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When weather and the law combine, it’s because of the fast growing field forensic meteorology. Ever since the battle lines were drawn after Hurricane Katrina’s landfall, we’ve heard a lot about this relatively new career option. When the debates began over whether the massive water damage – up to 20 feet in some places – was due to flooding or storm surge, homeowners and insurance companies intricately linked the weather and legal profession together in a very public manner, says A. Harrison Barnes, attorney and founder of

The legalities associated with various insurance claims and environmental factors can be confusing to juries, lawyers and litigants. A meteorological analysis can provide clarity and expert interpretations of everything from lightning strike verification, high wind events, microbursts, straight line winds vs. tornadic activity, tropical weather and winter weather. After the information has been gathered, analyzed and interpreted, a meteorological expert will often present those findings in a courtroom or perhaps in regulatory hearings, says A. Harrison Barnes.

Typical cases where a forensic meteorologist might be found include those when a question of how equipment was damaged, whether damage is due to a tornado or straight line winds and those cases where wind is a factor in how quickly or slowly a fire burned. If it’s related to Mother Nature, a forensic meteorologist can accurately analyze it.

The founder is quick to point out that not all meteorologists have the same training. One may have a broadcasting background, while another may have specialized in tropical weather. A Certified Consulting Meteorologist, or CCM, undergoes additional special training and is awarded this designation by the American Meteorological Society.

Some firms even provide testimony on whether or not a blizzard is blinding in an effort to determine fault in an automobile accident and whether or not wind conditions existed on any given day within any number of radiuses. While it’s true a CCM will sometimes work for an insurance company, they are just as apt to provide testimony for those who are claiming weather damages.

Naturally those in this profession will be experts in the latest weather tracking technology, along with the ability to retrieve historical weather patterns and information from years ago. They carefully study emerging weather trends, such as El Nino or El Nano. Armed with their meteorological degree, some choose to work in their chosen career before advancing into certifications such as these.

The salaries are impressive, too, says Barnes. Naturally, experience and education will play a factor, however, some can earn as much as $80,000 annually early in their careers.

Finally, these experts must be comfortable providing expert testimony, giving depositions, preparing written reports and meeting with various legal teams and clients.

If you’ve ever considered pursuing a legal career and a career in meteorology, this is the way to combine those passions and create your own niche in a fast growing sector.

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