National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce
 
Meghan Stockman

Location: Boulder, CO
Office: 
Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC)
Job Title: Space Weather Forecaster


Educational Background:

  • Bachelor’s Degree in Atmospheric Science from the University of Kansas

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

  • I began my career as an enlisted weather forecaster in the Air National Guard. I alternated between semesters in college and deployments before graduating in 2007. At that point, I commissioned as a Weather Officer and applied to SWPC with over 10 years of terrestrial forecasting under my belt and was taught the space weather component on the job.

What do you do for the NWS?

  • As a space weather forecaster, I start by watching the Sun in its current state. How large and magnetically complex are the sunspots facing Earth? Where are the high speed solar wind streams that may impact us over the next few days? Have any eruptions occurred that sent a plasma cloud towards the Earth? Then, I project the timing and magnitude of those impacts for effects on power grids, HF communication and satellites, as well as biological effects on astronauts, to list a few examples.

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

  • We communicate regularly with NASA's Space Radiation Analysis Group (SRAG) to ensure they are aware of anything that may impact the astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS). Astronauts often have to work outside the ISS to fix issues during what is called Extra Vehicular Activity (EVA). Although not the largest event I have worked, the most impactful in my mind was alerting SRAG to recall the EVA in order to protect them as much as possible from biological impacts.

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

  • I had been working as a terrestrial weather forecaster for more than 10 years in the military and the impacts of different weather conditions were very tangible. The timing of fog in the morning could influence whether or not a crew of soldiers were retrieved from a certain location, for example. The challenge of that, as well as the skill of forecasting with limited data in some locations, made me want to find a career with the same intensity and impact.

What do you like most about working for the NWS?

  • In weather forecasting, and especially space weather forecasting, there is always something more to learn. Space weather is a baby science and there are incredibly smart people researching how it all works and bringing that to the forecasters to make our job easier and improve accuracy. The imagery and understanding of this science are advancing literally every day and it is likely to continue well beyond the years I am here, because there is so much more we don't know. It is never stagnant!

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

  • Weather is a difficult career field to get experience with prior to graduation. I believe the best choice I made was to join the Air National Guard and let the military provide me with training, giving me an advantage with experience and skill level.

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

  • Since there is not a space weather forecasting degree as of yet, my recommendation is to learn the forecasting piece first. How do you take small bits of information and turn them into what you believe will happen in the future? I would also recommend taking as many space weather courses as are available to understand the various types of weather and the industries impacted by each.