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 www.weather.gov/wrn/ 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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Guide to Advancing Hurricane Science by Laying on Your Couch

Atmospheric Sciences Seminar Series
Thursday, February 22, 2018
12:30 PM, ASAC 319

Ever since Lord Chesterfield developed the first modern couch during The Restoration, generations of comfort seeking global citizens have taken advantage of its soothing support, interrupted only for work or the occasional trip to the loo.  Now, as society accelerates into the Information Age, a new activity for exercise-challenged individuals presents a rare opportunity to advance science while indulging in spirits and burning less than 1 calorie per hour.

Hurricane Fernanda, August 1993, Eastern Pacific

Inspired by the legions of couch potatoes who have explored the mysteries of the galaxies through the crowdsourcing website Galaxy Zoo, Cyclone Center was introduced to the world in September of 2012.  Harnessing the pent-up energy of Netflix binge-watchers everywhere, Cyclone Center uses crowdsourcing to generate unique data used to determine the intensity of any tropical cyclone. Cyclone Center output brings order to the chaotic scene of global tropical cyclone intensity records, where individual forecast agencies desperately grope around in the darkness for ground truth data that do not exist.

Dr. Christopher C. Hennon

Dr. Chris Hennon is a Professor and Chair of the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Asheville. Before beginning his position there in 2005, he was a Post-Doctoral Fellow and Visiting Scientist at the National Hurricane Center in Miami, FL where he conducted research on evaluating the impact of scatterometer winds on marine and tropical cyclone forecast skill. Dr. Hennon earned his B.S. in Aeronautics/Mathematics from Miami University (OH) in 1994, his M.S. in Atmospheric Science from Purdue University (1996), and his Ph.D. from The Ohio State University (2003). He was born and raised near Cleveland, OH and maintains his allegiance to the Cleveland Browns to this day. Dr. Hennon is married to another meteorologist but their 15-year old daughter has no interest in weather and just uses her phone all day.

Groundhog Day 2018

Punxsutawney Phil in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania on February 2, 2015.                            Credit: Anthony Quintano / CC BY 2.0 license / Flickr

Every February 2, thousands gather at Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, to see the spring forecast from a special groundhog. In 2018, Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow. We have six more weeks of winter!

Groundhog Day History

During the Middle Ages, various Europeans thought that animals hibernating underground such as the hedgehog and badger came to the surface on February 2. According to the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, the observance may have its roots in Candlemas Day, which is also on February 2. Candlemas marks the halfway point between the winter solstice in December and the spring (vernal) equinox in March.

Earth’s orbit. February 2 lies halfway between the winter solstice and the vernal (spring) equinox. Credit: Pakrus / CC BY 2.0 license / Flickr

In Germany, it was thought that if the hedgehog saw its shadow it became frightened and crawled back to sleep during six more weeks of bad weather above ground. But if skies were cloudy, the animal ventured out and stayed above ground. When Germans emigrated to America, they transferred their belief to the animal most closely resembling the badger — the groundhog.

Predicting the Arrival of Spring is Difficult

Since at least the 1970s, as the New York Times reported, the groundhog’s predictive skill has been called “dubious” by the Audubon Society, and by the late Eric Sloane as “a full‐fledged F”, when ranking groundhog predictions on a scale from T (True) to P (Possible) to F (False). The most recent years of an analysis by NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) shows no accuracy for the groundhog’s predictive skill. From 2007-2016, Punxsutawney Phil has been right 50% of the time:

Verification of Punxsutawney Phil’s prediction and the observed temperature departures from normal across the U.S. from 2007-2016 / Credit: NOAA/NCEI

Warmer Temperatures Typically Observed after Groundhog Day

While the groundhog doesn’t exhibit predictive skill on Groundhog Day, we do know that most locations in the U.S. show observed warming trends for the 6 weeks after Groundhog Day. Climate Central examined the trend in the temperature by determing the average temperature from February 2 through March 16 from the Applied Climate Information System at www.rcc-acis.org. They found most locations across the U.S. showed an increasing temperature trend since 1950.

For example, in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, there has been an increasing average temperature trend from February 2 to March 16.

There is an increasing temperature trend since 1950 of the average temperatures from February 2 through March 16 in St. Johnsbury, Vermont / Credit: Climate Central

Earlier spring may sound nice at first, but it comes with an increased risk to agriculture. In Vermont, this is particularly applicable to maple syrup (Vermont has the highest percentage of tapped maple trees in the U.S.) As Climate Central notes, “maple syrup production is intimately tied to the weather. Sap only flows when temperatures rise above freezing during the day and drop below it during the night. That temperature difference creates enough pressure to push sap out of the tree — one of nature’s amazing feats.” Timothy Perkins, the director of the University of Vermont’s Proctor Maple Research Center, says, “in general over New York and New England, the [maple sugaring] season is now beginning about seven days earlier than it did 40-50 years ago and ending 10 days earlier.” 

