Bryan Putnam

Bryan Putnam

Bryan Putnam
National Weather Service

Location:  College Park, MD
Office: Weather Prediction Center
Job Title: Forecaster

Educational Background:

  • University of Oklahoma - Bachelor’s (2009), Master’s (2011), Ph.D. (2016), all in Meteorology.

Describe the career path that led you to your current job with the National Weather Service.

  • I first worked as a research assistant in grad school on projects related to experimental computer model forecasts of precipitation in severe thunderstorms and evaluating their performance using weather radar observations. I continued this work following grad school as a post-doctoral research associate. I sought out and took a job with the NWS about 4 years ago to shift more towards an operational focus because I wanted to help better directly connect my day-to-day work to producing real-time forecasts and helping the public. 

What do you do for the NWS?

  • I am an operational forecaster with the Weather Prediction Center in College Park, MD. Our center specializes in nationwide forecasts (including Alaska and Hawaii!) of heavy rain, winter storms, extreme temperatures, and helping to tell the nation’s weather story. I personally help to produce many of our products including surface analyses, short-term and medium-range weather system/front forecasts, excessive rainfall outlooks, and hazardous winds/temperatures.

What was the most interesting, exciting, or impactful weather/water event you experienced while working for the NWS and why does it stand out?

  • One of the first extreme events that happened after starting my job was the significant freeze/cold snap across Texas in early Winter 2021. I learned a lot about the importance of not only having a good forecast, but being able to communicate the forecast effectively, particularly for extreme weather events that people have no prior reference point for because they haven’t experienced anything like it. The Pacific Northwest heatwave and inland rainfall/flooding across the Mid-Atlantic from the remnants of Hurricane Ida later that year were similarly impactful. 

What made you decide to pursue a career with the NWS?

  • I’ve always valued the public service the NWS provides. I’m able to combine a phenomena I’ve been passionate about since I was a kid with helping others.

What do you like most about working for the NWS?

  • I enjoy the in-office and inter-office collaboration with colleagues. The environment is very personable and interactive, providing opportunities to form stronger work relationships, learn from others, and often have fun while doing so! I’ve been proud that our success in providing the best forecast we can to the public comes as being part of a team. 

What advice do you have for someone interested in a career with the NWS?

  • I would say the most important thing to remember is to focus on your own goals and not let others influence the choices you want to make about your education or career. The NWS offers a wide variety of opportunities and you can easily find a home regardless of your background, interests, or perceived strengths and weaknesses. 

What training or coursework would you recommend to someone interested in following your career path?

  • As technological advances continue, the importance of the NWS providing actionable messaging and decision support services based on this technology increases. A greater focus in both coursework and training on subjects like public speaking, communication, and visual graphics is becoming more vital. Having a background in computer coding can also help with modifying and developing new and innovative tools that allow you to have a more hands-on approach to the forecasts your produce.