Help Wanted: Must Love Weather
Turning a Passion for Weather into a Summer Job
June 12, 2011
Contact: Keli Tarp, 405-325-6933
Many college students spend the summer making coffee, flipping burgers, or lifeguarding, but a half dozen lucky undergrads have a very different summer job at the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory and NOAA-funded Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies at the University of Oklahoma.
Students there are collecting hail, wind damage, and flash flood reports through phone surveys for the Severe Hazards Analysis and Verification Experiment (SHAVE). Since this program began six years ago, students have logged more than 29,000 hail reports, 5,500 wind reports, and 9,300 flash flood reports.
Largely student led and run, the SHAVE team targets a storm and makes post-storm phone calls within 60 minutes to residents who live along the storm’s track. Students query residents about hail size, wind damage, and flash flooding.
“Usually people take an interest in helping us out and answering our questions,” said Bethany Hardzinski, a student from the University of Oklahoma. The phone data is blended with radar information on Google Maps to create a database of the storm for research.
The student reports, when combined with observations collected by the NOAA National Weather Service, create a unique database of severe and non-severe weather events and enhance climatological information about severe storm threats in the United States. Some National Weather Service forecast offices use the data to assist in verifying warnings.
“We often have an impact in neighborhoods because people claim to have never received calls like ours before and find it quite intellectually stimulating,” said Brian Squitieri, another OU student.
NOAA researchers use the datasets to improve severe weather warning decision-making tools used by the National Weather Service. “It’s easy to say the benefits of such an experiment are incredible,” said Keith Sherburn, OU student. “The process of verification through SHAVE’s calls is much more comprehensive than the current methods used by local forecast offices, and the potential applications of the high resolution datasets are nearly endless.”
SHAVE gives the students a great opportunity to work independently in an out-of-classroom setting, said SHAVE director Kiel Ortega. “The students are on their own when it comes to the data collection and I think that’s an excellent leadership opportunity for the students,” he added.
The program also has led to year-round undergraduate research assistantships and research projects for more than half of the participants who have worked in it since 2006.
For more information on the Severe Hazards Analysis and Verification Experiment, see http://ewp.nssl.noaa.gov/projects/shave.
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