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WKU storm chasers gearing up for annual expedition across Plains

Each year during WKU’s May term, Dr. Josh Durkee, Associate Professor of Meteorology and Climate Science in WKU’s Department of Geography & Geology, chooses a group of eight students for his Field Methods in Weather Analysis and Forecasting course with the aim to forecast and document severe convective storms across the Great Plains.

WKU storm chasers captured this tornado near Bennington, Kan., on May 28, 2013. (Photo by Josh Durkee)

WKU storm chasers captured this tornado near Bennington, Kan., on May 28, 2013. (Photo by Josh Durkee)

Since its inaugural year in 2010, WKU storm chasers have traveled 32,000 miles and documented nearly 30 tornadoes, along with numerous damaging hail and windstorms, and floods.

The award-winning and internationally recognized summer program runs for four weeks, with two spent by students who will venture across the Plains analyzing and determining where the most dangerous weather will occur, and traveling to those locations to document the outcomes of their predictions. The final week is spent back at WKU organizing the collected data and developing research questions surrounding the events that unfolded. This year’s trip is scheduled for May 20-June 3.

“The purpose of this course is to provide a capstone learning experience for students studying meteorology at WKU,” Dr. Durkee said. “Ultimately yes, we are chasing storms but there is so much more to it than that. Students gain daily practical skills in forecasting, weather map, radar, and satellite analysis, road navigation, written and oral communication, data collection, and research reanalysis, among others. And to go a couple steps further, I bring the data and outcomes back as learning materials in various courses I teach, and students often present findings from research and analysis of these events at various conferences. In that sense, this course provides a well-rounded learning experience throughout the entire academic year.”

Students participating in the 2014 course are: Mallory Schnell of Louisville, Brian Urbanic of Louisville, Tyler Binkley of Ashland City, Tenn., Michael Flanigan of Pewee Valley, Zachary Leasor of Georgetown, Melissa Moore of Evansville, Ind., Jordan Bailey of Burlington and Cail Knight of Hopkinsville.

You can follow Dr. Durkee’s storm chase group as they document each day at http://meteorology.blog.wku.edu/, on Twitter at https://twitter.com/wkustormchase and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/wkumetclimsci

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

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