Unification provides new opportunities for ATM department

Starting in fall 2018, Lyndon State College and Johnson State College will unify under the name Northern Vermont University. While the name of the college will change, our nationally recognized Department of Atmospheric Sciences will remain strong. We will continue to offer a diverse, rigorous, and modern curriculum in a personalized setting. This will provide new exciting opportunities for research collaboration as well as expanded course offerings.

The Unique & Powerful Role of Meteorologists as Climate Change Communicators


Bernadette Woods Placky

Bernadette Woods Placky is an Emmy Award winning meteorologist and director of Climate Central’s Climate Matters program. In her role, Bernadette works with fellow meteorologists from across the country, providing resources and data on the connection between climate change and weather. Bernadette is often called upon to discuss and explain extreme weather events and has appeared on a number of national and local television broadcasts.

Bernadette has a B.S. in Meteorology and a minor in French from Penn State University, where she is a steering committee member for MAPS (Meteorology Alumni of Penn State). She also carries both American Meteorological Society certifications — Television Seal of Approval and Certified Broadcast Meteorologist. She is currently a member of the AMS Committee on Applied Climatology and a board member of Penn State’s GEMS (Graduates of Earth and Mineral Science).

Responding to Climate Change: Is Climate Engineering an Option?

Dr. Thomas AckermanThe Climate Change Communication group presents:

Dr. Thomas Ackerman, Director, Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean, University of Washington
Wednesday, November 16, 2016
4:15 – 5:00 p.m.
ASAC 319

The Paris accord (December 2015) signals an international effort to hold global temperature change below 2°C above pre-industrial levels. Since it is unlikely that we can achieve this goal by cutting emissions of greenhouse gases, we are led to ask what role solar climate engineering (SCE) might play in reducing global warming. This presentation briefly reviews the science and available options for reducing absorbed solar radiation in the Earth climate system. It then provides additional detail on marine cloud brightening (MCB) which seeks to reduce absorption by enhancing the reflectivity of low clouds over the ocean. The presentation concludes with an overview of some of the ethical and policy questions associated with climate engineering.

About Dr. Thomas Ackerman

Dr. Thomas Ackerman is Director of the Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean (JISAO) and Professor of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Washington. From 1999 through 2005, he served as the Chief Scientist of DOE’s Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Program and was a Battelle Fellow at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, WA. He was Professor of Meteorology at the Pennsylvania State University from 1988 to 1999, as well as Associate Director of the Earth System Science Center. Earlier, he was a staff research scientist at the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, CA.

Dr. Ackerman is the recipient of the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal and the Leo Szilard Award for Science in the Public Interest, awarded by the American Physical Society. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union. In addition, he has received several awards for his research papers, including one from the World Meteorological Org. Dr. Ackerman has authored or co-authored nearly 200 peer-reviewed journal articles on a wide range of topics.

ATM Students and Faculty Attend Youth Environmental Summit

Two exhibits were recently presented by ATM students and faculty at the Youth Environmental Summit in Barre, VT. The Summit is an annual conference for middle and high school students who are interested in learning about environmental issues and local involvement. Over 150 students attended this year! Dr. Jay talked to participants about citizen science and the Cocorahs program. In addition, three members of the Climate Change Communication group, Jake Fortin, Allison Fitzpatrick, and Francis Tarasiewicz, joined Dr. Hanrahan to educate students about carbon emissions.

ATM students at the Youth Environmental Summit

ATM Seminar: A Surface Dynamic and Thermodynamic Analysis of Long-Duration Freezing Rain Events

ASAC 319, 12:30-1:20 p.m.

Chris McCray ’15 will be here in person to speak about some of his graduate research related to freezing rain he’s working on at McGill University.


While even short periods of freezing rain can be hazardous, the most severe impacts tend to occur when it persists for many hours. Because of the latent heat released as rain freezes at the surface, freezing rain has been described as self-limiting, with air temperatures often rising above 0°C shortly after precipitation onset. Previous studies have primarily focused on developing climatologies of freezing rain observations and the conditions concurrent with them. Here, we specifically concentrate on surface observations of long-duration (six or more hours) freezing rain events over North America.

