Offshore Adventures in Meteorology
From the tropics to Russia, Jenny Hibbert '09 puts her education into action
It was in the Bay of Campeche on the world’s second largest offshore oil platform installation barge that UNC Asheville graduate Jenny Hibbert realized she’d found her passion.
“This was the best experience of my life,” Hibbert says of her stint as resident weather expert on the crane barge Saipem 7000, a monstrous vessel with two towering cranes, each capable of lifting 7,000 tons. The barge installs large oil platforms, and it was Hibbert’s job to monitor and forecast tropical weather during the work. Many lives depended on her.
Meteorology was not in Hibbert’s plans when she entered UNC Asheville in 2004 after graduating from Chapel Hill High School. She had lots of interests, but no one major seemed perfect for her. As she explained, “Turns out my mom knows me better than I know myself. She said, ‘You really should try meteorology.’”
“I’d had the idea of majoring in physics, but the prospect of so much math was scary. Dr. Doug Miller pulled me aside one day and told me, ‘Don’t let being afraid of the math be the reason you don’t major in meteorology. You can do this.’”
And indeed she did.
With a degree in atmospheric sciences, a concentration in climatology and weather forecasting and a minor in math, she now uses her diverse academic experiences every day. “I got endless support and encouragement. Dr. Huang taught me how to analyze maps. Dr. Hennon taught me all about global warming, and Dr. Godfrey taught me about storm chasing on the Severe Weather Field Experience. I think I would have fallen through the cracks if I had gone to a bigger university.”
But the crane barge in the Bay of Campeche wasn’t her most recent adventure in meteorology. After Saipem 7000 in the tropics, Hibbert volunteered for her next assignment a half a world away, where massive ice floes and strong tidal currents challenged her forecasting skills.
“We sailed from Vostochny, Russia, up to the oilfield offshore of the north side of Sakhalin Island in the Sea of Okhotsk to install a gravity-based structure that could withstand the tide and severe weather of northern Russia. I was on a much smaller vessel for this project and was offshore for about two months as one of only two Americans on board. I absorbed the other cultures I was surrounded by like a sponge. I love being in the culturally diverse setting of offshore vessels.”
And then...Singapore called. Hibbert currently works in Southeast Asia as an offshore marine meteorologist for Fugro, a worldwide company that collects and interprets data relating to the earth’s surface and sub-surface, working mainly with the oil, gas and mining industry.
So what’s next for this adventurous UNC Asheville grad?
“I have a million long-term dreams, some that are absolutely far-fetched like ‘go to the moon,’ and some that are as simple as ‘enjoy what you do,’” Hibbert said. “I think making goals and dreaming big is one of the most satisfying thought games I play with myself. There are still a million directions my life could go. I would like to see Antarctica. I’d like to expand my career outside of weather forecasting, perhaps buoy maintenance or oceanography or seismic data processing or offshore surveying...or maybe business school to get an MBA and move into management and mergers and acquisitions...or join the circus!”
Read more at unca.edu/magazine.