National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce
Howard J. Singer

Location: Boulder, CO
Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC)
Job Title: Chief Scientist

Educational Background:

  • Bachelor’s Degree in Physics from the University of Maryland
  • Master’s Degree in Physics and Astronomy from Boston University
  • Master’s Degree in Geophysics and Space Physics from the University of California, Los Angeles
  • Doctorate in Geophysics and Space Physics from the University of California, Los Angeles

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

  • At a young age, a book All About Molecules sparked my interest in science, initiating a meandering career path. Along the way there was a foundation in science education; a newspaper advertisement for “adventure” in Antarctica that led to research at the South Pole and watching the aurora; a Ph.D. at UCLA; work on satellites studying Earth’s radiation belts for the Air Force; and finally a job with NOAA that began with work on space weather research and NOAA’s Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite system (GOES) observations.

What do you do for the NWS?

  • I’ve held several positions since joining NOAA, beginning in the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR). I led work on the GOES space weather instruments and was Chief of the Research and Development Division. Now, as SWPC’s Chief Scientist, I pursue connections and opportunities between space weather operations and national and international modeling, observations, and research. I also lead an exciting effort to transition a model of Earth’s near-space environment from research to operations.

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

  • One morning in July 2000, I stopped in our forecast center just as puzzling data arrived from a satellite 1.5 million km upstream of Earth. The satellite was observing conditions in the solar wind that would arrive at Earth in less than an hour. The extreme values had some of us wondering if the instruments were working properly. They were, and over the next days, our forecasters were kept busy as Earth experienced the Bastille Day Storm, one of the largest solar generated storms in many years.

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

  • In the early ’90s, at the Air Force (AF) Geophysics Laboratory, I was the principal investigator for a magnetometer on an AF/NASA satellite to investigate Earth’s radiation belts. That led to many trips to Ball Aerospace in Boulder, CO and put me in touch with colleagues at the Space Environment Laboratory--the premier organization for monitoring and forecasting Earth’s space environment. When an opportunity arose to work for an organization that combined science with serving society, I joined NOAA.

What do you like most about working for the NWS?

  • I was attracted to NOAA’s NWS by the opportunity to carry out exciting work that spans scientific disciplines extending from the sun to Earth and to use the results of that labor to improve space weather predictions for societal benefit. I particularly enjoy the interactions between science and operations; the opportunity to work with scientists around the world; to contribute to national efforts that help to guide our science future; and to teach and write about space weather and space science.

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

  • One of the things that has impressed me most about working in NOAA and the NWS is the diversity of skills and people that it takes to carry out the mission “Safeguarding society with actionable space weather information." This mission opens the door to rich and rewarding careers. In just my area of space weather, there are careers and exciting opportunities for scientists, forecasters, information technology specialists, and more.

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

  • Enjoyably, my career path has taken many twists and turns, including: teaching, a year at the South Pole doing solid Earth geophysics research, working as a space scientist at the AF Geophysics Lab, working for NOAA, and becoming an adjunct Professor at the University of Colorado. I’ve had both management and leadership positions. For a similar path, I suggest a good science education, working on writing, speaking and communication skills, and being poised to take advantage of unexpected opportunities.