Karen Eagle, Senior Meteorologist, National Weather Service

Karen Eagle, Senior Meteorologist, National Weather Service

Please include details about your educational background and what sparked your interest in atmospheric or related sciences.

I had many outside influences that paved my way to become a meteorologist. There were two specifically who influenced me most. One was my father who is an amateur radio operator. When I was younger he helped out the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Pleasant Hill, MO by relaying pertinent information to the WFO during severe weather. Along with my father being involved with the WFO, my grandpa always had an eye for the weather. He enjoyed watching it and discussing his thoughts with me on what he thought might happen.

Associate Degree from Blue River/Longview Community College
Bachelor’s Degree in Atmospheric Science from the University of Kansas, Lawrence KS.

Business Leadership Certificate
Diversity and Inclusion Certificate

What was your first job in the field and how did you end up in the job you are in now?

Two years prior to graduation, I worked over the summer at the National Weather Service Forecast Office (NWSFO) in Pleasant Hill, MO as a part of the Student Temporary Employment Program (STEP). The following year during the summer and into the fall semester, I again worked at the NWSFO in Pleasant Hill, MO as a part of the Student Career Experience Program (SCEP), currently the Pathways Program. By entering the SCEP program I was guaranteed a position in the NWS after graduation which lead me to the NWSFO in St. Louis, MO as an Meteorological Intern. After only being in St. Louis for a year I was promoted to the Aviation Weather Center (AWC) in Kansas City, MO (2003 to 2019). I briefly went into management as a Meteorologist in Charge (MIC) at the Center Weather Service Unit (CWSU) in Denver, CO. From there I did a temporary detail with the Performance Culture and Learning Branch of the Office of Human Capital Services. That lead me to my current position as a Senior Meteorologist at a Weather Forecast Office (WFO) in Duluth, MN.

What opportunities did you pursue that you knew would be beneficial to securing a job in the profession?

I started networking early in my education by attending a local chapter of the American Meteorological Society. It was essential in putting me in touch with the right people at the National Weather Service so I could start working for them when I got up into my Junior and Senior year.

What other courses/skills beyond the required math and science courses do you think would be the most helpful to individuals wanting a career in your profession?

Communications is becoming important in the NWS due to the increasing need of Impact-Based Decision Support Services which means we spend more time working one-on-one with our partners.

Programming is also a very important skill to have because a programmer can provide new and exciting ways to support the NWS and our partners. Lastly, GIS is another wonderful skill to have because that is something the NWS is starting to incorporate more and more into our operations.

What is your typical day on the job like?

Initially I will start to look at the big picture to gain situational awareness of the weather situation. Most likely I will be briefed on the "problems of the day" by the previous shift. Therefore, I tend to get the big picture first or a look at the synoptic situation before diving into the details of the forecast. From there I will go through each weather component to see if anything needs to be updated or if we need to issue headlines which is when we issue anything from a Winter Storm Warning to a Flash Flood Watch as an example. That is the forecast side of working at a Weather Forecast Office. We also have an IDSS (Impact-Based Decision Support Services) position that focuses on sending individualized products to our partners for their specific needs. It also includes social media posts to keep the public informed of changing weather and updates to our website.

What do you like most about your job?

Supporting the public and our partners in their weather needs while working alongside other meteorologists who have the same desire because it creates a wonderful team environment. Also there are many ways to seek professional development by participating in leadership development, doing temporary details at other line offices in NOAA or across the NWS, and online courses through the NWS.

Does your job allow for a good work/life balance? If not, why?

Yes and no. It can be hard to have a social life when working midnights because most everyone else across the country doesn't work the same hours as a NWS meteorologist. With that said, we know our schedule pretty far in advance so it's easy to plan ahead.

Over the course of your career what is the most exciting thing that has happened to you?

In 2019 I was the recipient of a National Isaac Cline Award for Leadership. Several years prior to the award I developed a new student program for the NWS by providing a new and exciting way to visit multiple NWS offices during a student's Spring semester. The program not only is a benefit to students seeking out a position in the NWS, but also it benefits the NWS because it gives us a way to recruit future workforce. Check out this website on the SCOuT Progam for more information.

Is there anything you wish you had done differently in your career?

I wish I would have started working towards a management position much earlier in my career, but I let my inner voice tell me that I couldn't do it. Never listen to that voice. Go out and find something that might be uncomfortable at first, but will give you new things to learn, ways to apply any leadership training that you've had or expand a position in a way that has not been done before.

What are some "must haves" on a resume if a person wants to gain employment in your field?

Certainly an education is important and these days a masters degree is a must. Also leadership positions can be important, such as girl/boy scout leadership positions, club leadership positions (President, VP, Secretary, Treasurer), or grocery store positions (shift lead, scheduler, etc. ). While a resume is important, having positive reference letters is important as well. Have at least three to submit with your application.