As with freezing rain in general, long-duration events occur most frequently from southeastern Canada into the northeastern United States. An analysis of the longest-duration events shows a broader geographic distribution, with local maxima in the number of 18+ h events over Oklahoma and surrounding states – a region with relatively low annual freezing rain frequencies. Conditions during long-duration events vary greatly between regions of the continent. In northeastern North America, temperatures tend to increase on average 2-5°C from event start to end, while in the Great Plains temperatures actually decrease on the order of 1°C under strong cold-air advection. These changes are associated with very different phase changes, with events in Oklahoma often beginning as rain and transitioning to freezing rain. The reverse pattern occurs in the Northeast. We also explore the differences in conditions between long- and short-duration freezing rain events. This analysis may be useful to forecasters in discriminating between environments favorable for only one or two hours of freezing rain and those which support sustained and potentially damaging icing events.

ATM Faculty Presents at MATLAB® Workshop

Dr. Hanrahan recently attended the Teaching Computation in the Sciences Using MATLAB® workshop at Carleton College in Northfield, MN. At the workshop, she gave a talk titled Processing Data to Understand Climatology. In addition, Dr. Hanrahan participated in various working groups that developed a definition of computational thinking and identified best practices when using programming in the sciences. Physicists, chemists, biologists, and geoscientists from various colleges attended the workshop.

MATLAB workshop participants
MATLAB® workshop participants

ATM Seminar: Effects of Land-Use on Water Recycling in Brazil

Dr. Stephanie SperaDr. Stephanie Spera from Dartmouth College will present the first ATM seminar of the semester on Thursday, September 29, 2016 from 12:30-1:15 p.m. in ASAC 319. She will talk about the effects of land-use on water recycling in Brazil.

Historically, conservation-oriented research and policy in Brazil have focused on Amazon deforestation, but a majority of Brazil’s deforestation and agricultural expansion has occurred in the neighboring Cerrado biome, a biodiversity hotspot comprised of dry forests, woodland savannas, and grasslands. Resilience of rainfed agriculture in both biomes likely depends on water recycling in undisturbed Cerrado vegetation; yet little is known about how changes in land-use and land-cover affect regional climate feedbacks in the Cerrado. We’ve used remote sensing techniques to map land-use and land-cover change across the Cerrado from 2003 to 2013 and determine how these changes in land use have affected the regional water balance.

Dr. Spera earned her PhD in Earth, Environmental, and Planetary Sciences in 2016 from Brown University. She’s currently a Neukom Fellow at Dartmouth, focusing on how agricultural expansion in Brazil will affect regional climate. Dr. Spera is interested in human-environment interactions: what drives our decisions to change land cover and land use, and what are the environmental consequences of these changes. To answer these questions, she uses remote sensing and spatial statistics methodologies.

ATM Students Present Summer Research

LSC students and faculty attended an undergraduate research colloquium at Plymouth State University on Saturday, July 23rd. Two ATM students, Alex Maynard and Allison Fitzpatrick, presented on their recent summer research projects. They discussed the development of a new climatology of incoming shortwave radiation in the Northeastern United States which can be used to evaluate trends in solar energy production. In addition to the LSC group, the colloquium was attended by students and faculty from Plymouth State University and Hobart and William Smith Colleges.

Dr. Shafer forecasted for a Mount Everest Expedition

For the past several weeks, Dr. Jay Shafer provided weather forecasts for a Mount Everest expedition. May is one of the most popular months to scale Everest before the peak is shrouded by rain, cold and clouds brought on by the monsoon in June. This was also a unique opportunity for several students to volunteer their time and hone their forecasting skills. Students also helped produce in-house model graphics and Geographical Information Systems (GIS) maps of Mount Everest’s topography and campsites. With the recent reports of several deaths on Mount Everest, Local 22 News meteorologist and Lyndon State Atmospheric Science alumnus Torrance Gaucher (’14) interviewed Dr. Shafer about how altitude and weather affects climbers.

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