Siegfred Aldous Lacerna

Published: March 23, 2024

The Philippines is experiencing climate extremes with hotter days and shifting weather patterns, making meteorology, the study of atmospheric phenomena, even more crucial, two Filipino meteorologists said. 

National meteorological and hydrological services agencies, like the Philippine weather bureau PAGASA, play a vital role in the fight against the climate crisis by providing weather and climate predictions. 

“As meteorologists, we also study the weather expectations, say in 2050. Would the northeast monsoon be longer? Would the southwest monsoon be stronger? Would the sea temperatures become hotter?” said Benison Estareja, a weather specialist with PAGASA. 

Chris Perez, who has been working with PAGASA since 2003, stressed that climate and weather should be studied together to help people cope with the changing climate.

“Science connects the information that is provided by meteorology and climatology so we can have a better picture of the climate crisis and come up with solutions so that we could prevent, or if not, slow its extreme effects,” said Perez, who serves as PAGASA’s assistant weather services chief.

Estareja and Perez emphasized the need for more Filipinos to pursue meteorology as a career. Yet, they acknowledge the lack of public awareness about the path to becoming a meteorologist.

This raises the question: how does one become a meteorologist?

Training, technologies

Weatherman Chris Perez stands in front different weather instruments used to measure wind and rain. (Siegfried Aldous Lacerna)

For Estareja, taking a course related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) is a good start. Even those who pursued secondary education with STEM specialization can apply for positions at PAGASA.

The most direct path is taking a Bachelor of Science in Meteorology. However, only four universities in the country are offering it: Mariano Marcos State University in Ilocos Norte, Central Luzon State University in Nueva Ecija, Bicol University in Albay, and Visayas State University in Leyte.

University of the Philippines Diliman offers a Masters of Science in Meteorology. 

On average, 10 to 15 meteorology graduates apply for jobs at PAGASA, according to Perez. He added that the agency monitors the progress of university students closely to potentially recruit them and fill vacancies. 

However, Perez emphasized the importance of proper training. Those who want to be meteorologists can take training courses offered by PAGASA: Meteorologist Training Course, Hydrologist Training Course, and Meteorological Technicians Training Course. 

Beyond training, aspiring meteorologists need to have the nuts and bolts of the wide array of technologies used in weather studies. 

Estareja said that those who want to pursue meteorological research should learn programming languages like Python, Java and C++, and have a strong foundation in higher mathematics such as calculus.

Beyond weather forecasting

According to Perez, PAGASA currently employs 172 weather specialists in various roles, including research and operations. The operations team, responsible for creating daily forecasts, has 40 personnel with several vacancies that PAGASA is actively filling.

“Many people associate meteorologists as only those who forecast weather but unbeknownst to everyone, there are other job opportunities that they can undertake beyond weather forecasting,” Estareja said. These include climate and weather research, data visualization, and programming. 

That is why a career at PAGASA is not the only option. Graduates can find opportunities in other industries such as construction, retail, and broadcasting. 

Estareja added that meteorologists with master’s or doctoral degrees can find jobs outside of the Philippines. 

However, both Estareja and Perez emphasized that the country needs more manpower in the field of meteorology. 

“There will be a time when Pagasa will be putting more stations so we can have more accurate weather forecasts so we would be needing more people in the future,” Estareja said. 

On the occasion of the World Meteorological Day, World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Secretary General Celeste Saulo said that those working in national meteorological and hydrological services agencies are not mere observers, but are “game changers.”

“Our role as scientists and advocates for the planet has never been more crucial,” Saulo said.

“The lives of future generations are in our hands. Our efforts today will ensure a safer, healthier world for future generations—a world where children thrive in harmony with nature.”