National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce
Teresa Souther Murphy

Location: Silver Spring, MD
Office of Observations (OBS)
Job Title: Physical Scientist

Educational Background:

  • Bachelor’s Degree in Atmospheric Sciences from the University of North Carolina at Asheville
  • Courses in Elementary Education from the University of North Carolina at Asheville
  • Graduate courses in Civil Engineering from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology

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

  • I was a student trainee meteorologist at the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) while I was earning my bachelor's degree at the University of North Carolina at Asheville. I interned at two offices in Georgia before taking on the challenge of weather and water forecasting in Rapid City, SD as the Service Hydrologist. My husband and I were looking for more career opportunities and we wanted our daughter to grow up near extended family. During the decade in Kansas City, I was a weather forecaster, a River Forecast Center (RFC) hydrologist, and an instructor at the NWS Training Center. I wanted the opportunity to move into leadership positions, so we moved to Silver Spring, MD. I joined the Office of Observations Front Office staff and took on increasing levels of responsibility as I learned more about the breadth of observations portfolio.

What do you do for the NWS?

  • I am a Physical Scientist in the NWS Office of Observations. I typically have a number of projects at any given time supporting the Observations Portfolio mission of managing a diverse constellation of observing assets to support weather, climate, and societal needs. To support the portfolio mission, I develop observing system policy to more effectively use the systems NOAA owns and leverages, lead efforts to make NOAA data more accessible and usable by our own agency as well as stakeholders, and facilitate updates to observation requirements. I represent the NWS on several teams so NOAA and other federal agencies can more effectively coordinate observing system initiatives.

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

  • Conducting background interviews for the commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the Rapid City Flood is one of the most impactful events of my career. I coordinated on the placement of a high water mark plaque and organized a safety fair, but hearing my friend's mother, a nurse, describe helping people identify their loved ones at a makeshift morgue made me even more determined to make sure the catastrophic flood was not forgotten and greenways and funding for local gages were preserved.

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

  • My 4th grade teacher introduced me to science beyond a textbook. I was fascinated by George Washington Carver (I use one of his quotes in my signature block), but my botany experiment died, so I started a weather log. I pestered the meteorological technicians at the Asheville Weather Service Office (WSO) and knew from the first time they graciously showed me the rooftop instrumentation at the airport, I wanted to be in the NWS. I really liked the connection to weather and the people who used the information.

What do you like most about working for the NWS?

  • Choosing one reason is difficult because I like so much about the NWS! I contribute to the safety of people and the protection of property as part of a job I love. I also like the challenges – whether it is learning new skills or navigating a new city. I found opportunities to work in so many capacities and learn about other aspects of the mission. I met lifelong friends, not only among my NWS family, but also in each city where my career has taken me. What can be better?

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

  • Become involved in the weather and water enterprise while you are in college – attend American Meteorological Society (AMS) meetings, participate in research projects, apply for the Pathways program and volunteer at a local office; in other words, immerse yourself to make sure this is something you can imagine yourself doing as a career.

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

  • Be aware of the opportunities around you, whether it is training (formal or even on a different forecast desk), local outreach events, or details and NOAA Rotational Assignment Program (NRAP) assignments. I am typically a cautious person, but I also knew a slightly different path could lead to a broad range of experiences – as a newly minted intern, I never thought I would install rapid-deployment gages in burn areas, work in the NWS Headquarters, or develop river model training used not only by the NWS, but other agencies.