111 "Airbridging the Gap": Connecting Theory and Operations within an Undergraduate Course on Aviation Meteorology

Monday, 7 January 2019
Hall 4 (Phoenix Convention Center - West and North Buildings)
Adam J. Stepanek, Valparaiso Univ., Valparaiso, IN

The Valparaiso University Department of Geography and Meteorology has taught an elective course in Aviation Meteorology for more than a decade. In its earliest format, the course functioned almost exclusively as a theoretical exploration into atmospheric phenomena impacting the general airspace. Approximately seven years ago the course was reinvented with the goal of not simply investigating ideologies concerning aviation weather, but experiencing ways in which this background information is disseminated using real-world applications. Through regular, purposeful iterations, feedback from former undergraduates within the operational meteorological community, and professionals throughout both the government and private sectors, MET 271 (numbered after the infamous SR-71 “Blackbird”) currently serves as a popular elective for students focused on careers in weather operations as well as those having a general interest in aviation who desire to be better communicators of the science.

A robust undergraduate education with a concentration in atmospheric science contains no shortage of meteorological theory. It is undeniably imperative that undergraduate students with career aspirations ranging from operations to television to academia receive substantial guidance in the fields of synoptic and dynamic meteorology. Although some might argue that it is the responsibility of the private sector to bridge the gap between theory and operations, exposing students to operational settings prior to graduation both allows for an initial foray into the subsector of meteorology careers and also provides a potential “leg up” when competing for a job opening. As such, one of the primary “Student Learning Outcomes” of MET 271 is worded “…ability to process and relay critical meteorological information in a timely, concise, and accurate fashion, while concurrently maintaining necessary theoretical background principles” – being able to communicate theory is a critical step in the development of a successful meteorologist.

A general overview of the course sequence (an advanced version of the course is also periodically offered, with an even stronger focus on application of theory and working within an operational weather environment) will be provided. Substantial discussion of the student progression in writing Terminal Aerodrome Forecasts (TAFs) will be the focus of the presentation; boosting student confidence and ability within a stressful, time-constrained classroom setting is a critical aspect of the course. Near the end of the course, students are expected to produce a concise, well-reasoned prediction for a specific airport location (unbeknownst to students prior to the start of class) within a 50-minute class window. Additionally, the use of operationally-based software programs such as BUFKIT and RAOB, along with exercises in turbulence and icing prediction, will be demonstrated.

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