Weather Risk Management Club stays connected, examines pandemic impacts remotely

Matthew Carroll
May 06, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Penn State junior Andrew Mardirossian knows severe weather never stops, even during a pandemic.

Mardirossian and his fellow members of the Weather Risk Management Club knew they couldn’t stop, either. The group has continued meeting via Zoom during the remote learning period, carrying on their work examining the impacts of severe weather events on the economy.

“These are unprecedented times,” said Mardirossian, a student in the Department of Meteorology and Atmospheric Science. “We, as weather risk students, can learn so much from this from how companies are handling the situation to what Penn State graduates out in the workforce are experiencing.”

Weather risk professionals examine the impacts of weather on industries like energy, agriculture, insurance, construction, retail and transportation. They predict how a cold snap will influence natural gas prices or what a drought in one part of the world means for chocolate prices in another.

The COVID-19 crisis, and its far reaching impacts, provides an important case study of a financial “Black Swan” event, or a rare, unpredictable event with potentially severe consequences, said George Young, professor of meteorology at Penn State and the club’s adviser.

“It gets the students thinking and talking about how to incorporate Black Swan resilience into weather-related markets and infrastructure,” Young said. “Meteorologists are used to thinking about these things in terms of hurricanes and other severe storms. What really sets COVID-19 apart is that it is global.”

Through the club, Penn State students regularly get an inside look into the issues, opportunities and challenges they’ll face in their professional lives, Young said. Industry visits and guest speakers provide access to invaluable real-world experiences.

“We reach out to a lot of alumni in different sectors to come in and give us tricks and tips,” Mardirossian said. “We are a relatively small major, but we sort of lean on each other. It’s a really cool dynamic. One of the best things about Penn State as a whole is that our alumni network is so great.”

Mardirossian said the club has led to job opportunities for its members. Weather risk experts go on to work in diverse industries from insurance and energy companies to food manufacturers.

“People think about meteorologists being on TV giving the weather,” he said. “But more and more we are realizing how weather impacts our daily lives, companies’ revenue, the food we buy. I’m really interested in how these things come together. Thankfully, I’ve been able to combine my interest in business and weather at Penn State.

The club recently saw an example of the far-reaching impact of weather risk professionals when they toured the facilities of an international candy manufacturer. The company employs an in-house meteorologist who helps determine the best time to buy peanuts or cocoa in bulk.

“It just goes to show how the weather affects everything, even if you don’t think about it,” Mardirossian said.

 

 

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Last Updated May 15, 2020