ATM Seminar Series: Atmospheric Rivers

Atmospheric rivers are relatively long, narrow areas of moisture transport. They’re responsible for approximately 90% of meridional water vapor transport, and also for many high impact rainfall events. This presentation will provide an overview of the structure, climatology, and impacts of atmospheric river events. Predictability and forecast tools will also be discussed.

Dr. Greg West is a Research Associate in the Weather Forecast Research Team at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC. Research projects he is involved with center around improving weather forecasts for clean energy production for the province’s primary electric utility, BC Hydro. This primarily includes improvement of probabilistic forecast post-processing via machine learning methods, evaluation of forecasts, and creation of innovative new forecast tools such as situational awareness forecast indices.

ATM Seminar Series: Setting Up a Regional Climate Model over Brazil, Stephanie Spera

Dr. Stephanie Spera’s research seeks to understand landscape-level human-environment feedbacks with regard to social, economic, and environmental drivers and consequences. She is currently a Postdoctoral Researcher at Dartmouth College. She analyzes large datasets, develops algorithms, and integrates spatial data to characterize landscapes and landscape-scale dynamics. Broadly, she asks, ‘How do we ensure that we manage our landscapes sustainably?’ She is interested in how and to what extent humans are modifying the landscape; what is driving changes in land cover; how these changes are affecting the environment; and how humans are, in turn, responding to these changes. She uses different methods and tools, like remote-sensing, regional climate models, spatial statistics, and GIS, to help answer these questions. Her most recent work focuses on answering these questions focusing on agricultural land-use change and regional climate dynamics in the Brazilian Cerrado, a biodiversity hotspot and agricultural breadbasket.

ATM Seminar Series: Aviation Meteorology

Have you ever wanted to be an aviation meteorologist?

In this seminar, Erin Rinehart talks about her journey to becoming the primary night shift meteorologist at Southwest Airlines in Dallas, Texas. She attended Baylor University where she earned a B.A. in Earth Science. After college Erin joined the U.S. Air Force as a weather forecaster where she served for eight years. Following military service, she enrolled in the M.S. in Applied Meteorology program at Plymouth State University. After a short time working as an aviation forecaster contracted with American Airlines, she moved to Southwest Airlines. In this talk, Erin also discusses various aviation meteorology products used by both the military and civilian airlines, along with her various shift duties at Southwest Airlines. She also touches on some of the differences between airline aviation forecasts and the media forecasts created for the general public.

Learn more about Northern Vermont University-Lyndon’s Department of Atmospheric Sciences, and how you, too, can understand the science to become an aviation meteorologist:

Atmospheric Sciences Students Participate in the Northeast Kingdom STEM Fair

Last month, Atmospheric Sciences students Nick Ferrando, Jonathan Hutchinson, Jessica Langlois, Evan Levine, and Francis Tarasiewicz, from the AMS Club and The Climate Consensus group, teamed up to host a table at the VSAC Northeast Kingdom STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Fair at Miller’s Run School in Sheffield. They taught 7th and 8th graders about weather and climate, and how weather and climate relate to one another. Interactive activities included demonstrations of ice albedo, atmospheric moisture content, and the effects of climate change. Jonathan Hutchinson said, “Being able to go out into the community and seeing the students’ amazement and developing interests in the different science sectors was a heartwarming experience for all of us who participated.” Nearly 400 students attended this two-day event, whose goal was to inspire young people to consider pursuing careers in STEM fields.

Examining the Impact of Great Lakes’ Temperature Perturbations on Simulated Downwind Precipitation

How do water temperature changes on the Great Lakes affect modeled downwind precipitation? Two Atmospheric Sciences students, Jess Langlois and Lauren Cornell, just completed their summer internship to answer that question. Over a seven-week period, they worked with Dr. Hanrahan to analyze simulated rainfall data obtained from the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model. Several simulations were completed to assess the sensitivity of precipitation in New England to changing water temperatures of the Great Lakes. Their work will inform the configuration of the regional climate model which will be used to downscale future global climate model simulations under human-caused climate change. As members of the BREE (Basin Resilience to Extreme Events) Climate Modeling Team, Jess and Lauren presented their work at Plymouth State University and Dartmouth College. They also plan to present results at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting this upcoming December.

Jess and Lauren also practiced presenting their research to faculty and staff at Northern Vermont University-Lyndon:

Study Published by Research Scientist Dr. David Siuta

Atmospheric Sciences Research Scientist Dr. David Siuta recently had a manuscript titled Benefits of a Multimodel Ensemble for Hub‐Height Wind Prediction in Mountainous Terrain accepted for publication in Wind Energy detailing the benefits of using an ensemble forecast for energy planning.

Integration of renewable wind energy sources into the electric transmission grid has created new challenges for energy planners. Winds are highly variable and power generated by wind fluctuates with wind speed. Energy planners need to be able to anticipate these fluctuations to keep electricity supplied to the grid in sync with demand. Numerical weather prediction is key to effectively integrate wind resources, which supplies future estimates of wind power generation. Weather forecasts are used several hours to several days in advance to manage which generation sources will be used to supply power to the grid, which resources can be freed up to perform maintenance, and how much electricity is available to be traded on the market.

