Oklahoma Forensic Meteorologists Look Backward, Not Forward - Featuring Matt Gaffner
by Daphne Thompson, on Jan 3, 2011 9:57:26 AM
Career spotlight on Matt Gaffner, a forensic meteorologist at Weather Decisions Technologies in Norman.
“It's the exact opposite of what everybody thinks meteorology is,” he said.
Using radar maps, weather data and sometimes unreliable first-hand accounts, Gaffner determines what areas were hit by hail, snow, lightning or a hurricane and creates a visual representation of the storm.
Those maps are then provided to insurance companies and attorneys. Gaffner said his position is often misunderstood. “My grandparents still want to know when I'll be on TV,” he said.
Most meteorologists predict the weather, but Matt Gaffner waits until the storm has passed.
Forensic meteorologists attempt to answer problems such as when did the highest hurricane winds occur at a particular building, was the sun in the eyes of the driver or was it cloudy at the time of an accident, or was lightning present when a house caught fire, according to the American Meteorological Society.
They are sometimes deposed in court cases or asked to testify as expert witnesses.
Gaffner said some of his more unusual cases involve dead cattle and whether a lightning strike could be responsible.
Though he spends most work days at his desk, viewing weather data on a computer with a dual monitor, the hours are unpredictable. Spring and summer coincide with hurricane and tornado season, requiring longer days, he said.
“We're busy when the weather is busy,” Gaffner said. A storm could happen on a holiday weekend or interrupt a planned summer vacation.
He and the other meteorologists at Weather Decision Technologies analyze storms all over the country, but if one blows through town, expect the office to clear out. They go storm chasing for fun.