NVU-Lyndon Atmospheric Sciences Hollings Scholarship Recipients

Two Northern Vermont University-Lyndon Atmospheric Sciences students are the 2021 recipients of the prestigious Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship awarded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The two juniors, Gabby Brown and Rachel Palladino, are among roughly 100 students selected from universities across the country. This is the first time the Department of Atmospheric Sciences has had multiple students receive the scholarship in a single year.

The Hollings Scholarship recognizes high achievement in NOAA-related fields, including atmospheric and climate sciences. Each recipient receives tuition support during their junior and senior years, and a paid 10-week summer internship between their junior and senior year at a NOAA facility.

Dr. Ari Preston, Atmospheric Sciences Assistant Professor, is a former Hollings Scholar and understands the importance for his students to apply for this scholarship. “The Hollings Scholarship opened many doors for me as an undergraduate and had a big influence on my graduate school choice and field of research. I still keep in touch with many of the connections I made through the scholarship,” said Dr. Preston.

Rachel Palladino, 2021 Hollings Scholar

Rachel Palladino is already thinking about her NOAA internship next summer, and her future career opportunities. “I’m hoping to do work within the Ocean and Atmospheric Research or National Weather Service branches.” I’m very thankful for this opportunity and hopefully this is a first step to a career with NOAA,” Rachel said. This summer, Rachel interned with Dr. Preston at NVU-Lyndon in collaboration with the National Weather Service in Burlington, VT. She researched how lightning data can be used to increase lead times for severe thunderstorm warnings in Vermont.

Gabby Brown, 2021 Hollings Scholar

Gabby Brown wants to incorporate climate change into her NOAA internship next summer. “I’m interested in pursuing research on either climate change or tropical meteorology through my internship with NOAA. I think that this opportunity will give me the chance to expand my knowledge in the field of atmospheric sciences and will allow me to make connections will professionals and other scholars,” Gabby said. She worked with Great Lakes climate datasets this summer for her internship with the Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering program at the University of Michigan.

In the spring of 2021, Rachel and Gabby attended a virtual orientation session for Hollings recipients. They will soon be choosing a NOAA facility for their summer 2022 internship in hopes of it leading to future career opportunities.

Bobby Saba, 2020 Hollings Scholar

Bobby Saba was selected as a Hollings Scholar in 2020. He just completed his Hollings internship at the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma. “Although the summer internship was held remotely this summer, the relationships I have been able to build with my mentors and other Hollings Scholars have been second to none. Strong relationships with mentors can not only lead to jobs, but letters of recommendation for graduate school or other employment opportunities.

The 2022 Hollings Scholarship application is now open for sophomore undergraduates in atmospheric and climate sciences. Scholarship information and the application process are detailed at: https://www.noaa.gov/office-education/hollings-scholarship/prospective

Research published in Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology

Atmospheric Sciences faculty and recent graduates have published research results in the Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology. In their paper titled Examining the Impacts of Great Lakes Temperature Perturbations on Simulated Precipitation in the Northeastern United States, Dr. Janel Hanrahan, Jessica Langlois, and Lauren Cornell presented results obtained from a modeling study that began as a summer internship in 2018. This work was completed with scientists from Dartmouth College, the University of Vermont, and the National Center for Atmospheric Research. They wanted to understand how Great Lakes water temperatures modify simulated precipitation downwind of the Great Lakes.

© Copyright 2021 AMS

Most inland water bodies are too small to be modeled well by general circulation models, requiring that lake surface temperatures be estimated. Given the large spatial and temporal variability of the surface temperatures of the North American Great Lakes, such estimations can introduce errors when used as lower boundary conditions for dynamical downscaling (i.e. using high-resolution regional simulations to extrapolate the effects of large-scale climate processes to regional or local scales of interest, as driven by boundary conditions from a relatively coarse-resolution general circulation model). Lake surface temperatures influence moisture and heat fluxes, thus impacting precipitation within the immediate region and potentially in regions downwind of the lakes.

