When someone mentions a meteorologist, the image that comes to mind is often a weather person on television. Typically meteorologists predict the weather so that people can plan ahead accordingly. But what most people don't know is that there is a group of meteorologists that look at the weather a little differently.
They're known as forensic meteorologists. Instead of predicting the weather, they look back into the past to determine what the weather was like at a specific time and place. Interestingly, attorneys and insurance companies use them to help sort out cases like car accidents and workers' compensation cases.
Forensic meteorologists have worked on cases all over the world, looking back to specific days when an accident occurred. They then testify in court or in a deposition to give their expert opinion whether the weather backs up the case presented.
For example, an employee sustains a serious back injury as a result of slipping and falling on ice at his work. His employer is arguing that there was no way there was ice on the ground that day. The forensic meteorologist would go back to that day and see what the weather was like to see if ice on the walkway was possible.
For an employee who was injured at work, this type of information can make the process of obtaining injury benefits a little easier. Often working with insurance companies can be time-consuming and complicated as they try to figure out exactly how the injury occurred. A forensic meteorologist would at least be able to determine one aspect of the accident.
Though forensic meteorologists have worked on many different types of legal cases, they are still careful to make statements that are only supported by scientific evidence.
Source: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review online, "Forensic meteorologists look back, not to the future," Jennifer Reeger, 12 November 2010