Students in the new summer session meteorology program,
Forecasting and Observation,” led by Dr. Scott Steiger '99,
severe weather in "Tornado Alley."
Opportunities for experiential learning at SUNY Oswego have reached a higher plateau with the introduction of a new summer program, "Storm Forecasting and Observation."
The program lasted three weeks, beginning May 28 with one week of classroom instruction on campus, and ending June 16, after two weeks of traveling in "Tornado Alley."
The area commonly referred to as "Tornado Alley" ranges from Texas to North Dakota and from Colorado to Missouri. The nickname is self-explanatory; this region is known for being a hotbed of severe weather activity.
Presented by SUNY Oswego’s Office of Continuing Education, the program is unique among colleges in the Northeast, according to Assistant Professor Dr. Scott Steiger '99 of the meteorology department. However, similar programs are offered at some colleges in the Midwest.
“This has been a dream of mine for some time — to lead a storm chasing experience. The best way to learn about the weather is to go into our laboratory — which is outside,” Steiger said.
The first week of the program consisted of six hours of coursework each day, including lectures, discussions, laboratory exercises and videos of different storm conditions, in order to provide students with strong background before entering the field. Then, the adventure could begin.
The 13 students participating in the storm chasing experience traveled through a total of 13 states: New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, North and South Dakota, Colorado and Iowa.
According to Steiger, the group saw one tornado and about 10 supercells, or rotating thunderstorms, during the two weeks.
"It was the most amazing experience of my life," said meteorology major Meredith Mandel ’08. "I learned so much and saw such great things. I didn't realize how much I learned until I got back and started recognizing the initial stages of thunderstorms on my own while I was at home."
Lightning was the biggest safety concern throughout the trip, according to Steiger. The group had a lightning sensor on hand and students were instructed to stay in the van whenever the lightning became too close or frequent.
Steiger said, for him, that the most memorable part of the program was watching the students grow. "I could really tell they learned so much from this experience. That was the ultimate final exam in meteorology."
"It has been my dream to go storm chasing since I was little, and I still can't believe I actually did it while I was still in college," said Mandel.
Steiger said he felt that “Storm Forecasting and Observation” was an overall success and the college plans to offer it every summer.
—Kristin Quinn '08