Weather woman in the forecast

(Edmonton) During Alumni Weekend Claire Martin will once again be a familiar face in Edmonton as she returns to the U of A to receive a distinguished alumni award. Martin, the current senior meteorologist for CBC News in Vancouver, started out in 1996 as staff meteorologist and weather presenter with Edmonton’s ITV (now Global Television).

A native of England, Martin’s love for weather began with a geography course she took while earning a math and science degree from the University of Reading. “I like the fact that it’s always around you,” she says, “and then you come to a country like this, where the sky is absolutely endless, and the possibilities for weather are also absolutely endless.”

Her first year in Canada was spent working as a tour guide for a bus company before being hired by Environment Canada and shipped to a cabin on the eastern slope of Great Slave Lake in the Northwest Territories. There, she and two other meteorologists�one of whom would become her husband�took 24/7 weather observations used to run forecast models and by pilots who had to fly through the area en route to Europe.

“I completely fell in love with the place,” she says of Canada’s North. “It was very quiet, very clean. It’s a feather in Canada’s cap.”

But to advance in meteorology she needed a degree from a Canadian university, which prompted her to enrol at the U of A in 1993. She values her time on campus and has high praise for her professors. “When you’re a mature student,” she says, “you appreciate the quality of what you’re learning.”

Working in meteorology on television was a highly unlikely career for someone who grew up in a television-free home (even though as a child she appeared in the video for Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2”). In fact, her parents still didn’t own a TV and were skeptical when she left her job at Environment Canada to take on a television gig.

“They probably think it’s a stage I’m going through,” she said at the time.

Adulation quickly came her way as thousands of viewers began tuning in to watch Martin’s insightful, informative, understandable and, above all, fun weather forecasts. In fact, Edmontonians were sad to see Martin decamp to Toronto in 2005 to take on weather forecasting duties for the CBC. Two years later she left Toronto for Vancouver, a city she fell in love with when she first visited with her parents during Expo ’86.

Since then, Martin has been internationally recognized for her work. The International Weather Festival named her the Best Weather Presenter in the World in 2000, 2001 and 2003. In 2005, this educator and mentor to fellow meteorologists and women in science was also recognized by the American Meteorological Society as a Certified Broadcast Meteorologist�the first such certification awarded in Canada.

Claire Martin will receive her Distinguished Alumni Award at the 2011 Alumni Recognition Awards on Sept. 22. She will also give a talk entitled “How does a scientist end up with a full-time TV job” in the Big Top Tuck Shop in Quad. For more information visit www.ualberta.ca/alumni/weekend .