Better business management: Hire a meteorologist

Weather and its cost to doing business are causing big companies such as Liz Claiborne, Target and Mars Candies to hire meteorologists to help them prepare market strategies say researchers at the Pennsylvania State University. 

 A new research project, funded by the National Science Foundation, has Penn State meteorologists and economists mashing up to investigate how best to model weather's impact on various business sectors and how to educate future forecasters to understand and operate in a business atmosphere, the university said in a release.

Meteorologists do not necessarily have the tools to apply weather and climate information to commodity purchases in the food industry or marketing strategies in the clothing industry, but more and more, they are asked to work in those areas, Penn State said. Meteorologists with economic and business sense are needed in other areas as well. For example, to help big energy companies manage their operations and trading strategies, the school stated.

A recent New York Times article  points up the need to better link weather and economics: Two consecutive years of volatile weather — last November and this October were the warmest on record for the New York City area, a retail Mecca — have proved disastrous for companies that rely on predictable temperatures to sell cold-weather clothing like sweaters and coats. So the $200 billion American apparel industry, which is filled with esoteric job titles like visual merchandiser and fabric assistant, is adding a more familiar one: weather forecaster. Liz Claiborne, the apparel company, has hired a climatologist from Columbia University to predict weather for its designers to better time the shipments of seasonal garments to retailers, the article stated.

And new companies such as Storm Exchange are cropping up to help commercial ventures develop an online financial market to help businesses better plan for and manage their weather-related risks.  According to Strom Exchanges Web site, nearly one-third of the U.S. economy is sensitive to the weather. And while businesses routinely hedge risks such as currency and interest rate fluctuations, when it comes to the variability of the weather, most are operating blind. That's because until now most companies have not had the knowledge or tools to develop a clear understanding of the true measure and financial cost of their weather losses.

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