In the paper, Dr. Hanrahan and Dr. Shafer discuss the importance of improved communication between experts and nonexperts for meaningful climate action to be realized. To achieve this, we expose all Atmospheric Sciences students, regardless of their career pathway, to the science of human-caused climate change. Then, the department encourages students to engage with nonexperts through public events, school visits, and a department-run website, TheClimateConsensus.com. As a result, we have observed a higher level of interest in climate change among students over the past few years. More students have demonstrated a heightened sense of responsibility to engage the public about this challenging topic, and some have expressed an interest in pursuing climate-change-related careers.
The department thanks Jason Kaiser, Ari Preston, David Siuta, George Loriot, and Dawn Kopacz for productive conversations and helpful feedback. We also thank the faculty and staff at NVU-Lyndon for their enthusiastic support of our efforts. We are appreciative of the work by student recipients of the recently-established Climate Courage Award and Scholarship, Jonathan Hutchinson, Andrew Westgate, and Francis Tarasiewicz, and the donors who made the Climate Courage Award and Scholarship possible, Carl Bayer and Sheila Reed. Finally, we thank all of the former and current Lyndon Atmospheric Sciences students who have demonstrated courage by speaking out about climate change science, especially Arianna Varuolo-Clarke and Kayla St. Germain, who prompted the creation of the Climate Consensus Group in 2014.
Upward Bound and BREE students recently visited the Northern Vermont University-Lyndon Department of Atmospheric Sciences and had the opportunity to launch weather balloons! Students in both of these groups are interested in STEM (Science, Technology, Education, and Mathematics) fields.
About Weather Balloons
Every 12 hours, hundreds of people in places around the world launch huge, white balloons into the sky. The balloons float upward, each tethered to a box of instruments that collects data about the temperature, humidity, and winds in the atmosphere. These are weather balloons. The boxes of instruments are called radiosondes. The data that radiosondes collect is used in weather models to improve weather forecasts. The Department of Atmospheric Sciences at NVU-Lyndon launches weather balloons to gather data during hazardous weather situations (for example, severe thunderstorms, freezing rain, etc.). This data is also used in several Atmospheric Sciences courses. We also welcome the opportunity to launch weather balloons for visitors, like the Upward Bound and BREE students.
The Upward Bound program is a national college-preparation program that offers free educational, cultural, and social activities for eligible high school students from low- or modest-income families who will be the first in their family to attend college. The Upward Bound students got a chance to launch a weather balloon. These students are specifically interested in STEM fields and/or attending Northern Vermont University. A couple of students said that Atmospheric Sciences especially interested them.
Atmospheric Sciences student and NVU-Lyndon Admissions Student Office Professional Peter Kvietkauskas led a tour of the NVU-Lyndon campus, including stopping by the News7 studio. Dr. Hanrahan and Dr. Preston then talked with the students about the Climate Change Science and Atmospheric Sciences degrees, as well as describing experiential learning opportunities and storm observation field experience that Atmospheric Sciences students have.
Three undergraduate students, Ann Marie Matheny from Indiana University Bloomington, Connor Zwonik from the University of Vermont, and Giorgio Sarro from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, recently visited NVU-Lyndon and had a chance to see what goes on in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences. This included launching a weather balloon. As the weather balloon rose, they also discussed the weather data from the radiosonde. These students are working with faculty and graduate students on the transdisciplinary BREE (Lake Champlain Basin Resilience to Extreme Events) research program. These three students are summer interns through the Vermont EPSCoR (Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research) Center for Workforce Development and Diversity, which works to cultivate and prepare students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.
Storm Forecasting and Observation Program Overview
Dr. Preston and four Northern Vermont University-Lyndon Atmospheric Sciences students participated in the SUNY Oswego Storm Forecasting and Observation Program earlier this summer (May 27-June 15). This program is designed for students to apply concepts from the classroom to the forecasting and observation of thunderstorms. The first two weeks were spent in the field, forecasting severe weather and observing storm structure. This involved launching weather balloons to collect data about the environment, as well as using programs like RadarScope and Baron Mobile Threat Net® to examine radar data and track storms. For the last week of the program, students completed a research project related to their storm observations. Some of the research projects this year used GR2Analyst, IDV, SHARPpy, and BUFKIT for analysis.
Select any image below to enlarge it to full-size.
During the 2019 Storm Forecasting and Observation Program, students saw three visible tornadoes (and one rain-wrapped), over a dozen wall clouds, dust devils, 0.25-inch hail, mammatus clouds, cloud iridescence, and incredible lightning activity. Students traveled through 10 different states (see trip log below), including Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado.
