National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce
Karen Eagle

Location: Kansas City, MO
Aviation Weather Center
Job Title: Senior Aviation Meteorologist

Educational Background:

  • Associates Degree from Blue River/Longview Community College
  • Bachelor’s Degree in Atmospheric Science from the University of Kansas, Lawrence KS.

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

  • 2 years prior to graduation, I worked over the summer at the National Weather Service Forecast Office (NWSFO) in Pleasant Hill, MO as a part of the Student Temporary Employment Program (STEP). The following year during the summer and into the fall semester, I again worked at the NWSFO in Pleasant Hill, MO as a part of the Student Career Experience Program (SCEP), currently the Pathways Program. By entering the SCEP program I was guaranteed a position in the NWS after graduation which lead me to the NWSFO in St. Louis, MO as an Meteorological Intern. After only being in St. Louis for a year I was promoted to the Aviation Weather Center (AWC) in Kansas City, MO and have been at the AWC since 2003.

What do you do for the NWS?

  • I am an Senior Aviation Meteorologist at the Aviation Weather Center in Kansas City, MO. We provide forecasts and warnings for convection, icing, turbulence, etc. for the Continental United States and adjacent coastal waters. In addition to domestic responsibilities we also forecast internationally by forecasting for areas over the international portion of the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean, Atlantic and Pacific Ocean. When not busy forecasting for the National Airspace System, I am highly involved with projects that will help evolve the way we provide information to the aviation community.

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

  • There have been many severe turbulence outbreaks over the years, but one in particular stands out in January 14, 2014.  The models were indicating an area of severe, but we didn’t know how bad it was going to be until the east coast morning push of air traffic began to fly through the area in question.  By mid-morning we issued a SIGMET (SIGnificat METeorological Information) for severe turbulence over parts of New England southward to New Jersey to Virginia. Overall the AWC received 15 severe, 10 moderate to severe and 2 extreme turbulence reports ranging from FL230-FL360.  Unfortunately, 5 flight attendants were injured due to the severe turbulence. The flight originated out of Newark Airport heading to Beijing when it encountered the severe turbulence at FL330 over Vermont. The flight then returned to Newark airport to seek medical attention for those that were injured.  It was reported that most of the injuries were minor.

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

  • I had many outside influences that paved my way to become a meteorologist. Two specifically that influenced me most was my father who is an amaetuer radio operator. When I was younger he helped out the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Pleasant Hill, MO relaying pertinent information to the WFO during severe weather. Along with my father being involved with the WFO, my grandpa always had an eye for the weather, enjoyed watching it and discussing his thoughts with me on what he thought might happen.

What do you like most about working for the NWS?

  • I truly enjoy helping out the aviation community with their needs and take great pride that our office is the only national center providing enroute forecasts for the National Airspace System.  Along with forecasting, I also enjoy the privilege to do outreach by educating our users about our products or introducing the AWC to students at universities.

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

  • Start thinking about a NWS career a couple of years prior to graduation because competition seems to be growing. Begin networking at the local American Meteorological Society (AMS) chapter to find someone that can be a mentor through the last couple of years of school. Definitely look for volunteer opportunities within the NWS and when available, apply for the Pathways Program. Lastly, be flexible! Be willing to move around the nation to not only start a career in the NWS, but to receive promotions.

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

  • Pursue a bachelor’s degree, but if possible gaining a master’s degree can certainly help with the hiring process. Prepare to take a lot of math, physics and science classes, but as the NWS begins to evolve, communications is becoming very important therefore I would recommend taking classes that help with public speaking.