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WKU Storm Chasers prepare for 2015 field experience in central U.S.

Each year during WKU’s May term, Dr. Josh Durkee, Associate Professor of Meteorology and Climate Science Research, selects a competitive group of eight students for his Field Methods in Weather Analysis and Forecasting course with the aim to forecast and document the nation’s most severe storms.

Since its inaugural year in 2010, WKU Storm Chasers have traveled 37,222 miles across 19 of the central United States and documented more than 30 tornadoes like this one on May 31, 2010, near Campo, Colorado. (Photo courtesy of Josh Durkee)

Since its inaugural year in 2010, WKU Storm Chasers have traveled 37,222 miles across 19 of the central United States and documented more than 30 tornadoes like this one on May 31, 2010, near Campo, Colorado. (Photo courtesy of Josh Durkee)

The award-winning and internationally recognized summer program runs for four weeks, with two spent predicting and tracking dangerous weather conditions primarily across the Great Plains. Since its inaugural year in 2010, WKU Storm Chasers have traveled 37,222 miles across 19 of the central United States and documented more than 30 tornadoes, along with numerous damaging hail, windstorm and flood events.

“This course provides a unique applied learning opportunity for students studying meteorology at WKU,” Dr. Durkee said. “Not all of our students want to pursue forecasting as a career. However, our students understand that challenging forecast situations test our ability to critically and logically evaluate atmospheric behavior and effectively communicate these events in real time. This is a capstone learning experience that fine tunes meteorological understanding, as well as other critical skills necessary for post-graduate careers.”

Upon returning to WKU, the group spends the final week debriefing and organizing two weeks of data and documentation.

“Typically, this course leaves our group scratching our heads regarding how certain events unfolded in unexpected ways,” Dr. Durkee added. “These unanswered questions form the basis for independent research projects that students continue to work on during the following academic year. Meanwhile, I use the data and documentation for examples to learn by in the other regular courses that I teach. In that sense, the two-week travel portion of this class provides research and learning material for the entire year.”

Students participating in the 2015 course are: Colton Lindsey of Mount Vernon, Indiana; Melissa Moore of Evansville, Indiana; David Lipps of Borden, Indiana; Tori Schow of Old Hickory, Tennessee; John Thomas of Brentwood, Tennessee; Alex Sizemore of Bowling Green; Tori Hampton of Knob Lick; and Jacob Wilkins of Benton. As in previous years, colleague, Dr. Grady Dixon of Fort Hays State University in Kansas, will accompany the travel portion of the class.

The group will begin the 2015 course the week of May 18. You can follow the WKU Storm Chase group as they document each day at http://meteorology.blog.wku.edu/, and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/wkustormchase. You may also be notified of live storm chase broadcasts using Twitter’s companion app, Periscope.

Contact: Josh Durkee, (270) 745-8777

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