National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce
Aviva Braun
Aviva Braun

Location: Boise, ID
Boise Weather Forecast Office (WFO)
Job Title: Meteorologist
Aviva Braun

My passion for meteorology began as it did for many of my colleagues, with a fascination for watching thunderstorms on my front porch. As the lightning moved through the atmosphere towards the ground, I was enthralled. I was outside observing the weather as often as I could.

I was (and am) lucky; my statistician-mother and economist-father nurtured my curiosity in science and my development in critical thinking. When I reached the 8th grade, my Earth Science teacher Antonio Carrillo challenged me to study the weather and not just be marveled by it. And learning more about meteorology didn’t scare me away.

I started out in college as a geology major. I soon realized, though, that I wanted to get back to meteorology. The University of Massachusetts, Amherst did not offer a meteorology major, so I nudged the faculty to create independent study courses for me and they did. (It never hurts to ask.) I followed up with a master’s in meteorology from Penn State and I was finally a meteorologist. Yes, most times I looked around a classroom, I saw that I was surrounded by men. But I found men and women who encouraged me, and by keeping this cheering section nearby, I managed to overcome my minority status.

I’ve been working for the National Weather Service (NWS) for nearly 3 years. As a meteorologist, I conduct radar surveillance, issue warnings during high-impact events (like flash flood and severe thunderstorm warnings, areal flood advisories, and winter storm warnings), and prepare forecasts using radar, satellite, and synoptic weather data. I love my job for several reasons. I’ve never been much of a saleswoman and, at NWS, I can disseminate information for free. Plus, I find it rewarding to work with weather-vulnerable and underserved populations in our forecast region.

Not too long ago I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in a 500-person village in Senegal. I lived in a mud hut with a thatched roof and no electricity, and I pulled water from a well every day and carried it back on my head. (Too bad NWS doesn’t have a talent show!) Point is, I live for service-oriented activities and I love reaching out to emergency managers (EM), transportation directors, and ordinary folk who don’t realize what NWS offers. For example, I recently learned that the EM of an Indian tribe had been manually recording our forecast information for local tribal radio--a time-consuming task that detracted from his other duties. My manager and I led an effort to provide automated recordings of our weather advisories and warnings. Now the tribe can broadcast our recordings and get the information out faster.

Outside of work, I volunteer as a test counselor at a small non-governmental organization advising patients on sexually transmitted infections. I also organize activities as the Service Chair for the Idaho Returned Peace Corps Association, including volunteering at our local food bank, collecting sagebrush seed with Idaho Fish & Game, and helping distribute donations for a refugee placement organization. And I have never lost my love for the outdoors. It brings me peace of mind and reminds me that I’m part of nature. Backpacking through Idaho’s wilderness isn’t always easy, but as we say, the harder the climb, the more rewarding the view. Professionally, as a woman in STEM, I know that’s true.
Photo caption: Launching a weather balloon for a 00Z sounding.