What is a climatologist? A climatologist studies the earth’s climate and the weather patterns and processes that cause them. They use long-term meteorological data such as temperature, wind speed, and precipitation to study trends, understand causes, and make predictions.

At a Glance

Imagine you are standing at the top of a ridge in one of the windiest places in Canada. You are a climatologist and you are here as part of a team of consultants working on a project for an energy development company.

This company is interested in building a wind farm in the area that will generate electricity for residential and industrial consumers in the southern part of the province.

Before it starts building million-dollar turbines and generators, the company needs to know if this location is windy enough for a farm. They’ve hired you to analyze long-term climate data from the area and determine if, where, and how the farm should be built.

As a climatologist, you have studied all kinds of weather phenomena, but your specialty is wind. For this project, you're looking for the kind of wind that can be used to produce electricity.

Residents have told you the area can be windy, but you will also use long-term data and computer models to evaluate the wind's quantitative properties.

Weather satellites and a nearby meteorological station will provide data that will help you determine how many days a year on average the wind blows at a speed high enough to turn the blades of a large turbine.

Since the meteorological station has records for the last 65 years, you can use that information to detect trends and variability in the wind. You will also use computer models based on this data to determine exactly where the turbines should be placed on the ridge so that they receive the strongest wind.

Finally, since these huge turbines don't spin like your average garden windmill, you must also determine which direction they should face in order to maximize effectiveness.

After several months of research and data analysis, you will produce a report for the energy company on the feasibility of its wind farm based on the occurrence, strength, and prevailing direction of local winds.

Job Duties

Duties vary significantly from job to job, but the following list includes typical job duties one might encounter as a climatologist:

  • Analyze and interpret data obtained from meteorological stations, radar and satellite imagery, and computer models
  • Analyze past climate conditions and use models to predict future climate trends.
  • Research factors that affect climate and cause climate change
  • Provide information and advise policymakers on environmental topics
  • Use impact models to illustrate how human or natural activities respond to climate, for example, crop yields, wetland ecology, biodiversity, and human health
  • Provide information for, and work with, businesses that rely on the weather
  • Communicate research findings to the scientific community and the public
  • Produce weather forecasts and offer consulting services to various industries
  • Disseminate forecasts and reports to the public through various mediums including television, radio, and social media
  • Develop scientific presentations and publish reports and articles on findings

Work Environment

Climatologists work in a variety of locations, including:

In the office:

  • Doing paperwork, analyzing data, and preparing climate summary reports
  • Drafting models
  • Communicating on the phone and in meetings with clients, stakeholders, government departments, and the public
  • Applying for research funding
  • Reviewing publications
  • Travelling for conferences, meetings, and workshops when necessary
  • Consulting with other climatologists, meteorologists, and professionals

In the lab:

  • Taking measurements and recording data
  • Developing climate monitoring equipment

In the field:

  • Travelling to present at conferences and public forums to explain your findings to the public, government, and industry personnel
  • Collecting samples such as ice cores, soil, water, and plant life
  • Observing factors of climate change

Where to Work

There are a number of places to find climatologist jobs. They include:

  • Federal, provincial/territorial, and municipal government departments
  • Colleges, universities, and research institutes
  • Environmental and engineering consulting firms
  • Non-governmental organizations

Search for jobs on the ECO Canada Job Boad

Education and Skills

If you are a high school student considering a career as a climatologist, you should have strong marks or an interest in:

  • Physics
  • Mathematics
  • Chemistry
  • Geography
  • Computer Science

In most cases, the minimum education requirement to work as a climatologist is a university undergraduate degree. If you are interested in research, a graduate degree is usually required.

If you are a post-secondary student considering a career as a climatologist, the following programs are most applicable:

  • Physics
  • Atmospheric Sciences
  • Climatology
  • Mathematics
  • Environmental Science
  • Environmental Earth Sciences
  • Geography

In addition, graduate courses in atmospheric science and statistics are recommended.

Certification is not mandatory for climatologists, but most practitioners choose to belong to a professional group, such as the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society.

Our Environmental Professional (EP) designation may be useful for your career and personal development too.


