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.
Matt Zibura ’87 (left) with NVU Atmospheric Sciences students
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.
Davis station (left), research-grade station (center), CoCoRaHS rain gauge (right)
Ensuring the new projector replacement is sharply focused
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 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.
Upward Bound students inflate the weather balloon
Upward Bound students prepare the weather balloon for launch
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.
Upward Bound students get ready to launch the weather balloon
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.
Left to right: Ann Marie Matheny, Connor Zwonik, and Giorgio Sarro prepare to launch a weather balloon
Ann Marie Matheny and Giorgio Sarro launch the weather balloon
Jason Kaiser shows BREE students (left to right) Giorgio Sarro, Connor Zwonik, Ann Marie Matheny, as well as ATM students Sarah-Ellen Calise and John Drugan, the weather data as the balloon rises
NVU-Lyndon students in front of a shelf cloud in New Mexico. Pictured from left to right: Catie McNeil, Bobby Saba, Camryn Kruger, and Maddie Degroot
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.
Catie McNeil (right) preparing to launch a weather balloon in northern Kansas. Shortly after, the group chased tornadic supercells in northern Kansas.
Spiral-shaped, low-precipitation supercell in Indiana on Day 1 of the trip.
High-resolution radial velocity (0.5-degree tilt) showing strong gate-to-gate shear associated with tornadic supercells in northern Kansas.
Mobile Threat Net® showing the position of the vans as they punched through a small hail core (0.25-inch) to escape a developing storm to the south. The storm to the north had baseball size hail.
Morning weather briefing in the hotel before the group chased supercells in New Mexico that afternoon.
Wall cloud associated with a low precipitation supercell in New Mexico.
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.
Colorful iridescence associated with the anvil of a supercell in New Mexico.
Shelf cloud moving through Hobbs, New Mexico as the sun was setting.
Shelf cloud moving through Hobbs, New Mexico as the sun was setting. It produced large hail and strong winds. The hail core created bright green colors that lit up the sky.
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.
Visiting the Twister Museum in Wakita, OK.
Students in front of the National Weather Center in Norman, OK.
Mobile research radars outside the National Weather Center in Norman, OK
(Left) DOROTHY and (middle) D.O.T. 3 movie props from Twister. (Right) TOtable Tornado Observatory (TOTO) – the real-world, scientific instrument that DOROTHY was based on in the movie. All three instruments can be seen on the first floor of the National Weather Center in Norman, OK.
Listening to Bill Bunting, Chief of Forecast Operations at the Storm Prediction Center, talk about the Storm Prediction Center right outside the forecast room.
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.
The entire group in front of their first tornado! This was one of two landspout tornadoes they observed in Kanorado, KS.
Two condensation funnels occurring simultaneously in Kanorado, KS. The funnel to the right was dissipating as the funnel to the left developed.
Second landspout tornado in Kanorado, KS picking up debris near the surface.
Textbook example of a growing cumulus congestus in Colorado.
High-resolution reflectivity (0.8-degree tilt) showing well-defined hook echoes associated with three supercells near Denver, CO.
Visual depiction of the three supercells and their wall clouds near Denver, CO. Well-defined mammatus clouds can be seen near the top of the photo.
Trip Log Summary
observed multiple wall clouds from low-precipitation supercells on the first travel day of the Storm Forecasting and Observation Program
launched a weather balloon; chased tornadic supercells near Nebraska
observed a well-defined wall cloud at 20Z; too dangerous to chase tornado near Fort Worth, TX; observed incredible lightning activity
launched 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.
launched 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
observed 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
target 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
down day; dinner at The Big Texan Steak Ranch
down 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
down day; visited the Twister Museum and saw the Wakita water tower featured in the Twister movie
down day; saw tornado damage (e.g. torn off signs, roofs, and damage to cars) from EF3 tornado that recently devasted the El Reno area
This 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.
two travel days back to SUNY Oswego campus
work 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Experiential Learning: A Workshop for Undergraduate
Atmospheric Science Students
How Can We Improve Real-Time Weather Warnings?
Impacts of Climate Change on Winter Storms in Southern
Meteorological Drivers of Rapid Wildfire Growth in
Alaska’s Boreal Forest
Arctic Sea Ice Thickness Subseasonal Predictability: Comparing CFSv2 Operational Forecasts with CryoSat-2/SMOS Satellite Data
Common Signatures Among Thundersnow Storms
A More Effective Approach to Severe Weather Coverage
on Social Media in the Boston Area
An Analysis of Climate Change Communication through
Broadcast Media: Examining Average Minimum Nighttime Temperatures
Relationship Between Total Lightning Activity and
Atlantic Tropical Cyclone Intensity
Lightning Network Integration
The Effect of Warming Sea-Surface Temperatures on
Topical Cyclone Intensity
An Improved Wind-Related Power Outage Model
Finding a Methodology to Teach Climate Change That Best Engages Students with Different Learning Styles
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.
Dr. Geoffrey Stano is part of NASA’s Short-term Prediction Research and Transition Center (SPoRT). He has been involved with the GOES-R Proving Ground since 2009, and in 2016 began serving as the Satellite Liaison for the Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM). His role has been to support the National Weather Service in preparing for the GLM. This has been done through webinars, training sessions, and the development of training modules for the forecasters. This seminar will provide a short background on the NASA SPoRT program as well as the GLM instrument. The remainder of the presentation will focus on real-world applications of the GLM data as it is being integrated into the National Weather Service.
Dr. Geoffrey Stano
Dr. Stano has focused on operational applications research, specifically with lightning observations, for the past 15 years. This has included work with ground-based lightning mapping arrays to the first of its kind Geostationary Lightning Mapper aboard the new GOES-R series. In addition to his role as a lightning expert and trainer with the NASA SPoRT center, he currently serves as the chair for the American Meteorological Society’s Atmospheric Electricity Scientific and Technological Activities Commission.
Atmospheric rivers are relatively long, narrow areas of moisture transport. They’re responsible for approximately 90% of meridional water vapor transport, and also for many high impact rainfall events. This presentation will provide an overview of the structure, climatology, and impacts of atmospheric river events. Predictability and forecast tools will also be discussed.
Dr. Greg West is a Research Associate in the Weather Forecast Research Team at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC. Research projects he is involved with center around improving weather forecasts for clean energy production for the province’s primary electric utility, BC Hydro. This primarily includes improvement of probabilistic forecast post-processing via machine learning methods, evaluation of forecasts, and creation of innovative new forecast tools such as situational awareness forecast indices.