During the “down” days, students got to visit the Big Well Museum in Greensburg, KS, as well as the Twister Museum in Wakita, OK. They also got to tour the National Weather Center in Norman, OK, which houses the Storm Prediction Center (SPC). Bill Bunting, Chief of Forecast Operations at the SPC, talked about the Storm Prediction Center right outside of the SPC’s forecast room.
Overall, 13 students participated in the Storm Forecasting and Observation program. This required two separate vans with ham radio communication (like in the movie Twister). On a typical “chase” day, the forecast team would lead a weather briefing around 8:00 am. The vans would then drive 5-6 hours (on average) to the target area. This would get them to their destination by 3:00 pm, which provided enough time to launch a weather balloon before the main period of thunderstorm development at 5:00 pm. Then, the students would observe the severe storm(s) for the next several hours before losing daylight. After sunset, faculty and students would decide where to stay that night to put them in the best position to chase again the next day. With this in mind, it usually meant driving late into the night.
Trip Log Summary
observed multiple wall clouds from low-precipitation supercells on the first travel day of the Storm Forecasting and Observation Program
launched a weather balloon; chased tornadic supercells near Nebraska
observed a well-defined wall cloud at 20Z; too dangerous to chase tornado near Fort Worth, TX; observed incredible lightning activity
launched weather balloon at 19Z; chased in the southern tip of Texas (near Big Bend National Park). Had to stop chasing due to the poor road network and in order to avoid hail damage to vehicles.
launched weather balloon at 14Z; chased a cell rotating anticyclonically and saw a few wall clouds with it. Great visual of hail core with “greenish” tint; observed incredible lightning activity
observed several dust devels, followed by a rain-wrapped cell near Dumas with rotation and multiple wall clouds; squall line developed with distinctive shelf cloud; observed straight-line winds and pea-sized hail from the inside of a gas station
target cell had large hail core and good rotation for several hours; all of a sudden, two additional cells popped up behind vans; caught in 0.25-inch hail (pea-sized); one of the storms produced beautiful iridescence around the anvils
down day; dinner at The Big Texan Steak Ranch
down day; models overproduced convection, therefore decided not to chase and instead visited the Big Well Museum in Greensburg, KS to learn about the EF5 tornado that devastated the area in May 2007
down day; visited the Twister Museum and saw the Wakita water tower featured in the Twister movie
down day; saw tornado damage (e.g. torn off signs, roofs, and damage to cars) from EF3 tornado that recently devasted the El Reno area
This was the most exciting day of the Storm Forecasting and Observation trip! The group observed two landspout tornadoes in Kanorado, KS at 20Z. Each lasted 5-10 minutes and occurred one after the other. Two condensation funnels were both visible for a short period as one dissipated and a new one formed. Following this, the group observed three supercells with well-defined hook echoes near Denver. These storms were associated with breathtaking mammatus clouds. At this point, the third tornado of the day briefly formed (occurring for about 10 seconds) in the southern-most supercell. Afterwards, some of the students spotted a brief rain-wrapped tornado in the middle supercell.
two travel days back to SUNY Oswego campus
work on research projects
Questions & Answers About the Storm Forecasting and Observation Program
What was the most enjoyable part of the trip?
This whole trip was an unbelievable experience, but if I had to pick what I enjoyed the most it would clearly have to be the storms. Before coming out, I had never seen anything compared to what we saw in the plains. Being able to see an entire supercell and admire its structure and watch as it tries to produce a tornado is something special that I don’t think I’ll ever experience again.
I chose to chase this summer because severe weather has been a dream of mine since I was five years old. I remember sitting through a particularly bad thunderstorm and hearing the rain approach my porch. It was torrential rain with severe lightning and booming thunder. Being able to finally chase this dream has been one of the most gratifying experiences I’ve ever had and I am so grateful that I was able to do this. Between the people I’ve met, the memories I’ve made, and the weather I’ve seen, this has been one of the most exhilarating things I’ve ever been able to do.
I now know how to analyze data to figure out where severe weather is likely to occur. This is very important to know as an aspiring meteorologist so I will be able to share my knowledge with the public. I have seen a lot of clouds in textbooks and pictures, but seeing mammatus clouds and wall clouds in person are so much different; it is amazing. Although I want to broadcast the weather, I love learning about severe weather. I have only completed one year of college so I am glad that I decided to do this program because there are quite a few people here who really know what they are doing and are doing a great job explaining things to me.
