Dr. Richard Clark

Twelve undergraduate meteorology majors and two graduate students in the integrated scientific applications program from Millersville University will get to participate in cutting-edge research on thunderstorms, thanks to a $290,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. Student involvement in field research is a hallmark of Millersville meteorology.

Dr. Richard Clark, professor of meteorology and chair of the Earth sciences department, and Dr. Todd Sikora, professor of meteorology, received the two-year grant to advance the understanding of continental, nocturnal, warm-season precipitation in central Kansas. Clark will serve as the principal investigator and Sikora will serve as the co-investigator of this project.

“The research will provide extensive opportunities for students to participate in cutting-edge research, from data collection in the field to co-authoring peer-reviewed publications,” Clark said.

The project, “Stable Boundary Layer Processes and Their Interaction with Nocturnal Convection over the Great Plains in the Plains Elevated Convection At Night,” or simply known as PECAN, will “study the conditions that initiate and maintain the lifetime of nocturnal thunderstorms over the Great Plains,” said Clark. Most of the summertime precipitation over the Great Plains occurs at night when thunderstorms move eastward across the Plains. Research about the factors affecting warm-season precipitation will lead to improvements in the forecasting of critical weather phenomena in the Plains.

PECAN will place from June 1 to July 15, 2015 in collaboration with Dr. Qing Wang and her students from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., as well as a score of other investigators from several organizations. “We hope to deploy a new weather instrument currently being designed and fabricated at the NPS to directly measure the flow of heat and momentum in the lower atmosphere,” said Clark.

The research requires deploying the Millersville Atmospheric Research and Aerostat Facility (MARAF) to the Great Plains, near Hayes, Kan. The planning process for PECAN has already begun, with Sikora attending meetings in Boulder, Colo. in May and Clark currently is conducting an exploratory visit in the Plains to look for potential sites for their research.

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