Following our article on meteorology careers, We met up with a meteorologist from the Meteorological Services Department in Zimbabwe. Mr. Haanyadzise Batisai gives us a walkthrough on how he became a meteorologist.
What is your job title and where do you currently work?
I am working as a Senior Operational Meteorologist with the Meteorological Services Department (MSD) under Public Weather Forecasting (PWF) section.
What does your firm/ organisation do?
MSD is Zimbabwe’s national weather service. It provides weather and climate-related services, warnings and weather forecasts for all territories of Zimbabwe. There is also information about seismic (earthquake) activities happening over Zimbabwe, and other weather services such as weather charts, satellite images, and numerical weather prediction (NWP) products.
Tell us a little bit about your career history?
I joined MSD Training School in January 2013 with a focus on operational meteorology and successfully completed the Basic Instruction Package for Meteorologists (BIP-M) in February 2014. Since the training program was both theoretical and practical, I was then posted to Robert Gabriel Mugabe (RGM) International Airport in March 2014 and Belvedere Central Forecast Office (CFO) in June 2014 to gain the practical aspect of the course. At RGM International Airport the idea was to be familiar with aviation weather forecasting and in CFO it was all about gaining exposure in public weather forecasting. I was then awarded a Post Graduate Diploma in Meteorology in August 2014. My first assignment was to work as an Operational Aviation Meteorologist from September 2014 to August 2015 at RGM International Airport. From September 2015 to June 2017 I was on study leave, doing master degree studies in Meteorology in Nanjing, China. When I came back in July 2017, I was then given the second assignment, to do public weather forecasting in the Central Forecast Office – which is the post I hold to this date.
Was this always your dream career or it changed somewhere along the line?
It was not my dream career – I didn’t know anything about weather forecasting. I wanted to be an aeronautical engineer. When I finished advanced level studies there was no local university offering such a discipline. And due to such circumstances and several other reasons I had no option but only to go for the BSc in Mathematics and Physics degree. I believe it was God’s design to take me through that route and eventually place me in this beautiful profession of weather forecasting.
How closely does your academic education fit in with your job?
My academic education and the weather forecasting profession are in tight agreement. According to the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), an operational meteorologist is defined as a person who has a university-level degree or equivalent; has acquired an appropriate knowledge in mathematics, physics, chemistry, and computer science. Completed the Basic Instruction Package for Meteorologists (Post Graduate Diploma in Meteorology), has completed a suitable period of on-the-job training in an operational forecast center and is judged to be proficient to competently deliver meteorological services. All this is what I have.
What qualifications do you hold? In short what educational path got you where you are? Could you have made the path shorter?
I hold a BSc in Mathematics and Physics degree from the University of Zimbabwe (UZ), Post Graduate Diploma in Meteorology from MSD Training School, MSc in Meteorology degree from Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology (Nanjing, China) and a Diploma in Applied Information Technology from the University of Zimbabwe. If we had a local university offering a degree in meteorology during the time I started university studies the path could have been shorter. Right now, it’s only UZ offering BSc in Meteorology and Climate Science degree, which started in August 2014 way after I had already finished my first-degree studies. With a first degree in meteorology, one will then jump the postgraduate diploma level and go straight into operational work.
What are the tasks that you do regularly in your profession?
In this capacity as a senior operational meteorologist I am tasked to:
- Analyse and diagnose the weather situation as required in forecasting and warning preparation, using weather analysis tools that include: surface pressure charts, thermodynamic diagrams, satellite and radar imagery, Numerical Weather Prediction (NWP) products and observation data (both surface and upper air).
- Originate, update and issue warnings, observations, and forecasts in accordance with national and WMO standards.
- Monitor weather parameters and evolving significant weather phenomena and validate current forecasts and warnings based on the prevailing weather parameters.
- Ensure that all observations and forecasts/warnings are disseminated through authorised communication means and channels to designated users.
- Forecast hazardous weather phenomena and disseminate promptly to relevant stakeholders.
- Verify and validate meteorological data, products, forecasts, and warnings (timeliness, completeness and accuracy).
- Participate in all activities related to the implementation and maintenance of the MSD Quality Management System.
Can you tell us some of the projects you have worked on, which you found interesting?
A research project in simulating the high rainfall event that hit the northern parts of Zimbabwe in January 2015 was the most interesting project ever. In this research study, we employed a newly developed generic methodology, namely, localized multiscale energy and vorticity analysis (MS-EVA) which aimed to tackle interactive Geophysical Fluid Dynamics (GFD) processes, and investigate the multiscale dynamics in the evolution of the Mesoscale Convective Complexes (MCC) that occurred in the heavy rainfall event of 2015 over northern Zimbabwe. We found out that a single short episode of the MCCs was established under a combined effect of several synoptic conditions, blending southwesterly moisture transport from the southwest Indian Ocean; the midlatitude northeasterly air mass following the downward meridional displacement of the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) and the low-level southeasterly advection of moisture from the warm waters of the Mozambique Channel.
Through multiscale window transform (MWT), atmospheric disturbances in the evolution and distribution of MCCs to the northern part of the country were found to be triggered by the intensification of low-level wind convergences with horizontal shear between the southerly inflow bearing large available potential energy (APE), and the northerly intrusion.
So you will certainly agree with me that there is a lot of high-level physics, mathematics, and computer science knowledge that is required in making an analysis of this magnitude. Knowing the mechanisms in the buildup of weather systems helps us in understanding the characteristics and what we should expect out of such events when they hit us again in the future. Systems of this nature are classified as extreme weather events and usually bring along with them high rainfall amounts that can lead to flash floods posing a high risk to life and property.
What is it that excites you the most when you are doing your job?
My area of interest in weather forecasting is dealing with extreme weather events and coming up with solutions that can avoid hazardous effects on human life, livestock, and property. Knowing that I am offering service to the nation, a service that protects people from danger and the nation from losing huge chunks of money is what excites me most.
What bits do you find boring in your daily tasks?
I don’t have anything bad from the operational part of my job. It’s all about the negative comments we get from the general public that spoil our day. Some complain of the terminology we use, they find it heavy. But that shocks us quite a lot because most of Zimbabweans, though not being economists by profession, understand a lot of economics lexicon. It simply shows they have an interest in economic terms. We expect them to exert that same energy in understanding meteorological vocabulary. Climate change is upon us and its vagaries are manifesting through extreme weather events. People should now start developing a lot of interest in weather and climate products. As MSD, we need to contact a series of crusades that educate our people on weather systems. Some of them complain about the accuracy level of our forecasts. Our message to them is very clear: We don’t issue out wrong forecasts – what we probably do is just missing a forecast!
Any advice to those studying or aiming at this job or career?
Being a meteorologist requires one to be ready to serve people, one who is willing to learn new things. Weather is not static, it changes anytime – it is chaotic. You should always be on the watch. It requires a 100% commitment. But, of course, the bright side of the whole story is that meteorology takes you to all corners of the world. There are no defined boundaries in the atmosphere. You can go wherever you want.