Big things are happening for Millersville University’s meteorology department. Thanks to a grant provided by NASA, the department’s students and professors are participating in a project called the Investigation of Microphysics and Precipitation for Atlantic Coast-Threatening Snowstorms, or IMPACTS for short.
Drs Richard Clark and Todd Sikora, both professors of meteorology, received the $77,600 contract to participate in the project that runs from Jan. 10 to Feb. 28, 2022. The project expects up to seven intensive observation periods. These observation periods will coincide with snowstorms in the mid-Atlantic and New England regions.
“Often times, bands of intense precipitation form within East Coast snowstorms. The processes governing those bands are not well understood, which means that the ability to predict the bands is lacking,” says Sikora.
“The data that are collected during IMPACTS IOPs will be used to test various hypotheses about the origins of the bands. If conclusions can be drawn, operational weather forecasters will then be able to use the information to better forecast the bands.”
In addition to other assets, the project will use instrument packages carried by weather balloons to collect data during IOPs. Millersville’s team will launch weather balloons near Brick, New Jersey and East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania.
“The instrument package carried by a weather balloon collects real-time data about the temperature, dewpoint temperature, wind speed, and wind direction,” Sikora explains. “As the balloon ascends through the atmosphere, data are radioed back to the ground station, and vertical profiles of those variables can be constructed.”
Over 20 MU students will be given the opportunity to work on this research project, gaining valuable skills within their field of study.
“Millersville meteorology has a rich history of fostering undergraduate research for interested students. Oftentimes, undergraduate research is conducted in the field; that is, collecting data at a remote site,” Sikora says. “That is the case for IMPACTS.”
Students will gain experience in site selection, on-site instrument assembly, troubleshooting instrument problems, on-site instrument operation, data collection and many more attributes of the research process.
“All the while, the students must keep abreast of their course work,” Sikora adds. “Needless to say, students with field research experiences are valuable to potential employers or graduate school professors because they are far along many learning curves.”
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