Forecasters: Finland versus the US
As I learn more about forecasting and meteorological education in Finland, I am increasingly surprised at the differences between forecasters between the two countries.
If you talk to meteorology undergraduates in the US, you will run into a significant fraction of them who are dying to get jobs in the US National Weather Service (NWS). That is their career goal: they just want to forecast for the NWS.
These types of students don't seem to exist in Finland. Instead, forecasters enter the weather service in FMI mostly as student helpers during the summertime when the regular forecasters go on summer vacation. After a few years of being on the forecast shifts, Finnish forecasters tire of working shifts and get other jobs within FMI: research or administration. In fact, several of the administrative and secretarial staff were meteorological observers in college, leaving the profession later to work in administration. Some of the best and most dedicated forecasters I know have part-time research careers and/or are working towards their masters or doctorate degrees. The result is that you see few forecasters older than 40 years old on the forecast floor. This observation is particularly apparent now, during summer, when the office is mostly new, younger forecasters.
Given that much of forecasting is having experience with a wide variety of circumstances, I feel this difference in attitudes towards a life-long career in forecasting has serious ramifications for the quality of forecasts that FMI produces. The only way to build up these experiences, especially with relative uncommon and potentially hazardous weather events such as big snow storms and thunderstorms that produce severe weather (strong winds, heavy rain, hail, and tornadoes), is by having a workforce that is committed to a career in forecasting. If people view the FMI weather service as a stepping stone into a comfortable government position, then weather forecasting will never be viewed as a task to be done by talented and hardworking professionals.