CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Every time I go on a school visit, my first two questions are always the same. Can anyone raise their hand and tell me what a meteorologist does? If they can't raise their hands to answer, it's going to be a loooong visit. If they think meteorologists study meteors – it's going to be an even longer visit.
I'm glad to say, most of the classes I've talked to have done pretty well on both questions. Second and fifth graders in NC study weather, and their teachers have typically already taught them a lot before I get there.
But have YOU ever wondered why we're called meteorologists when we likely don't know a whole lot about meteors? (Other than what we can find on spaceweather.com when someone emails a question like "what was that thing I saw shooting across the sky?")
The word meteorologist has a Greek origin. In 340 BC, Aristotle, the Greek philosopher, wrote a book on natural philosophy called "Meteorologica." It addressed things like clouds, mist, rain and snow... all weather elements. It also covered astronomy, geography and chemistry.
Why? Because at that time, any particle which fell from the sky or was suspended in the atmosphere was called a meteor.
Today, that's obviously not the case. There are "meteors" – the things you might think of as a shooting star. Then there are "hydrometeors," which are particles of water or ice in the atmosphere. Still, the terms "meteorology" and "meteorologist" stuck.
It sort of makes sense... why it's confusing. Right?
To throw another one in the mix, there is also "metrology." That's really out of a meteorologist's league! Metrology is the science of weights and measures.
There you go! You never know when you might encounter any of that as a trivia question! So, you're welcome...