"Meanwhile, Out West: A Meteorologist's Journey into Energy"
Manager of Weather and Streamflow Forecasting, Bonneville Power Administration, Department of Energy, Portland, OR
Mr. Pytlak also serves as the agency’s technical lead on climate change science.Erik earned his B.S. in Meteorology from Penn State (1991), and an MPA from the University of Arizona. Prior to the last seven years at BPA, Erik was an operational meteorologist and hydrologist at several Weather Forecast Offices in the NOAA/National Weather Service, including six years as the Science and Operations Officer in Tucson, AZ where he led forecast operations for the North American Monsoon Experiment (NAME) in 2003-04. He currently serves as one of BPA’s representatives to the Hydropower Operations and Planning Group (HOPIG) at the Centre for Energy Advancement through Technological Innovation (CEATI), and is the current President-Elect of the GEMS Board of Directors.
Meteorologists, who have played a role in the energy sector for decades, find themselves right in the middle of our changing energy economy. This has been especially true in the Pacific Northwest where a majority of its energy has come from clean hydroelectric power since the 1940s. More broadly, the energy sector has relied on meteorologists for accurate weather forecasts to predict energy demand, and severe storm prediction to mitigate outages.
However as renewable energy increases nationwide with the dawn of the 21st Century, particularly in the Western US, the need for good meteorological prediction has expanded into entirely new areas, and for some of us has led to an entirely new career direction. Almost all renewable energy relies on reliable weather and streamflow forecasts to predict fuel supply (water, wind and sun), balance an increasingly complex and constrained grid, store energy where and when possible, and to explore and develop new renewables resources. The growth of renewables in the Western US, and importance of meteorology to the energy sector, is almost certain to continue its increase due to its geography, demographics, economics, and policy decisions. This expansion, particularly in the West, is motivated by another key area of atmospheric science research which Penn State continues to lead: accurately projecting the consequences of increasing atmospheric greenhouse gases on climate systems.