Fall Break Adventures

This past week (October 7-11) was Northern Vermont University’s Fall Break. Despite not holding classes, Atmospheric Sciences students, faculty, and staff were quite busy!

Faculty Attend UCAR Annual Meeting

Atmospheric Sciences faculty attended the 2019 UCAR Annual Members Meeting in Boulder, Colorado. Dr. Hanrahan and Dr. Preston participated in workshops and breakout sessions to learn about and provide guidance on the directions of UCAR (University Corporation for Atmospheric Research) and NCAR (National Center for Atmospheric Research). They also toured some NCAR facilities including the NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center and the Marshall Field Site.

Students Visit NWS Offices

Five students spent their fall break traveling around the southeast U.S. They visited three National Weather Service offices: Peachtree City/Atlanta, Georgia, Huntsville, Alabama, and Jacksonville, Florida. While at the NWS Jacksonville, they met up with Matt Zibura (wearing the bright blue shirt in the photo below), an LSC alumnus (’87).

Equipment Upgrades

Back at NVU-Lyndon, Dr. Jay Shafer finished installing a wireless Davis Instruments Vantage Pro2 Plus weather station next to our research-grade weather station. This new weather station will assist Northview Weather LLC in creating an intercomparison of solar radiation data between the research-grade Kipp and Zonen solar radiation sensors and the Davis solar radiation sensor. This is useful because our Lyndon Mesonet of weather stations around Vermont mostly uses the same Davis Vantage Pro2 Plus weather stations (which Northview Weather is using to create an incoming solar radiation climatology). We will also now be able to conduct comparisons among the Davis Instruments rain gauge, the research-grade Texas Electronics rain gauge, and the manual CoCoRaHS rain gauge. Jason Kaiser, the Atmospheric Sciences Data Systems Administrator, also completed a much-needed replacement of a projector in one of Atmospheric Sciences classrooms during the fall break.

Atmospheric Sciences Faculty Publish in BAMS

Two Northern Vermont University Atmospheric Sciences faculty had their work published in the July 2019 Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (BAMS). BAMS is the flagship magazine of the American Meteorological Society (AMS). The peer-reviewed article, Improving Climate Change Literacy and Promoting Outreach in an Undergraduate Atmospheric Sciences Program, outlines the recent implementation of innovative curricular and extracurricular activities related to climate change within the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at Northern Vermont University. The NVU Department of Atmospheric Sciences is at the forefront of improving climate change literacy among the general public through undergraduate education and public outreach.

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 & BREE Students Launch Weather Balloons

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

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.

Observed Weather

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.

“Down” Days

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.

Daily Logistics

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

5/27Indianaobserved multiple wall clouds from low-precipitation supercells on the first travel day of the Storm Forecasting and Observation Program
5/28Kansaslaunched a weather balloon; chased tornadic supercells near Nebraska
5/29Northeast Texasobserved a well-defined wall cloud at 20Z; too dangerous to chase tornado near Fort Worth, TX; observed incredible lightning activity
5/30Southwest Texaslaunched 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.
5/31West Texaslaunched 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
6/1Texas Panhandleobserved 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
6/2New Mexicotarget 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
6/3Texas Panhandledown day; dinner at The Big Texan Steak Ranch
6/4Kansasdown 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
6/5Oklahomadown day; visited the Twister Museum and saw the Wakita water tower featured in the Twister movie
6/6Oklahomadown day; saw tornado damage (e.g. torn off signs, roofs, and damage to cars) from EF3 tornado that recently devasted the El Reno area
6/7Oklahomadown day; toured the University of Oklahoma campus, and visited the National Weather Center
6/8ColoradoThis 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.
6/9-6/10two travel days back to SUNY Oswego campus
6/11-6/15work 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.

Bobby Saba – sophomore, Broadcast Concentration

Why did you choose to storm chase this summer?

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.

Catie McNeil – sophomore, Broadcast Concentration

What have you learned on this trip?

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.

Camryn Kruger – sophomore, Broadcast Concentration

 Why did you choose to storm chase this summer?

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.

Maddie Degroot – junior, National Weather Service/Military & Private Industry Concentrations

Student Research

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.

Coriolis Effect Demonstration

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.

2019 Senior Capstone Symposium

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.

Anthony Carpino

Experiential Learning: A Workshop for Undergraduate Atmospheric Science Students

Robert Denton

How Can We Improve Real-Time Weather Warnings?

Jason Doris

Impacts of Climate Change on Winter Storms in Southern New England

Celia Fisher

Meteorological Drivers of Rapid Wildfire Growth in Alaska’s Boreal Forest

Robert Grimm

Arctic Sea Ice Thickness Subseasonal Predictability: Comparing CFSv2 Operational Forecasts with CryoSat-2/SMOS Satellite Data

Curran Hendershot

Common Signatures Among Thundersnow Storms

Jessica Langlois

A More Effective Approach to Severe Weather Coverage on Social Media in the Boston Area

Sarah Levesque

An Analysis of Climate Change Communication through Broadcast Media: Examining Average Minimum Nighttime Temperatures

Evan Levine

Relationship Between Total Lightning Activity and Atlantic Tropical Cyclone Intensity

James Mundy

Lightning Network Integration

Madison Rodgers

The Effect of Warming Sea-Surface Temperatures on Topical Cyclone Intensity

Francis Tarasiewicz

An Improved Wind-Related Power Outage Model

Lexie Walker

Finding a Methodology to Teach Climate Change That Best Engages Students with Different Learning Styles

44th Northeastern Storm Conference a Success

2019 Northeast Storm Conference Lyndon students, almuni, faculty, and staff
2019 Northeast Storm Conference Lyndon students, almuni, faculty, and staff

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.

Several students, faculty, and an alumnus presented their research on Saturday.

Saturday’s banquet speaker was Dr. Kevin Kloesel, University Meteorologist at the University of Oklahoma Office of Emergency Preparedness, and director of the Oklahoma Climatological Survey.

Dr. Kevin Kloesel delivers the Saturday Night Banquet keynote.

Sunday morning’s speaker was Becky DePodwin, meteorologist at AccuWeather.