Being able to turn to the news or a handy weather app to start your day with the right attire is probably a convenience you take for granted. Meteorology and weather forecasting involve complex science and technology – and there are people working every hour to ensure you don’t get stuck without an umbrella and help you understand what is going on the atmosphere around you.
National Weatherperson’s Day on Feb. 5th celebrates these hard-working weather gurus and commemorates the birthday of John Jeffries, one of America’s first weather observers. Since Jeffries took the first balloon observation in 1784, meteorology tools have evolved into radars, satellites supercomputers and more.
Atmospheric scientists and meteorologists study the weather and climate from any number of weather stations, offices and laboratories, including some at sea. On board select Royal Caribbean International cruise ships, the study of oceanography is closely tied to meteorology and the understanding of climate change. Rear Admiral Richard Behn, Director of Marine Operations at University of Miami’s Virginia Key campus, works with Royal Caribbean to install and maintain all the ships’ data-gathering equipment.
“This equipment is scattered all over the ship, from the keel of the vessel to some internal parts and bow thruster rooms all the way up to the mast,” he said. “We are looking to the atmosphere to see if it is foggy, cloudy or rainy and measuring very, very small particulates. Up on the mast, we are collecting air samples and temperature.”
The scientific information Royal Caribbean is gathering at different points at sea about how the ocean and atmosphere are behaving could be very beneficial in tracking climate change over time.
“This data will allow us to not only investigate, but to prove what the ocean and the atmosphere was doing in that particular region, at a specific time,” Behn said. “And when we consistently go back and pull that information, we can say ‘Temperature is warming or it’s getting colder or the salinity has changed or the particulates in the air are different.’ That then validates what we are seeing globally.”
Science aside, having a handle on the weather is especially important when it comes to planning a vacation. While forecasts are never totally guaranteed, it is helpful to know when to travel to certain destinations at certain times. Taking off on a Caribbean cruise between December and April, for example, will most likely mean very little rainfall and temps in the 70s and mid-80s. Add a private, white-sand beach; stunning coral reefs and sprawling rainforests, and you’ll be one with nature.
Just say a silent thanks to the weathermen when you see those those sun icons pop up on your smartphone screen.