Geophysical and Human Interactions Student Presentations

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During final exam week, students presented semester projects that were completed as part of ATM 2210 Geophysical and Human Interactions. The presentations, which were open to the Lyndon community, highlighted accomplishments the students made over the past semester while tackling sustainability issues on campus. According to the course’s professor, Dr. Janel Hanrahan, “the class covers various issues related to climate change, including energy use, waste, food, and population. These are pressing issues that can seem overwhelming, but this project helped students learn that they can really make a difference!” The students addressed campus recycling, lighting issues, wastewater management, food packaging, and family planning. Some of their efforts are already visible on campus, such as condoms in the vending machines and signs encouraging the use of natural lighting. Over the next few months, more changes will be implemented, including reduced packaging in the Hornet’s Nest and new recycling signs. As the weather permits, additional vegetation will be planted along campus parking lots and polypropylene filters will be placed in storm drains.

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Students visit Cold Regions Research and Engineering Lab (CRREL)

Atmospheric Science juniors and seniors spent Tuesday at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL) in Hanover, NH. To reinforce concepts introduced in various core Atmospheric Science classes, the group of students watched presentations by CRREL scientists before touring various research areas in the Engineer Research and Development Center. They examined ice cores in the Cold Rooms and explored several other facilities including the Frost Effects Research Facility, the Ice Engineering Facility, and the Field Research Areas. They also learned about various career paths and had the opportunity to network with professionals in the field.

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Atmospheric Sciences students and faculty present at Youth Environmental Summit

Two Lyndon Atmospheric Sciences students, Sarah Sickles and Lauren Cornell, joined Dr. Hanrahan at the Vermont Youth Environmental Summit in Barre, VT.  The group gave a presentation called, “It’s Our Climate – Let’s Talk About It,” which was followed by an open discussion with middle and high school students.  The Lyndon group also hosted a table during an exhibition and scavenger hunt which allowed ATM students to practice the important skill of climate change communication.  They had the opportunity to visit with local youth who shared their concerns and wanted to learn more about climate change mitigation. Atmospheric science students at the 2017 Youth Environmental Summit

ATM Seminar: Research Requirements for America’s Space Program in Florida

When: Thursday, November 2, 2017, 12:30-1:15pm in ASAC 319
Speaker: Bill Roeder, meteorologist with the 45th Weather Squadron
Description: Space launch is surprisingly sensitive to weather.  Weather is
the leading source of scrubs and delays to space launches from Cape
Canaveral Air Force Station and NASA Kennedy Space Center.  Weather is even
more important to the preparatory ground processing done in weeks and months
before space launches.  Not only are space launches very sensitive to the
weather, but the weather itself has very subtle driving forces in Florida
leading to very unsubtle weather.  After all, Florida is famous as the
‘Thunderstorm Capital’ of the U.S. with most of the thunderstorms centered
in central Florida aka ‘Lightning Alley’.  The Air Force’s 45th Weather
Squadron provides comprehensive weather support to Cape Canaveral Air Force
Station and NASA Kennedy Space Center where a quarter of the world’s space
launches occur.  The 45th Weather Squadron uses a very dense network of
weather sensors to help deal with these weather support issues.  America’s
space program is undergoing a revolution as more and more businesses are
planning to access space.  Indeed, the launch schedule is projected to
nearly double in just a few years.  The 45th Weather Squadron is pursuing
research to provide ever improving excellence of service to our present
customers and to allow the increased rate of space launch.  This situation
is an outstanding confluence for operational research:  scientifically
intriguing questions, of significant operational importance, with
considerable weather data available, and liaison to facilitate the research.

ATM Seminar: The St. Louis Ozone Garden

When: Thursday, October 26, 2017, 12:30-1:15pm in ASAC 319
Speaker: Dr. Jason Welch, faculty at St. Louis University
Description: This seminar will discuss the ozone garden in the St. Louis Metropolitan area. Due to increasing background ozone concentrations many plant species have become more sensitive towards ozone exposure. The purpose of an ozone garden is to examine how increasing background ozone affects plants in different locations around the St. Louis metropolitan area. We have found that those plants that are more sensitive to ozone exposure yield less whereas those that are more tolerant have a higher yield. With the soybean crop being valued in 2012 at more than $40 billion, even a decrease yield of a few percent could lead to more than $1 billion in crop losses.
Growing Understanding

ATM Department Announces New Climate Courage Awards

The Department of Atmospheric Sciences is excited to announce new Climate Courage Awards. Local Vermont residents established the awards to recognize Lyndon Atmospheric Science students who have accepted the responsibility of educating the community about human-caused climate change while instilling a sense of urgency for action. This type of outreach is beyond what is traditionally expected of young scientists and takes a tremendous amount of courage. The number of recipients and cash award will vary depending on total donations each year. If you would like to recognize these courageous students, donations can be made by contacting Jenny Harris at jennifer.harris [at] lyndonstate.edu. For more information about this award or student activities, please contact Dr. Janel Hanrahan at janel.hanrahan [at] lyndonstate.edu.