The group completed numerous simulations using the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model which was run with ECMWF ERA-Interim reanalysis data. The simulations were repeated over 5 years from 2010 through 2014, after systematically increasing and decreasing lake surface temperatures. Results show that simulated precipitation in New England is statistically correlated with lake surface temperature perturbations, but this region falls on a wet–dry line of a larger bimodal distribution. Wetter conditions occur to the north and drier conditions occur to the south with increasing lake surface temperature, particularly during the warm season. As part of the BREE (Basin Resilience to Extreme Events) Climate Modeling Team, their results helped to inform the configuration of WRF for the purpose of downscaling future global climate simulations under anthropogenic climate change.

After graduating from Northern Vermont University in 2019, Jessica Langlois began her career as a broadcast meteorologist in at WQOW-TV in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. She recently made her way back to Vermont as WCAX’s First at Four Meteorologist (where she had also interned as an undergraduate student at Lyndon). Lauren Cornell graduated from Northern Vermont University in 2020 and is now working on a M.S. degree in Environmental Studies at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry

Storm chasers from Northeast get ‘thrill of a lifetime’ despite pandemic

This story originally appeared on AccuWeather.com

The coronavirus pandemic has brought student storm chasing trips to a halt over the past year for SUNY Oswego in New York state, but some professors are carrying on the tradition of following storms through the Plains, and AccuWeather’s Lincoln Riddle was there to ride along with them and experience storm chasing firsthand.

Scott Steiger, professor of meteorology at SUNY Oswego, has been leading student trips to the Plains every spring since 2007 to chase storms with future meteorologists. On the trip, they are able to conduct research that is crucial for their future careers.

“The best laboratory for a meteorologist is outside,” Steiger told Riddle. “So that’s the motivation behind our storm chasing program.”

Students who would normally attend the storm-chasing trip aspire to one day work in weather, and some will end up working in the Plains, so the trip often provides an opportunity to gain firsthand experience with the types of severe storms that might be less common in the Northeast.

Scott Steiger (left), Jake Mulholland (middle) and Ari Preston (right) traveled to the Plains without students this year due to COVID-19, but Steiger had been leading student trips to the Central states to storm chase since 2007. (Photo credit: Lincoln Riddle)

“To get experience with these storms is very critical when they graduate and apply for jobs in areas like this,” said Ari Preston, a professor in the department of Atmospheric Science at Northern Vermont University, Lyndon.

Seeing severe weather, such as supercell thunderstorms that can spawn tornadoes, firsthand allows students to compare radar data to real life visuals. That way, the students will have a better understanding of what weather will develop when looking strictly at radar data.

On Riddle’s ride-along experience with the storm chasers, he saw two tornadoes firsthand. One of the tornadoes was located in New Mexico, and was a brief spinup, according to Riddle. He also saw a tornado in Colorado on Saturday, May 29, near Boise City, Oklahoma.

https://www.accuweather.com/en/videos/r3eUvs61?jwsource=cl

On the trips, students practice forecasting and observing weather and comparing their forecasts to what they observe, which Steiger said is when “the real learning occurs.”

“It’s one thing to have assignments and look at radar data on a computer in a lab in the classroom, but to get out and actually feel this inflow and to feel what’s going on in the atmosphere and to get visuals … The storms out here are very different than what we see in the northeastern U.S.,” Preston said.

In addition to the educational factors for students becoming professional meteorologists, storm-chasing trips can also be life-saving for those in the Plains.

Ari Preston (pictured) and Scott Steiger first teamed up in 2019 to bring meteorology students at their universities to the Plains for a storm-chasing experience. (Photo credit: Lincoln Riddle)

“It’s not good enough to just have radar-indicated tornado warnings,” Preston said. “It really helps to send pictures in, to tweet at the National Weather Service, so they can help make more informed decisions [and] put out warnings earlier.” 

Each year, about 15 students go on the trip. However, because of the pandemic, the student trip was canceled for the second consecutive spring.

“Because of COVID, we weren’t able to bring students out last year or this year,” Steiger said. “Luckily, this year I have a team of other faculty. We’re vaccinated, so we can come out here and at least practice for next year.”

This year, Steiger was joined by former student Jake Mulholland in addition to Preston for a storm-chasing trio.

Steiger and Preston are optimistic that the students will be able to come along in 2022.

“To be out here experiencing these storms is the thrill of a lifetime,” Preston said.

