National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce
Melissa Di Spigna

Location: Upton, NY
WFO Upton, NY
Job Title: Meteorologist

Educational Background:

  • Bachelor’s Degree in Applied Meteorology from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

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

  • I worked odd jobs throughout college to help pay for my education, but I knew that I also wanted to do an internship in meteorology.  I sent letters to Meteorologists-in-Charge at several NWS offices that were located near my college and where I was from.  One was kind enough to write back and tell me about an internship program, which I promptly applied for.  After my persistent emails (and offers to work for free!) I was hired as a SCEP  (now the Pathways program), starting my career with the NWS.

What do you do for the NWS?

  • I'm a forecaster for the New York, NY office providing weather information for an area that includes the largest city in the United States! We deal with challenging weather ranging from blizzards to hurricanes. One of the more complex challenges we have in the area is the number of major airports confined to a small geographic space. I'm in charge of our local aviation program, and we put a lot of effort into working with our partners in the FAA to ensure they are getting the most useful and tailored forecasts that will ensure efficient and safe use of the airspace.

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

  • Before my current job, I worked for the Storm Prediction Center (SPC) in Oklahoma.  In 2008, a tornado outbreak developed across the Plains, and my coworkers and I were extremely busy.  A particularly nasty storm had developed in Iowa and sadly struck a Boy Scout camp killing four boys and injuring forty-eight people.  I felt the weight and sorrow of that event, but it makes us strive to do our best.  If we can continue to educate communities and provide accurate forecasts, then hopefully we can keep people safe.

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

  • Most meteorologists have an event that really piques their interest in the weather. In 1993, I lived in New York, which was hit hard by the “Storm of the Century.”  We had several feet of snow and I remember being fascinated by how intense the storm was.  I was hooked already, but Hurricane Bob in 1991 on a family vacation and a tornado outbreak in 1998 sealed the deal.  We were located close to an NWS office, so I visited and made a decision very early in my life that I would be a meteorologist.

What do you like most about working for the NWS?

  • I always liked that no day is the same in the NWS.  The weather is always changing and although you may begin to recognize patterns, no two events are completely alike.  There are a lot of people in the NWS with different talents, so it gives you a degree of freedom to pursue interests that are special to you.  If you like research, you can focus on that.  If you want to do outreach to local communities, write programs or work with our partner agencies, there’s a need for that too.

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

  • The NWS is a popular organization to work for and each year the graduating classes seem to be more competitive than the last.  It’s not enough to have a degree anymore; you have to look for ways to set yourself apart.  Join or start a meteorology club.  Get involved with the American Meteorological Society (AMS) or National Weather Association ( NWA) local chapters.  Apply for Hollings Scholarships.  Most importantly, look into volunteer opportunities with an NWS office or pursue a Pathways internship.  You can do it!

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

  • A meteorology degree is very math and science intensive.  Be sure to take all of the math and science courses you can, because you will do calculus, chemistry and physics throughout the degree.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help!  A programming course in a language like Python is useful because we do use a lot of computers.  And finally, the NWS is changing into an organization that is focused on good communication, so anything that improves your people skills or communication is a great idea!