Hard/ Technical Skills (obtained through formal education and training programs)

  • Quantitative analysis/ modelling
  • Geographic Information Systems
  • Statistical analysis
  • Use specialized instruments and equipment

Soft Skills (personal attributes and characteristics)

  • Oral and written communication
  • Ability to work in a team
  • Critical thinker
  • Attention to detail
  • Time management

Environmental employers look for professionals who can combine technical knowledge with soft skills.  Watch our free webinar “Essential Not Optional: Skills Needed to Succeed in Canada’s Environmental Industry” or take our Essential Skills courses.

Education and Skills

Howard Freeland

Although he is a research scientist, Howard Freeland's job still requires him to "get his hands dirty". Writing computer programs, doing calculus and driving a fork-lift on a research ship can all be part of a day's work. But he loves the variety and the travel.

His original passion was astronomy; "I was crazy about it from an early age", he says. His interest in the evolution of planets led to an interest in climate change and the ways it influences evolution. He still regards himself as an astronomist but one that focuses on planet Earth.

Howard has a BSc. in theoretical physics, A doctorate from Dalhousie University in physical oceanography, and did post-doctoral work at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts.

Howard now works for the Institute of Ocean Sciences in Sidney, B.C. His task these days is to research the oceans and develop ways to provide reliable one-year forecasts of phenomena like El Niño. His research takes him to sea for extended periods to "capture snapshots of the ocean's climactic state." He monitors the physics and chemistry of climate change and tries to figure out how carbon dioxide, heat and salt move through the oceans.

His advice to young people interested in the field? "Be interested in science and read well. Look for coop opportunities - prepare yourself by developing skills that are relevant."

Your Impact

You may see the term 'climatologist' used interchangeably with 'meteorologist', but there are some distinct differences to take note of. The difference between a climatologist and a meteorologist is that meteorologists study short-term weather patterns and climatologists study long-term weather patterns.

Long-term climate change affects every aspect of our lives and the environment, so climatology is crucial in helping to sustain and preserve the world's ecosystems.

The smallest variations to wind speed, precipitation, or even the migratory patterns of animals can be strong indicators for climatologists of climate change. There are also numerous sub-sections of climatology. As a climatologist, you may study the connection between historical climate trends to predict what could happen in the future. In this case, you’d be a paleoclimatologist.

Climatologists must be strong problem-solvers. As a climatologist, you apply research and data to address climate problems and suggest efficient ways to improve performance so we’re well prepared for different weather conditions.

Climatologists have to opportunity to work with or as a weather forecaster, utilizing measurement tools and statistical software to improve accuracy, conduct weather simulations and present findings in a clear and concise manner to the public.

Climatologist jobs can be found in government agencies, academic and research institutions, environmental consulting firms, and non-governmental organizations.

As conversations on climate change grow, so are the myths surrounding it. You may have heard false statements like ‘global warming isn’t real because it’s still cold.’

Climatologists play a very important role in the direction of climate change. They may collaborate with organizations and firms to help lessen the impacts of their business practices on the environment. They can also act as educators to make the rest of us aware of how our actions directly affect the climates in which we live.

The process of urbanization is one area where climatologists are needed. Growing populations means expanding cities which creates a need for more space.

Larger homes are built, commercial and residential areas sprout up and more energy is consumed. Making space for humans may come at the cost of displacing wildlife and can lead to negative ecological actions such as deforestation which forces wildlife out of their natural habitats.

Climatologists understand that the modernization of urban areas directly affects both regional and global climates. This could be through creating microclimates that see more heat in certain areas. As a climatologist, you’d study the change of such areas over time.

Occupational Classification

Individuals employed as conservation biologists may be classified in one or more of the following occupational groupings:

NOC Code: 2114- Meteorologists and Climatologists

What is a NOC Code?

The National Occupation Classification (NOC) provides a standardized language for describing the work performed by Canadians in the labour market. It gives statisticians, labour market analysts, career counsellors, employers and individual job seekers a consistent way to collect data, describe and understand the nature of work within different occupations.

The NOC is developed and updated in partnership with Statistics Canada to coincide with the 5- year census cycles. It is based on in-depth occupational research and consultations conducted across Canada, to reflect changes in the Canadian labour market.

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