Reporting by Lincoln Riddle. This story originally appeared on AccuWeather.com

Virtual Northeastern Storm Conference a Success

The 46th annual Northeastern Storm Conference was held virtually April 23-25, 2021, and was a resounding success!

The Friday evening Ice Breaker Speaker was meteorologist and Lyndon State College alumnus Pete Bouchard (’92). He is currently a broadcast meteorologist for NBC 10 in Boston, Massachusetts.

The virtual conference featured career-focused panel discussions to workshops on topics like science communication.

Saturday night’s Banquet Dinner Speaker was Bryan Norcross. Currently, Bryan is a Hurricane Specialist at WPLG in Miami, FL. This happens to be where he began his television career almost 40 years ago!

Bernadette Woods Placky closed out the conference as the Sunday Keynote Speaker. Bernadette is the Chief Meteorologist and Director for Climate Central’s Climate Matters program.

We look forward to the 47th annual Northeastern Storm Conference in March 2022, to be held in Burlington, Vermont! Check out https://lyndonams.org/nesc for later details.

NVU claims their first Max University Challenge title

The goal of the Max University Challenge is to help future meteorologists tell better weather stories by equipping them with the latest Max Ecosystem technologies.

Rob Koenig (left) and Bobby Saba (right) from Northern Vermont University earned the 2021 Max University Challenge title by building scenes that are clever, engaging and easy to understand.

When severe weather is approaching, it’s critical to deliver important information to your audience as clearly as possible to help them make potentially life-saving decisions.

The team from Northern Vermont University achieved this goal with a simple grid that illustrates the projected severity levels of an oncoming storm during a five-hour period. The judges complimented the team on creating a graphic that can tell the full weather story, even if a presenter is not on camera.

The team’s second graphic demonstrates a high skill level with Max tools by first showing a region that is currently under a tornado watch, then zooming in to highlight a specific area for which a tornado warning has been issued. The graphic also includes a simple explainer on the meanings behind tornado watches and tornado warnings.

The Weather Company, an IBM Business, strives to offer meteorology students an opportunity to better understand what they can be and where they can go in their careers. We also hope that unfettered access to Max technology helps develop their skills beyond their expectations.

Contact The Weather Company today to learn more about this contest and their broadcast media products.

Agency of Transportation and Northern Vermont University Celebrate 15 Years of Partnership

Students produce weather forecasts for AOT Maintenance Districts

Lyndonville, Vt. – The Vermont Agency of Transportation (AOT) and Northern Vermont University (NVU) are celebrating 15 years of working together to manage Vermont’s winter road conditions with public safety in mind.

Students in NVU’s Atmospheric Sciences program provide daily weather forecasts for AOT maintenance districts from November through April. AOT uses this tailored weather forecast information to help with workforce management and strategies to tackle winter weather.

“All of our districts rely on the students’ weather forecasts to plan their winter highway maintenance activities every time there are conditions that potentially require us to plow or treat the roads,” said Maintenance Bureau Director Todd Law. “The forecasts from the NVU meteorology students are reliable, professional, and a vital source of information for our maintenance planning throughout the winter.”

Each district receives a forecast that is specific to its area of the state, enabling maintenance staff to plan for impending weather.

Atmospheric Sciences students forecast for 9 AOT maintenance districts

“AOT reached out to NVU [Lyndon State College at the time] because of our expertise in weather forecasting. They wanted better information to make better decisions to make roads safe and manage their workforce,” said Jay Shafer, NVU professor of Atmospheric Sciences who created the project with AOT. Jay has managed more than 130 students in these forecaster roles. “The value of this program for the students is learning how to work together as a team. Learning to collaborate and communicate is more of an art than a science, and the only way to learn this is to jump in and do it.”

The NVU-Lyndon student meteorologists apply for the jobs each year during their junior and senior years. The students are paid for their work, which helps to make college more affordable. The students forecast weather conditions every day, including weekends and holidays when inclement weather is anticipated.

Working in teams of three, each student is assigned to three districts to forecast during their shift and will rotate through all nine districts during the season. Students work from one to three days each week, creating their forecasts with information gleaned from a variety of information sources between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.; all forecasts are due to AOT at 1 p.m.

