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Meteorologist thrills to the hazards of blizzards

While many hunkered down in their warm homes during the blizzard of 2005, Channel 4 meteorologist Mish Michaels was racing to Cape Cod to stand in the heart of it.

"This is what you hope for. This is a moment that logs in your brain, a moment where time stops," Michaels told a room full of students in the IAP course "Intro to Weather Forecasting," offered each January by Lodovica Illari, a lecturer in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences.

Michaels spent most of the blizzard in a hotel in Chatham, Mass. She shared some of her wind-whipped weather reports with the class. As the students laughed at clips of her being blown around by wind gusts of up to 87 mph, Michaels' quipped, "These are the markings of a meteorologist's life."

During her hour-and-a-half talk, Michaels explained what it takes to be a good meteorologist. "You have to develop a thick skin. You are never going to be right all the time," she said.

She stressed the importance of education and training, and expressed frustration with the untrained TV forecasters out there. "It is a bit frustrating for the rest of us who sweated through Fluid Dynamics," said Michaels, who holds a bachelor's degree in meteorology from Cornell University.

During her more than 10 years in the Boston area, Michaels has found forecasting the region to be a welcome challenge. A rapid deepening of storm systems called "bombogenesis"--an effect seen in only one other region of the world, off the coast of Japan--and snow squalls are just two of the patterns that make New England weather difficult and exciting. "New England is the best. I have had many offers to go elsewhere, but I am here to stay," she said.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on February 2, 2005 (download PDF).

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