The Department of the Earth Sciences is excited to offer this two-week, faculty-led excursion through the Great Plains of North America in early June, near the peak of tornado season in the region. Ours is the first storm chasing program in New York State to be offered for college credit. The main objective of this program is to provide a hands-on, practical experience of observing the formation, development, and structure of severe weather phenomena, something that cannot be accomplished in a traditional classroom environment.
The program will start from a "base city" located in the Midwest/Great Plains of the United States. From that point, students will be constantly on the move, on board a 12 or 15 passenger van, seeking a safe position to observe the development of severe thunderstorms. The meteorology faculty member who leads this course, Dr. Gustavo Pereira, has several of years of experience chasing thunderstorms in this region. Cutting-edge technology and real-time satellite-fed data are used to properly position the vehicle and safely observe these storms. The general geographical area that may be traveled during this program extends from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains, and approximately from I-40 northward to the Trans-Canada Highway.
Brockport's Storm Chasing Program affords students the opportunity to:
Students will be required to participate in small atmospheric data collection and analysis tasks, and they will be required to keep a personal journal. Every night, a discussion of the next day's potential for severe weather will be held at the hotel and a preliminary decision will be made on the plan of action and destination for the next day. All students will be responsible for preparing and leading these discussions at least once. Consequently, a minimum academic background in meteorology (ESC 211 – Introduction to Meteorology, or equivalent) is required for participation in this program.
It is entirely possible that the weather will be benign during brief periods or (knock on wood) for the entire duration of this program. During these periods of inactive weather, alternate educational activities in the geosciences will be pursued, which may include measuring the urban island heat effect in a city in the North American Great Plains, measuring the relationship between temperature, pressure, humidity and altitude at Rocky Mountain National Park, examining the geological and hydrological elements of Natural Parks or Monuments in the area (e.g. Badlands National Park, Mount Rushmore, Devil's Tower, etc.) or visit a federal meteorological center such as the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the National Severe Storm Laboratory, the Storm Prediction Center, or a National Weather Service Office.
Candidates to this program must:
Students will stay in hotels, in quadruple occupancy. Students will very likely need to share the hotel bed with another student. This is done to keep the program costs to a minimum. The lodging is included in the program cost. The exact location of the hotel will change from night to night based on the planned activities and based on where active weather is occurring. The lodging arrangements will be made by the instructor every night.
Due to the high mobility nature of this program, food options are assessed in the last minute. These options are very limited in the middle of the Plains of Nebraska or Kansas. Moreover, whenever the group must quickly move in order to reach a chase in time for storm development, these options will be solely restricted to the closest fast food outlet. Students with substantial dietary restrictions must take that into consideration before applying to this program.
The cost to participate in this program will vary somewhat from year to year, but the following guidelines will give you an idea of what is covered and not covered by the registration fee.
Included in the Cost:
The student's performance will be based on 3 main components: an assessment of the student's overall cooperation and attendance to all events, a personal journal, and the oral presentation of a severe weather potential forecast.
The major component of a student's grade is his/her punctual attendance to all course events (late night or early morning meetings, forecast discussions, data collections, field activities, hotel departure meetings, etc). This component also takes into account the student's overall cooperation. An uncooperative or negative demeanor that is detrimental to the group and/or the seamless progress of this course will reduce the student's grade. At any time, the instructor can terminate a student's participation in this course if his/her behavior is unacceptable, disruptive, or detrimental to rest of the group and the continuation of this course. Should this happen, this student will automatically receive a score of ZERO for this component, which effectively results in a failing grade (E) in this course.
All students will be required to maintain a personal journal for the duration of the course. They will be required to make daily entries, which briefly list the following 4 items: 1) main concepts learned or knowledge gained that day, 2) any data collected in the field, 3) information from the daily weather discussion, and 4) a description of observed weather. These journals must be turned in on the last day of the course and will be primarily assessed for completeness and accuracy, rather than interpretation and wordiness.
Lastly, the student's grade will also be based on the presentation of a 1-day forecast discussion. These are going to be done in groups of 2 or 3 students (at the instructor's choice) and held every night.
For more information concerning the Storm Chasing program, please contact the department chairperson, Dr. James Zollweg at (585) 395-2352 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.