A weather observer is a meteorologist or meteorologist's assistant who is responsible for the physical collection of weather data. Weather observers work outdoors and use mobile radar, laptops, GPS, and a variety of other equipment to enable themselves to record weather data.
Some weather observers focus on severe weather, and are also referred to as "Storm Chasers". These scientists use calculated risks to record atmospheric data in severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. The data they collect is used to help develop earlier warnings to protect life and property.
Some weather observers stay in one location and go outside at regular intervals. They record their findings and report them to their agency. They will record information like air and ground temperature, wind speed, humidity, amount of precipitation and type, the amount of cloud cover, visibility, and the barometric pressure. The information they collect is used to inform the public of current weather conditions, and is also compared to forecast models to help improve future forecasting.
The weather observer will use many different pieces of equipment, such as weather balloons, thermometers, barometers, radiosondes, anemometers, and rain gauges. Some observers who work for universities use portable Doppler radar.
Some weather observers are paid employees and work for state and federal agencies. Others work for news services or universities. Some are independent contractors and sell their data. There are weather observers that are volunteers and perform the job because they enjoy meteorology.
A bachelor's degree in meteorology is usually required for those who want to be a weather observer, but a master's degree is preferred. For volunteer weather observers, a degree is not required.