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Meteorology students to study severe weather during summer course

The meteorology program in WKU’s Department of Geography and Geology has developed a new field-based weather course that provides students with exciting hands-on experience and serves as a capstone learning experience for majors.

During the May 17-June 4 summer term, Dr. Josh Durkee and eight students from the meteorology program will embark on a unique field experience across the Great Plains. The class, Field Methods in Weather Analysis and Forecasting, involves 14 days of forecasting, tracking and analyzing severe convective storms primarily between the Rocky Mountains and the Mississippi River, and the Canadian border and south Texas.

Students will be responsible for using their meteorological knowledge and skill-sets developed from previous courses in the program to place the group within a safe, observational distance from the storms.

The class may take place in the Texas Panhandle one day and central Nebraska the next, depending on how the atmospheric conditions unfold. With the advent of mobile internet technology and a wide array of internet-based data, the group will have full access to real-time weather observations while traveling, including radar and satellite imagery, and numerical weather model forecasts. As the storms develop and evolve, the students plan to capture the events using still and video photography for the purposes of analyzing storm structures and dynamics.

Educational studies show that hands-on student engagement and interaction promote increased learning retention. Any meteorology major who participates in this course not only will take home a lifetime memory, but also a positive and rewarding learning experience that simply cannot be achieved in a traditional  classroom environment.

In addition to extensive forecasting and traveling, the students will maintain a field journal, and alternate online blog updates from the road at http://www.fastforecast.blogspot.com/ (currently administered by meteorology student Landon Hampton).

Participating meteorology students are: Kyle Berry of Mount Washington; Dustin Jordan of Seymour, Tenn.; T.J. Malone of Red Bay, Ala.; Landon Hampton of Morgantown; Sarah McCann of Danville; Sam Roberts of Knoxville, Tenn.; Brittney Whitehead of Portland, Tenn.; and Olivia Payne of Owensboro.

“Innovative learning experiences such as this one are critical in developing the skills that students need to be successful in a highly competitive marketplace,” noted Dr. David Keeling, Geography and Geology Department Head.  “The goal of WKU’s meteorology program is to become the leader in the region with an innovative curriculum and practical learning experiences for majors. Supported by the regional, national and international climate research underway in the department, the meteorology program aims to extend its international reach in support of WKU’s core mission.”

Contact: Josh Durkee, (270) 745-8777.

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