Follow weather patterns over long periods.

What does a Climatologist do?

A blizzard that drops two feet of snow. A heat wave that bakes the pavement. A tornado that destroys homes and highways. The weather can do extraordinary things.

Climatologists, however, don’t forecast this kind of crazy weather (that’s what meteorologists do). Instead, climatologists study and analyze climate.

Think of it this way: While meteorologists predict short-term weather events, climatologists study long-term weather patterns and trends. In other words, as a climatologist, you don’t say, “It’s going to rain tomorrow,” but rather, “It’s hotter in the South than in the North.”

A scientist who uses information about the past to make predictions about the future, you rely heavily on technology including satellites and radar. You also work with data about temperature, barometric pressure, wind speed, and humidity. In addition, your work relies on physical samples including ancient mud and ice cores which contain chemical clues about the weather in previous decades, centuries, and millennia.

Because they can have a significant impact on climate, you also pay close attention to oceans—their temperatures, depths, currents, and salinity are of special interest—and volcanoes, which can alter the atmosphere when they erupt.

More important than what you do, however, is why you do it. Although weather can impact your weekend plans, climate—the prevailing weather patterns in a geographic area—can impact everything from food production and wildlife survival to energy usage, health, and even life expectancy. The chief spokesperson for global warming and climate change, you’re therefore in charge of predictive information that impacts industries as diverse as agriculture, building, and medicine. (Oh, and also humanity’s survival!)