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Humans of NCEI: Derek Arndt

Collage of Images of NCEI employees with text "Humans of NCEI" on top
Courtesy of NOAA NCEI


Here at NCEI, we aren’t just data—we are people. In our Humans of NCEI series, meet the awesome minds that manage one of the largest archives of atmospheric, coastal, geophysical, and oceanic research in the world. Get to know Derek Arndt, the new director of NCEI.

What is your job title?


What is your specific area of expertise?

Meteorology and Applied Climate.

What was your first job? How did it prepare you for your current position?

I worked at a grocery store in my hometown. I learned a lot about customer service, and that it takes a big constellation of workers, bosses, partners, vendors, and customers to make even a smallish grocery store work.

How did you end up at NCEI?

I spent 15 years at the Oklahoma Climatological Survey, part of the state climatologist community that's still one of NCEI's vast matrix of partner communities. We relied on NCEI – National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) at the time– data and expertise to get a good chunk of our work done. I worked with a gentleman named Tim Owen a few times, and figured "if everybody there is as good to work with as Tim, it must be a great place to work." So I applied for a Climate Monitoring job and made it to NCEI in 2009.

What does a usual workday look like for you?

As of today, I've been at my current position for less than a month, so I'm still figuring it out! I have lots of meetings with our partners, leadership team and with folks who get the work done at NCEI.

What sort of training and education would one need for your job?

For applied climate work, a combination of some kind of earth sciences, human and physical geography, and applied mathematics. It’s a field that really examines our relationship with the world around us. 

What inspired you to pursue a career in your field?

I always loved maps and hated scary weather. That's pretty much a recipe to go into meteorology. What keeps me in the field are those moments when people invest NCEI's information and expertise into their lives: when our rainfall data are built into a bridge or a dam, when our geomagnetic data inform the compass on a smartphone, when our ocean profile data help the nation and the world protect our critical coral reefs, or when our ocean floor data help make communities safer from storm surge or tsunamis. Those moments, when people or communities discover how to use our data to help them with big decisions that last years, are the absolute best days in an otherwise wonderful job. It's even better when you think "wow, I never thought our data could be used like that."

What projects are you working on now? Are there any upcoming projects that you are excited about?

Several of us are working on a project to radically improve our understanding of and response to the way different economic sectors use NOAA information. NCEI is the center of gravity in that one and we are thrilled to work across NOAA to help inform a nation that is more prosperous, resilient and just.

What is your favorite aspect of your job?

I love to advocate for the value of our information and our expertise. Our work pays off for generations, whether it is used two minutes, two months, or two decades from now. 

Who are you outside of your career?

I spend my favorite time cooking and laughing with my kids. My wife runs a preschool and I'm basically a cheerleader for her, her teachers, and their kids. Teachers are the best of us.

What’s on your playlist?

Gillian Welch, Sierra Ferrell, The Cranberries, Merle Haggard, and The Smiths