National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce
Mark Burger

Location: Olathe, Kansas
Center Weather Service Unit (CWSU) Kansas City
Job Title: Aviation Meteorologist

Educational Background:

  • Bachelor’s Degree in Atmospheric Science from the University of Kansas
  • Master’s Degree in Business Administration from Colorado State University

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

  • Before my senior year in college, I volunteered part-time at the Topeka NWS office, which helped lead to my first permanent job as a Meteorologist Intern at WFO Wichita. Having grown up in the Plains, however, I definitely wanted to experience something different, so I headed west to California, serving stints at WFO Monterey and Hanford before becoming a lead meteorologist at WFO Eureka. I served as an Incident Meteorologist which exemplified the nature of building partnerships and the impact of meteorological information and communication to our stakeholders (as well as living in a tent for two weeks in the wilderness). Again wanting to branch out, I returned home to Kansas City to work at the Center Weather Service Unit.   

What do you do for the NWS?

  • As a meteorologist at the Center Weather Service Unit in Kansas City, I am embedded within a regional Federal Aviation Administration air traffic control center and get to experience, every day, how my forecasts directly impact the flying public. Our decision makers are located just steps away from where my forecasts are composed, facilitating incredible and ongoing IDSS opportunities. During our notorious convective events, these forecasts are used to construct routing plans, often impacting transcontinental commercial flights during our busy thunderstorm season. 

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

  • While at Eureka, there was an early summer dry lightning event that brought over 6,000 cloud-to-ground lightning strikes, triggering some 600 fire starts over a 24-hour period. Unfortunately, the event was relatively poorly forecast and with the fuels being unseasonably dry, rapid fire growth ensued.  The lack of firefighting equipment prepositioned as well as the remote terrain made accessing the fires challenging. For our office, the logistics to deploy multiple IMETs to our area (including eventually me), the sheer number of spot requests, and the decision support required for our land management agencies and public certainly tested our available resources. However, at the conclusion of the event around a month later, our stakeholders were overwhelmingly positive about the NWS response and support to this event. Our office was awarded a Commerce Bronze Medal in recognition of those efforts.  

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

  • As a young boy, my dad took me to the local photography and astronomy store and bought me my first weather radio. I was immediately intrigued by the voices emanating from that little box and wondered how lucky these people must be to actually get paid to talk about the weather all day and even in the middle of the night! This fascination eventually resulted in my taking a tour of the local NWS office and, admittedly, making a few too many calls to them to ask about the weather. From that point on, I was hooked!

What do you like most about working for the NWS?

  • The passion people have in their jobs. Actually, calling this a job is a bit misleading. It really is a livelihood that entices people to bring their very best work and ideas to their colleagues and friends.

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

  • Find novel ways to stand out and be persistent in your beliefs, actions, and dreams!

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

  • While obviously a passion and aptitude for math and science are necessary, I would also suggest taking a GIS course or two while in college, and taking more programming and coding courses than are typically required. Try to get involved in a leadership capacity at your college’s AMS student chapter. Also, good verbal and written communication skills are increasingly important, so make sure you’re well versed in grammar! Aim to build your professional network well in advance of your senior year through volunteer or internship opportunities--and don’t forget to reach out to meteorologists at your local TV station, NWS office, or private forecasting company to inquire!