Climate Courage Awards Description

Climate change presents humankind with a monumental challenge. While scientists understand the need for immediate climate change mitigation, the urgency of our situation is not well understood by many outside of the scientific community. It is therefore crucial for today’s scientists to communicate the impacts of climate change by educating the general public and key decision makers. Scientists must instill a sense of urgency for climate change action. This type of engagement is beyond what is traditionally expected of scientists and takes a tremendous amount of passion and courage. Vermont residents, Carl Bayer and Sheila Reed, established this award to recognize Atmospheric Sciences students at Lyndon who have demonstrated such courage.

The Climate Courage Awards are given annually to graduating Atmospheric Sciences or Climate Change Science seniors who have:

  • accepted the responsibility to educate others about the urgency of climate change action,
  • engaged with members of the community such as students, meteorologists, business leaders, and/or government officials,
  • demonstrated passion for decarbonizing our global energy system by advocating for a clean energy future based on renewable sources, and
  • expressed commitment to continued climate change advocacy as described in a two-page essay

Climate Change Courage award recipients will be announced at the Robing Ceremony in May.

Many Lyndon Atmospheric Science students are members of the Climate Change Communication group. These young scientists repeatedly demonstrate exemplary courage and passion about climate change communication, education, and outreach.

Students, faculty and staff at the 2017 Youth Rally for the Planet in Montpelier, VT
Students, faculty and staff at the 2017 Youth Rally for the Planet in Montpelier, VT
Atmospheric Science students at the People's Climate March in Washington, DC on April 29, 2017
Atmospheric Science students at the People’s Climate March in Washington, DC on April 29, 2017
Students in the Climate Change Communication group educate local schoolchildren about climate change science
Students in the Climate Change Communication group educate local schoolchildren about climate change science
Students march during the 2016 Youth Rally for the Planet in Montpelier, VT
Climate Change Communication group students marching during the 2016 Youth Rally for the Planet in Montpelier, VT

ATM students and faculty publish research in AMS journal

Four Atmospheric Science students are now co-authors of an American Meteorological Society (AMS) publication that highlights their research findings. Their paper, Examining the Climatology of Shortwave Radiation in the Northeastern United States, was recently accepted for publication in the Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology.

Allison Fitzpatrick and Alex Maynard present their research at the 2017 Northeastern Storm Conference
Allison Fitzpatrick and Alex Maynard present their research at the 2017 Northeastern Storm Conference

Using Diurnal Temperature to Estimate Shortwave Radiation

In order to identify long-term trends and variability of potential solar energy production in the northeastern U.S., an extended climatology of shortwave radiation is needed.

What if this shortwave radiation data is lacking?

Due to differences in radiative forcing, clear skies are linked to large diurnal temperature range (DTR) values and overcast to small DTR values thus providing valuable information about shortwave radiation (SR) when direct observations are not available

A simple linear regression was created using diurnal temperature range during 2002 – 2015 as a predictor variable to estimate long-term shortwave radiation values in the northeastern U.S.

They found that statistically significant decreases in shortwave radiation were identified, which are dominated by changes during the summer months. Because this coincides with the season of greatest insolation and the highest potential for energy production, financial implications may be large for the solar energy industry if such trends persist into the future.

Colton Zercher explains his research at the 2016 Northeastern Storm Conference

Their work contributes to the scientific understanding of climate change impacts on renewable energy resources due to changing weather patterns in the Northeastern United States.

These students recently completed internships with Dr. Janel Hanrahan. Three of the students, Alex Maynard, Sarah Murphy, and Colton Zercher, recently graduated from the Atmospheric Science program. Allison Fitzpatrick plans to graduate in 2018.

Students Provide Mount Everest Weather Forecast Support

Forecasting what the weather will be like tomorrow can be difficult. Now imagine forecasting the weather on the world’s tallest peak, Mount Everest. That’s exactly what students in Lyndon’s Atmospheric Science department did this spring. For the second year in a row, ten students, led by Dr. Jay Shafer, provided Mount Everest weather forecast support for an expedition. What an amazing experiential learning opportunity!

Students were able to apply the weather forecasting concepts that they learned in the classroom to forecasting the weather on Mount Everest.

