Over the summer, Dr. Ari Preston and alumnus John Drugan ’20 published research about using radar and total lightning data to develop lightning cessation guidance for isolated cells in the Washington, D.C. area. Lightning ranks as one of the deadliest weather phenomena. Most deaths occur before or mainly after peak lightning activity. This is because these flashes occur at times when lightning has not yet become threatening (e.g., first flash) or is no longer deemed threatening (e.g., last flash). The commonly used 30-30 rule, where the second “30” refers to the wait time in minutes before resuming outdoor activities after the most recent lightning flash, can be a lengthy amount of time to wait, and can delay business operations including aviation, construction, sports, and community events. Developing lightning cessation guidance can therefore assist outdoor safety measures.
A total of 23 non-severe thunderstorms during the 2015–2017 warm seasons are analyzed. Radar and lightning data are superimposed using the Warning Decision Support System–Integrated Information (WDSS-II) software to develop cessation algorithms. Horizontal reflectivity and the hydrometeor classification algorithm to locate graupel are used for each convective cell. Results show that the three best-performing cessation algorithms use thresholds of (1) horizontal reflectivity ≥ 40 dBZ at −5 ◦C, (2) horizontal reflectivity ≥ 35 dBZ at −10 ◦C, and (3) graupel at −15 ◦C. Lightning is not expected 15 minutes after the threshold is no longer met for each algorithm. These algorithms are recommended for use only for isolated cells in the Washington, D.C. area. Further study is needed to draw conclusions for other convective cell types and different geographic regions.
Held in Burlington, VT March 11-13, 2022, the 47th Annual Northeastern Storm Conference was a resounding success.
What a great weekend at the Northeastern Storm Conference! A huge thank you to our keynotes speakers, who all gave inspiring presentations!! Very proud of everyone on the executive board for putting on such a memorable conference ⛈ #NESC2022pic.twitter.com/ZmRn6bzvUt
That’s a wrap on #NESC2022! Thanks to everyone who joined us for a weekend filled with networking, presentations, and workshops. We are excited to welcome you to the 48th annual Northeastern Storm Conference in March of 2023! pic.twitter.com/NMxtfqRW4u
This past January, Atmospheric Sciences students, faculty, and alumni presented a poster and chaired a Town Hall event at the 102nd American Meteorological Society (AMS) Annual Meeting. They promoted The Climate Consensus, Inc., a multi-institution climate outreach network, and invited other universities to join in this effort. Current Atmospheric Sciences student Gabrielle Brown, and Atmospheric Sciences faculty Dr. Janel Hanrahan, represented Northern Vermont University. They presented the poster authored by 16 students and faculty from eight universities, and co-chaired the Town Hall Meeting. They were joined by four Atmospheric Sciences alumni who are serving as representatives for their own graduate institutions. Arianna Varuolo-Clarke, currently working on her Ph.D. at Columbia University, and one of the founding members of the NVU Climate Consensus group, represented Columbia University as a Town Hall panelist. Andrew Westgate, who’s working on his Ph.D. at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, co-chaired the Town Hall Meeting. Two other Atmospheric Sciences graduates served as panelists for this event. Allison LaFleur represented Purdue University where she’s working on her Ph.D. Lauren Cornell represented the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry where she’s working on her M.S. degree. The Climate Consensus currently has representatives from eight universities and is planning to expand over the next year.
Several Atmospheric Sciences students traveled to Houston to attend the AMS Student Conference. This was a great opportunity to present their research and network with atmospheric sciences professionals. Gabrielle Brown was selected for “Outstanding Student Conference Poster: Presenter” for her poster titled The Impact of Climatological Base Period Choice on the Communication of Climate Trends.
Congratulations to our very own Gabrielle Brown for being selected for “Outstanding Student Conference Poster: Presenter” for her presentation at the Student Conference of the American Meteorological Society! If you missed Gabby’s presentation, come see it at #NESC2022pic.twitter.com/lnOmQNgyEx
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 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 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 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.
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
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.
“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.
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.
“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
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!
So much to take away from @BernWoodsPlacky keynote address at #NESC2021! Really interesting to get some insight about how @ClimateCentral effectively communicates the changes in our climate to the public.
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.
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.
“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.