Rosemary Webb, who will graduate in May with a degree in Atmospheric Science, is one of the lead forecasters, a perfect role for a student looking to land a position as a weather forecaster. “It’s real-life experience actually forecasting for a client who uses it to make decisions,” she said. Webb leads her group of three and is responsible for writing a summary of statewide weather based on the group’s discussion. “In my first year it was a little stressful figuring out how to forecast in a short amount of time, but then you get into a routine.”

Bobby Saba, who is working to complete a bachelor’s degree in Atmospheric Sciences and an associate’s degree in Broadcast and Digital Journalism in May 2022, joined the program this year. “I got involved as soon as I could!” he said. As a weather broadcaster, Saba will have to do his own forecasting. “Being able to do this for a state that has some pretty wild weather will help set me apart from others applying for the same jobs.”

“It’s close to what a real field job feels like, and the students see the application of what they are learning,” Shafer said. “This experiential learning helps to make our atmospheric science program strong and greatly benefits the State of Vermont.”

AOT looks forward to continuing the partnership with NVU next winter.

“The program has been a great success, and we are grateful to the students and their professors for their ongoing work to support Vermont winter highway maintenance and safety,” said AOT Chief Engineer and Highway Division Director Ann Gammell.

This post originally appeared on Northern Vermont University’s News Center.

Successful 45th Annual Northeast Storm Conference

https://www.instagram.com/p/B9adRqdgLVN/?igshid=lq538p933zhi

Students and Faculty at AMS 2020

Last week, 35 Atmospheric Sciences students and faculty attended the American Meteorological Society’s Annual Meeting and Centennial Celebration in Boston, MA.

Dr. Ari Preston presented a poster on lightning cessation characteristics between severe and nonsevere storms using polarimetric radar data. Total lightning data for the storms are obtained from the Washington, D.C., Lightning Mapping Array (DCLMA). Storms are tracked using the Warning Decision Support System–Integrated Information (WDSS-II) software, producing time series of radar- and lightning-derived parameters. Trends in polarimetric radar parameters, such as graupel characteristics, at different temperature levels are compared between severe and nonsevere storms near the end of their lightning activity.

Seniors Sarah-Ellen Calise and John Drugan presented posters on their individual research projects. Sarah-Ellen is looking into improved forecasts of incoming solar radiation using machine learning and ensemble weather model output. Sarah-Ellen used output from a 15-member WRF ensemble combined with deep learning techniques to improve predictions of incoming solar radiation at surface stations in Vermont. Employing deep learning techniques on the ensemble output results in up to 30% improvement in forecast accuracy of incoming solar radiation over that of the equivalent raw ensemble forecasts. John superimposed polarimetric radar data and total lightning data from the Washington, D.C. Lightning Mapping Array (DCLMA) using the Warning Decision Support System-Integrated Information (WDSS-II) software to develop lightning cessation guidance algorithms. The goal of this project is to analyze the presence of graupel at different temperature levels in the mixed phase region of a storm (-20 to 0C) to determine a correspondence to the last detected lightning flash.

We hosted an alumni gathering on Tuesday evening. This was a great time for networking and catching up with many atmospheric sciences alumni!

Dr. Jay Shafer presented a talk on Predicting Wet Snow Icing Risks on the Grid Edge. He highlighted a successful research-to-operations effort to improve the prediction of power outages caused by wet snow icing. Wet snow icing is poorly understood, with no existing electric distribution engineering standards for wet snow loading, and no widely accepted meteorological standards to identify conditions when wet snow icing occurs. This work presented a method to identify wet snow icing potential using surface wet bulb temperature, in addition to an outage prediction method.

Dr. Jay Shafer gives a talk on his research.

Dr. Janel Hanrahan facilitated a Town Hall Meeting with titled “Getting creative with climate change outreach: promoting scientific engagement, improving science literacy, and building community.” Panelists were Atmospheric Sciences students (seated, from left to right): Jonathan Hutchinson, Maison DeJesus, Lillie Farrell, and Patrick Wickstrom. In this Town Hall session, student and faculty members of The Climate Consensus, an outreach group at Northern Vermont University-Lyndon, will share their experiences with community engagement on this important topic. They will discuss creative ways they have prompted discussion about climate change within the local community and important lessons learned.

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.