Weather forecasts, however, are imperfect due to incomplete initial conditions, assumptions in model physics, and the poor representation of terrain and complex flows. In the past, small reductions in forecast error have been shown to result in substantial annual savings to electric grid operators through optimized grid planning strategies. Dr. Siuta’s recent publication explains one method to achieve reduced forecast error through use of ensembles. He used a 36-member mesoscale ensemble forecast system run by the University of British Columbia to show that, on average, reductions in forecast error by using an ensemble mean forecast over a single-model forecast is between 10 and 20% through a seven-day forecast horizon. Additionally, the ensemble mean provided a minimum of an additional two days of forecast skill over the ensemble member forecasts when compared to a reference climatology forecast (see figure). In the same work, Dr. Siuta also shows a method to produce calibrated probabilistic forecasts and the effect of an ensemble on reducing forecast uncertainty.

Growth in forecast mean absolute error (MAE) for each ensemble member forecast (colored curves), the ensemble mean (thick black curve) and climatology (solid pink curve). Lower values are better. MAE values shown are calculated over a one-year verification period at four wind farms in British Columbia. The ensemble mean is the most skilled forecast until a forecast horizon of ~147 hours (~6 days), after which a climatology forecast has better accuracy.

Talk About Climate Change: Empowering the Next Generation

As a NOAA Weather-Ready Nation Ambassador™, student members of the Lyndon AMS & NWA Club are working closely with Lyndon’s Climate Change Communication Group. They are serving as change agents by inspiring and empowering Vermont communities who are concerned about climate change to talk about climate change.

Encouraging youth to talk about climate change

Atmospheric Sciences students and faculty recently held school-wide assemblies at two Vermont middle and high schools, Danville School and Woodstock Union High School and Middle School. These were well attended by more than 100 students at Danville School and nearly 600 students at Woodstock Union High School and Middle School. During these events, Atmospheric Sciences faculty discussed the science of climate change. Student Jonathan Hutchinson talked about climate change solutions. Several students facilitated breakout sessions. These sessions addressed questions and concerns as well as identifying specific climate action items and strategies for improved climate change communication that the students could use to talk about climate change among family and friends.

About the Weather-Ready Nation Ambassador™ Initiative

The Weather-Ready Nation Ambassador™ initiative is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) effort to formally recognize NOAA partners who are improving the nation’s readiness, responsiveness, and overall resilience against extreme weather, water, and climate events. WRN Ambassadors serve a pivotal role in affecting societal change — helping to build a nation that is ready, responsive, and resilient to the impacts of extreme weather and water events. Visit to learn more.

Learning from Local Businesses

It’s great when students can truly participate in experiential learning outside of the traditional classroom. Students in Lyndon’s Physical Climatology and Physical Hydrology courses recently did just that when they visited local businesses. They learned about farming and sugaring (and enjoyed homemade blueberry muffins!) at Chandler Pond Farm, brewing at Rock Art Brewery, and ice cream making at the Ben and Jerry’s factory. For the Physical Climatology course, students will use this information to inform a final project about potential climate change impacts on the production of local goods. They will present their results to the campus community and the public during final exam week.

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Lyndon Atmospheric Sciences Professor Gives Keynote Address at Valparaiso University

Dr. Janel Hanrahan was the keynote speaker for the Bridge/Work Conference at Valparaiso University in Indiana over the weekend. This year’s conference theme was Preserve and Prosper – Method and Morality in Facing Environmental Challenges. For this event, which is designed to connect theory and practice, Dr. Hanrahan gave the opening talk titled Starting the Climate Change Conversation: What we know and why we must act. She provided an overview of climate change science, discussed observed impacts, and explained how our climate system is likely to change in the near future. In addition, she shared the work of Lyndon’s Climate Change Communication Group and encouraged participants to educate others about climate change. Dr. Hanrahan’s talk was followed by student research presentations and expert panel discussions.

43rd Northeastern Storm Conference a Success

The 43rd Northeastern Storm Conference was held in Saratoga Springs, NY, on March 9-11, 2018. 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 Amanda Curran, ’14 from WSFA, and recently certified American Meteorological Society broadcast meteorologist.

Amanda Curran, '14 gives the Friday evening icebreaker keynote
Amanda Curran, ’14 gives the Friday evening icebreaker keynote

Saturday’s banquet speaker was Rear Admiral for the US Navy (Retired) Dr. David W. Titley from Penn State, who is on the forefront of addressing climate change in naval operations and national security.

Dr. David W. Titley gives the Saturday banquet keynote
Dr. David W. Titley gives the Saturday banquet keynote

Sunday morning’s speaker was Kathryn Mozer, ’08, the GOES-R User Services Coordinator at NOAA.

Dr. David W. Titley gives the Saturday banquet keynote
Kathryn Mozer, ’08 gives the Sunday morning keynote

Northeastern storm conference statistics

Several Atmospheric Sciences students presented their research during the poster session.
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