Sap buckets on Corey Hill in Putney, VT / Credit: PutneypicsCC BY-NC 2.0 license / Flickr

Atmospheric Sciences at Vermont State Colleges Student Symposium

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Lyndon Atmospheric Sciences presented several projects as part of the Vermont State Colleges Student Symposium. This event was held at the Vermont Statehouse to improve awareness of experiential learning opportunities within the Vermont State Colleges. State representatives learned about Lyndon’s efforts to improve climate education and student research being conducted on wet snow storms and their impacts on electric utilities.

Dr. Ari Preston’s Ph.D. Research on Tropical Cyclones and Atmospheric Chemistry

Dr. Aaron (Ari) Preston, Visiting Assistant Professor of Atmospheric Sciences, recently defended his Ph.D. research on the transport of chemical species to the upper troposphere/lower stratosphere (UTLS) by tropical cyclones. Species such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, and ozone have been found to exert a greater influence on climate change at these high altitudes than if remaining near the surface. Typhoon Mireille (1991) was examined in the western North Pacific Ocean basin using in situ aircraft-derived chemical data from NASA’s Pacific Exploratory Mission-West A field project.

WRF domains, best track, and simulation tracks
The three nested domains (black outlines) used in the coupled WRF-Chem simulation. From outer to inner, the domains have a grid spacing of 27 km (d01), 9 km (d02), and 3 km (d03). Black dots show the best track of Typhoon Mireille, while red dots show the track of the simulation

The Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model was used with chemistry (WRF-Chem) at an innermost grid spacing of 3 km. This grid spacing explicitly resolved the convection being studied. Results show that pollution from distant sources were ingested by Mireille and subsequently lofted by eyewall convection to the UTLS, enhancing concentrations in this region. Flux calculations suggested that a strong tropical cyclone, such as Mireille, can impact UTLS chemistry as much as a continental middle latitude cyclone. Furthermore, overshooting cells in Mireille produced chemical flux density values at the tropopause level as much as 10-20 times greater than that of the tropical cyclone as a whole. Thus, although the overshooting tops comprised only a small area of the total tropical cyclone, they transport large quantities of gaseous species to the UTLS because of their very strong updrafts. Results also suggested that millions of cars would need to be hypothetically placed in the upper troposphere to have the same impact on chemical concentrations as Mireille. This demonstrated the transport strength of the tropical cyclone as a whole.

Profiles of vertical flux from the surface to 27.5 km of various species from the 3 km domain at 0000 UTC 27 September. Values are color-coded by tropical cyclone region, and upward (downward) fluxes are denoted by thick (thin) dashed lines. The gray horizontal line represents the approximate height of the tropopause level.

Improved understanding of atmospheric chemistry in the western North Pacific basin is important, especially in the context of increasing Asian emissions and a changing climate. Furthermore, since it has been hypothesized that global warming will lead to more intense storms, it is important to understand tropical cyclones’ role in chemical transport.

Students and Faculty at the AMS 2018 Annual Meeting

Lyndon Atmospheric Sciences was well represented at the 98th American Meteorological Society (AMS) Annual Meeting in Austin, Texas, January 7–11, 2018. Over 20 students attended, with several presenting their research. The student American Meteorological Society/National Weather Association chapter poster won second place and the club earned an honorable mention for the chapter of the year award. Students, faculty, alumni, and friends rekindled old connections and formed new ones at Tuesday’s alumni gathering.

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Research Showcased

This was an excellent opportunity for students and faculty to showcase their recent research projects.

 

Climate Change Communication Practice

Students in the Climate Change Communication group at Lyndon have many opportunities to practice communicating the science about climate change.

Most recently, on Wednesday, January 24, 2018, the Atmospheric Sciences department co-hosted an event, “2018 Acting on Climate Change in VT,” with the Vermont Natural Resources Council and Energy Independent Vermont. This event was held at the Kingdom Taproom in St. Johnsbury, VT.

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Dr. Janel Hanrahan, Assistant Professor of Atmospheric Sciences at Lyndon, and two student members from Lyndon’s Climate Change Communication group, Jonathan Hutchinson and Francis Tarasiewicz, were three of several speakers at the event. This was an excellent opportunity for them to practice communicating about climate change science and to share their personal climate change stories.

Fall 2017 Climate Change Communication

Throughout the fall of 2017, Atmospheric Sciences and Climate Change Science students practiced informal communication skills in various settings.  They discussed climate change science with local middle and high school students at the Youth Environmental Summit and the Burke Community Fair, and presented fundamental climate change concepts at Springfield College. Some students took the initiative to visit their former high schools to stress the need for climate change action. In addition, the Climate Change Communication group hosted a campus-wide movie screening, attended a Vermont Climate Action Commission scoping meeting, and created new blog posts for www.theclimateconsensus.com.

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