It is something that I’ve always wanted to do. I remember one of the small thunderstorms with my dad in Maine just so I could hear thunder. I grew up watching Tornado Hunters and I was absolutely obsessed. Twister is also my favorite movie so storm chasing just felt like something I needed to do.
Bobby Saba, Canton, TX Storms Bobby analyzed two storms that moved through Canton, TX on 29 May 2019. He was looking to find common radar signatures between storms producing multiple tornadoes.
Camryn Kruger, Cloud Iridescence Camryn examined the colorful iridescence that occurred around the anvils of supercells in New Mexico on 2 June 2019. Specifically, she looked for signatures of iridescence in radar and satellite fields.
Catie McNeil, High Instability/Low Shear Tornadoes
Catie studied common characteristics that produced tornadoes in high instability (i.e. Convective Available Potential Energy, CAPE), low vertical wind shear environments. Specifically, she compared the environment for the Jarrell, TX tornado (CAPE greater than 8000 J/kg) on 27 May 1997 to the 9 June 2019 tornado near Fort Worth, TX.
Maddie Degroot, Mysterious Mammatus
Maddie examined the stunning mammatus clouds associated with the three supercells near Denver, CO on 8 June 2019. This study showed the difficulty in identifying mammatus clouds using the standard WSR-88D S-Band radar.
The American Meteorological Society defines the Coriolis effect as “an apparent force, relative to the earth’s surface, that causes deflection of moving objects to the right in the Northern Hemisphere and to the left in the Southern Hemisphere due to the earth’s rotation.”
Every couple of weeks, students in Dr. Hanrahan’s Atmospheric Dynamics class present important concepts to their peers during Content Reviews. For one Content Review, Jonathan Hutchinson and Alex DaSilva took the group out to the Weather Deck to help the class better understand the Coriolis effect.
In this Coriolis effect demonstration, Alex is at the center of rotation and Jonathan is throwing a ball toward him. When they rotate counterclockwise (cyclonically) as viewed from above, like in the Northern Hemisphere, the ball appears to be deflected to the right. When they rotate clockwise (anticyclonically) as viewed from above, like in the Southern Hemisphere, the ball appears to be deflected to the left.
This is an important concept for atmospheric sciences students in order for them to understand and predict atmospheric motion. For example, the Coriolis effect is what causes storm systems like hurricanes and nor’easters to spin counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere.
During the 2019 Commencement weekend, Nothern Vermont University-Lyndon Atmospheric Sciences (ATM) held a capstone symposium so that that seniors could show family and friends what they’ve been up to for the past year. These students were the first to take a newly revamped two-semester senior capstone course, which allowed them to synthesize and apply knowledge and skills gained throughout the Atmospheric Sciences curriculum.
Following guidance from the latest American Meteorological Society Information Statement on Bachelor’s Degrees in Atmospheric Sciences, each Senior Capstone student completed a self-identified project, preferably relevant to their career goal and interests. This provided a tangible manifestation of each students’ ability to apply the knowledge they had gained from their academic work.
Students then created conference-style posters to communicate their results. These posters were on display during the final exam week as well as the day before the NVU-Lyndon Commencement at the senior capstone symposium.
Experiential Learning: A Workshop for Undergraduate
Atmospheric Science Students
How Can We Improve Real-Time Weather Warnings?
Impacts of Climate Change on Winter Storms in Southern
Meteorological Drivers of Rapid Wildfire Growth in
Alaska’s Boreal Forest
Arctic Sea Ice Thickness Subseasonal Predictability: Comparing CFSv2 Operational Forecasts with CryoSat-2/SMOS Satellite Data
Common Signatures Among Thundersnow Storms
A More Effective Approach to Severe Weather Coverage
on Social Media in the Boston Area
An Analysis of Climate Change Communication through
Broadcast Media: Examining Average Minimum Nighttime Temperatures
Relationship Between Total Lightning Activity and
Atlantic Tropical Cyclone Intensity
Lightning Network Integration
The Effect of Warming Sea-Surface Temperatures on
Topical Cyclone Intensity
An Improved Wind-Related Power Outage Model
Finding a Methodology to Teach Climate Change That Best Engages Students with Different Learning Styles
The 44th Northeastern Storm Conference was held in Saratoga Springs, NY, on March 8-10, 2019. The Northeastern Storm Conference is an excellent opportunity for students, professors, scientists, and other professionals to share and learn about the latest weather and climate research.
This year’s Friday evening speaker was Keith Carson, ’05.