National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce
Michel Davison
Michel Davison

Location: College Park MD
Weather Prediction Center
Job Title: Chief of the International Desks
Michel Davison

Educational Background:

  • Bachelor of Science in Chemistry, Phi Beta Kappa, The Florida State University
  • Meteorology, Saint Louis University (through U.S. Air Force Institute of Technology (USAFIT))
  • Meteorology, Texas A&M University (USAFIT)

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

  • As a newly minted second lieutenant in 1985, the USAF had a professional development training program in conjunction with several civilian institutions to develop specialists in meteorology. The requirement, however, was to complete the four years of coursework in one year! After completing my classwork at Saint Louis University, my first duty assignment was England Air Force Base (AFB) in Louisiana, where for two years I had the opportunity to learn operational weather forecasting in support of the 23rd Tactical Fighter Wing, the Flying Tigers. While at England AFB, they trained me on how to apply numerical model guidance, write Terminal Aerodrome Forecasts (TAF), the operations of the weather RADAR, take observations, hand plot weather data and learn single station forecasting techniques while providing support to one of the most challenging/weather sensitive airframes in the USAF inventory, the A-10 Warthog.

    After two years I moved overseas to Howard Air Force Base in Panama for the opportunity to learn about tropical weather forecasting and mastering streamline analysis. I was appointed as the Staff Weather Officer to the US Army South (USARSO), in the Panama Canal Zone. While providing support to the Army, I had the opportunity to deploy to different locations in Central America, where for the most part satellite imagery was the only data available to make our analyses and forecasts. 

    My time in Panama was followed by an assignment in support of the U.S. Forces Command and the U.S. Army Forces Central Command (USARCENT) in Fort McPherson, Georgia. Shortly after my arrival I was deployed to Riyadh Saudi Arabia during Desert Shield/Storm, where I continued to support USARCENT. This added another theater of operations to my growing resume of weather experience, while also learning about model capabilities and limitations.

    Through my seven years of active duty in the Air Force, I gained experience forecasting in mid-latitude, tropical and desert regimes. This gave me a broad range of experience rather than becoming a specialist in one regime, and set the path for me to oversee the operations of the Weather Prediction Center’s International Desks training program.

What do you do for the NWS?

  • Since 1993, I have been the Chief of the International Desks at the Weather Prediction Center, leading a U.S. State Department funded/World Meteorological Organization sponsored on-the-job training program for meteorologists from Central America, Island Nations of the Caribbean and South America. During their four-month long fellowship, the visiting scientists learn how to generate objective forecasts by properly applying numerical weather models, with emphasis on the generation of quantitative precipitation forecasts. During the hurricane season, we apply our experience in forecasting rainfall in the Caribbean Basin to support forecasts of National Weather Service offices, including the National Hurricane Center. Over the years, I have had the opportunity to train over 300 meteorologists from Central/South America and the island nations of the Caribbean.

    In 2014, with the help of Dr. Jose Galvez, we developed an index for tropical convection forecasting, known as the Galvez-Davison Index (GDI). This was the first index developed in more than 40 years for tropical air masses. Its implementation, by the National Weather Service and the Regional Meteorological Centers in the Caribbean Basin, Central and South America, has resulted in higher confidence forecasts.

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

  • Several experiences throughout my career come to mind when I think of the most exciting or impactful events. While working for the USAF I prepared and briefed the weather forecasts for Operation Just Cause in 1989 and the liberation of Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm.

    When Hurricane Katrina made landfall in 2005, live TV highlighted the importance of accurate weather forecasts and how critical the NWS is in order to save lives. Katrina shaped the way I think about tropical weather events.

    Having relatives in Puerto Rico, I was their eyes and ears as Hurricane Maria made landfall over the island in 2015. For a while, I was their only source of information while also maintaining operations at the International Desks. I warned my aunts and uncles on the island that this was going to be the worst event in their lifetime.

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

  • Following my seven years active duty as a Staff Weather Officer in the USAF, my broad experience in the mid-latitudes and tropics in the USAF made serving as an instructor at the International Desks a great fit for me. I was excited to start this new chapter in my career.

What do you like most about working for the NWS?

  • I most enjoy the camaraderie and a professional work environment, along with the mentality that fosters innovation and encourages personal development. It offers the opportunity to work with others who share their vast levels of expertise and knowledge. We are always looking for ways to do our job even better.

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

  • Service above self must be the mantra of those who want to make a career of working for the government. Our forecasts save lives. As professionals, we work hard to make sure the American public gets the best support we can provide.

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

  • I would recommend that in addition to education opportunities, service in the U.S. military (USAF or Navy) can provide numerous opportunities to broaden your knowledge and become a better meteorologist. The NWS values this type of diverse experience among its forecasters.