National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce
Charles Ross

Location: State College, PA
State College Weather Forecast Office (WFO)
Job Title: Senior Service Hydrologist

Educational Background:

  • Bachelor's Degree in Meteorology from Pennsylvania State University
  • Courses at University of California at Davis
  • Master's Certificate in Applied Statistics from Pennsylvania State University World Campus

Describe the career path that led you to your current job with the National Weather Service.

  • I have spent considerable time working in both Weather Service Forecast Offices (WFOs) and River Forecast Centers (RFCs) as both a meteorologist and a hydrologist. I have worked in NWS offices in Portland, ME; Sacramento, CA; Taunton, MA; and Spokane, WA. I also worked as a meteorologist for Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) in Portland, OR before returning to the NWS in 2010 to take my current job.

What do you do for the NWS?

  • As a Senior Service Hydrologist, I am the program manager for the office's Hydrology program. I have a wide range of duties, which include working with local communities to set flood stages on rivers and streams and working on various teams within and outside the NWS on flood-related projects. I also work closely with the WFO staff to ensure our office is well-trained and ready to issue flood products during times of high water.

What was the most interesting, exciting, or impactful weather/water event you experienced while working for the NWS and why does it stand out?

  • I've been fortunate to have worked many high-impact weather events. The floods associated with the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee, which hit the Susquehanna River Basin in 2011, stand out. Rain fell so heavily and fast that small streams and creeks flooded quickly and was followed by major river flooding on the Susquehanna River. It was a really busy two days and I will never forget the date. It happened on my birthday! My wife and kids brought cake into the office to quickly celebrate.

What made you decide to pursue a career with the NWS?

  • I wanted to be a meteorologist at a young age. I remember listening to the voice recorded NOAA Weather Radio broadcasts out of the Houston, TX WFO as a kid and knew then that the NWS was where I wanted to work when I grew up! I've had a really great career so far. I have seen a lot of changes and love coming to work because I know every day will be different.

What do you like most about working for the NWS?

  • I really like the variety of work I get to do. Being a Senior Service Hydrologist requires a large skillset. I have the responsibility of working some shifts as a meteorologist, so I need to keep up-to-date on all of the operational issues our forecasters face. Plus, I attend meetings and develop relationships with a wide group of people. In addition, there is a lot of work that is required within the office to keep the hydrology program moving forward day-to-day.

What advice do you have for someone interested in a career with the NWS?

  • Things have changed a lot since I was hired in the NWS in the early '90s. Grades are really important, of course. Work as hard as you can an undergrad to get a Pathways position, which gives you options after graduation. Competition is very high to get the few positions that open each year, so everything you do as an undergrad is important to build up your resume.

What training or coursework would you recommend to someone interested in following your career path?

  • Math and science classes are really important in high school. Don't rush to get to Calculus in high school. Get Pre-Calculus and Trigonometry down pat. If you have a strong understanding of those subjects, then college Calculus classes will be much easier.