Storm Forcasting & Observation Program

Program Description

Central Plains States Region (Tornado Alley)

Central Plains States Region (Tornado Alley) -- Late May to Early June
Additional Pictures
(PDF); Also see video here (towards bottom of page)

The Storm Forecasting and Observation Program (Storm Chasing Program) is designed to teach students how to observe weather patterns and predict changes in the weather by applying their classroom learning to the forecasting and observation of actual storms. The program is scheduled to coincide with the climatological peak for tornado occurrence in the United States (late May into early June).

The true laboratory for a meteorologist is not inside a building but outside in the free air of the atmosphere. Fundamentals can be taught in the classroom, but to truly understand the atmosphere and attempt to predict its changes requires that students directly observe the weather.

Program participants will drive to the Central Plains States (Tornado Alley) for the first two weeks of this 3-week program. Each morning, students will analyze real-time data, produce forecasts, discuss their forecasts, and depart to the target area (where it is believed that severe thunderstorms will develop). During the 2009 and 2010 chase seasons we participated in the VORTEX 2 (Verification of the Origin of Rotation in Tornadoes Experiment) field campaign, launching rawinsondes to better understand the environment in and around tornadic thunderstorms. At the end of each chase day, participants will compare what was observed to their forecasts. This is when the real learning will occur!

The last week of the program will take place on the SUNY Oswego campus, where students will compare their observations and forecast methods to the latest theories on severe storm development and forecast techniques. Participants will conduct research projects with the data collected during each chase. Some will develop case studies of specific events while others will test hypotheses related to thunderstorm behavior. Students who wish to receive credit for their experience can register for an independent study the following fall to continue the research they began and develop a final product (a written and oral report).


Contact Information
Dr. Scott Steiger
366 Shineman Center
Department of Earth Sciences
SUNY Oswego
(315) 312-2802