What's My Story: Meteorologist

David Glenn of the National Weather Service

David Glenn is a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Morehead City. He grew up in Wilmington, living through 5 massive hurricanes in 4 years. He is awed by ferocious wind and rain and works hard to be sure that people stay safe during hazardous weather.

When did you discover you wanted to be a weatherman?
I grew up in Wilmington so I was always fascinated with hurricanes. In the late 90’s, the coast saw 5 massive storms in 4 years. I remember the day Hurricane Fran was approaching the Cape Fear coast; I was sitting in the living room talking to my mother when the blinds in front of the windows started fluttering. We instantly locked eyes, each of us imagining the strength of a storm that could flutter the blinds inside the house while it was still offshore. That was awe-inspiring.

What did you study in college?
I started at UNC Wilmington with a major in geography. I took a course called Weather and Climate and got hooked. My advisor invited me to join him and colleagues from Mississippi State University (MSU) to conduct research in San Salvador. I got to know the geosciences faculty at MSU and decided to get a Master’s degree with them. MSU is located in Starkville, 225 miles from the coastline but the hurricanes didn’t leave me alone. While walking to a calculus exam, the headwinds of Hurricane Ivan clocked 60 mph in Starkville, turning my umbrella inside out.  

For my master’s thesis, I re-analyzed the data on hurricanes from the 1910’s, 20’s and 30’s. I used ship’s logs, surface observations, and other historical documentary evidence to re-assess the strength of tropical storms and hurricanes. I was able to help prove that the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 was actually 160 knots (~185 mph) at landfall, a category 5 hurricane, making it the most intense hurricane to strike the U.S. in the 20th century. 

Where did your career take you?
My first job as a meteorologist took me to lovely town of Gray, Maine. I’ll never forget doing weather balloon launches during snow, sleet, and freezing rain there. One important task of a meteorologist is to send up the weather balloon twice a day. It seems old fashioned to be gathering data with the same instrument that French weathermen used in 1892 but the data retrieved is invaluable to the weather service. Hundreds of balloons lift radiosondes into the atmosphere every day around the globe. Radiosondes measure the change in pressure, temperature, humidity, wind speed and wind direction in the column of air above the weather station. These data are used to generate the pressure gradients depicted on every forecast map across the world. 

What do you like best about your job?
The best part about my job is that I get to different things everyday. I can be on radar and issue a warning to save “life and property” one day, stand in a classroom explaining how hail forms to schoolchildren the next, and then get engaged in research the day after that. I love the research aspect — comparing the prediction of an event to what really occurred is very important to learning how to become a better forecaster. We constantly strive to do whatever it takes to become more accurate at forecasting. I also really like to help people stay safe during hazardous weather.

- By Lucy Laffitte

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