The New England-based climbing team that Lyndon provided weather forecast support for successfully completed their mission of doing high altitude archaeology near 27,000 feet elevation. The daily weather forecasts helped them to stay safe, particularly ahead of heavy snowfall on Tuesday, May 9.

Mount Everest Weather Forecast Challenges

When forecasting for Mount Everest, there are two weather forecast challenges: high winds and heavy snowfall. These create dangerous climbing conditions. Typically, both wind speeds and snowfall are low during the second and third weeks of May. Not coincidentally, May 17 to May 23 is when the highest number of summits occur each year.

Forecasting the weather in the U.S. is a luxury compared to Mt. Everest.
-Scott Myerson, senior

New this year, Lyndon ran an in-house 4 km (high-resolution) Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model over Everest. This helped to tease out weather forecast details, such as wind direction over the complex terrain (see the elevation map, below) and simulated radar, that were not apparent or available with other lower-resolution weather models.

One weather forecast expected wind direction to bring in drier air aloft, helping to keep clouds and snowfall at bay. While the monsoon moisture remained fairly high in the lowlands to the south, the wind flow was generally expected to keep most clouds and any precipitation south of the summit.

On another day, the WRF simulation forecasted that a mesoscale convective system (MCS), a complex of thunderstorms, could impact the summit. Temperatures were cold enough there for possibly significant snowfall. It turned out that precipitation occurred earlier in the day than was forecast, but there were mesoscale convective systems.

“Everest was not only a high-stakes forecast, it also had high rewards. Hearing about our team’s safety and success was highly rewarding and motivating,” said sophomore Francis Tarasiewicz. Scott Myerson, a senior, summed up the overall experience well: “Forecasting the weather in the U.S. is a luxury compared to Mt. Everest.”

Lyndon State Students at the People’s Climate March in DC

Twenty-four Lyndon State College Atmospheric Science Department students joined over 200,000 others for the People’s Climate March in Washington, DC.

The march began in front of the Capitol shortly after 12:30pm and headed along Pennsylvania Avenue to encircle the White House.

Climate March Goal

National planning for the People’s Climate March (there were over 370 sister marches across the country) began in 2014 with one goal: pressure world leaders to act on climate change, as a direct response to a distressing reality. For example, 2016 was the hottest year on record, which had surpassed the previous two records set in 2015 and in 2014. While climate change is often talked about as a future problem, it is actually a current problem.

“I march because what we’re doing today cannot be undone”
-Dr. Janel Hanrahan, Professor, Lyndon Atmospheric Science Department

Improving Climate Change Communication

Climate scientists attribute this warming, and associated changes in global weather patterns, directly to human activities such as burning of fossil fuels.  Lyndon’s Department of Atmospheric Sciences is providing students with opportunities to help communicate this important message to the public. First, a new Climate Change Science degree is starting this fall. In addition, two ongoing projects, the Lyndon Climate Change Communication group and TheClimateConsensus.com, give students of all ages, as well as scientists and the public, platforms to communicate the science and make a difference.

Lyndon State Students Prepare for the People’s Climate March in DC

Students and professors at Lyndon State College are about to take a trip of a lifetime: attending the People’s Climate March in Washington, DC.

Local 22 My Champlain Valley meteorologist Torrance Gaucher ’14 reports:

The journey is more than walking and chanting through the streets of Washington.

“Climate scientist and scientist as a whole kind of just been fed up, and had decided that we need to be as loud as we possibly can. Really what is the point of doing the science if nobody is paying attention,” said Janel Hanrahan a professor of Atmospheric Sciences at Lyndon State College.

Jake Fortin (L) and Francis Tarasiewicz (R) talk to students at Danville School
Jake Fortin (L) and Francis Tarasiewicz (R) talk to students at Danville School

Improving Public Communication About Climate Change

One of the biggest hurdles for Dr. Hanrahan and her students is communicating the science to the general public. “Our goal is to communicate the science with the general public to inform them about facts, about climate change,” said Atmospheric Science student Celia Fisher. The Climate Consensus group did just that Monday speaking to a full room of students in Danville. They engaged the audience with analogies they could comprehend.

“In terms of our climate,” says Atmospheric Science student Francis Tarasiewicz, “we have a lot of CO2 in the air, but the temperature is not going to immediately respond. It takes a little while. So we relate that to an oven, where you preheat it to 400 degrees. It doesn’t immediately warm to 400 degrees.”

Moving Forward Following the Science

The group leaves this Friday and will attend the People’s Climate March this Saturday, the 29th.

“If we want to keep moving forward we want to make sure we are leaders in the world. We need to make sure we are following the science and right now we are just not,” said Hanrahan.

Fore more information on how to better understand climate change, please visit www.theclimateconsensus.com