jose Galvez.)

A day in weather prediction

No two days are quite the same when you’re predicting something as complicated as the weather. Galvez splits his time between instructing students, forecasting weather, and researching weather-related topics.

Some days he’s working with students to forecast weather and rainfall in South America, Central America, and the Caribbean. He trains them on the ins and outs of weather forecasting, as well as the tools the professionals use. “We follow a weather analysis and forecasting routine that uses observations and numerical model data,” Galvez explained.

It’s like a big puzzle, in a way. Galvez and his team need to interpret lots of different data from lots of different sources and use it to develop the forecasts people need.

“Other times I concentrate on research where I look into different weather-related topics,” said Galvez.

This picture, like the previous one, shows information from the Galvez-Davison Index. It shows areas with atmospheric instability that can lead to thunderstorms. Image courtesy of Jose Galvez.

An education in research

Galvez does research for the NWS and NOAA because he has a background in how to do research. He has a Ph.D. in Meteorology from the University of Oklahoma. A Ph.D. is also called a doctor of philosophy, doctorate or doctoral degree. It’s the highest level of education a person can achieve, and it takes a lot of time and work.

To get a Ph.D. a student first needs a bachelor’s degree (and sometimes a master’s degree) in a subject, such as meteorology like Galvez. Then they choose to go to graduate school and work with a professor. They spend years taking classes and doing research. That means you’re not only learning; you’re discovering new things.

This image shows the Galvez-Davison Index compared to outgoing long wave radiation data that shows clouds and thunderstorms. Image credit: WPC International Desks

Big picture

All of this comes together for Galvez at his job at the National Weather Service. “I like looking at the weather every day and understanding it more every time,” said Galvez. “I also like working with people and feeling that I am contributing with the science of the region.”

If you want to have a job like Galvez, where you predict weather and find ways to do it better, you need an education in science and engineering. “Computer programming, math and physics are very important,” said Galvez. “Meteorology is a very unique field. It can be hard academically but it is fascinating.”

Outside the office

When Galvez isn’t looking at storm clouds in South America or thinking of new ways to predict the weather, he enjoys running, cooking, and gardening. He’s also an avid traveler who loves exploring the world—and its weather!

Jose Galvez visiting the Washington Monument and observing the weather in Washington, D.C.