Seventh Annual AMS Student Conference


A student centered, student led, volunteer forecasting organization at the University of Oklahoma

Patrick T. Marsh, University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK; and D. Bodine, K. H. Goebbert, C. M. Shafer, and M. J. Laufersweiler

In the fall of 1998, University of Oklahoma (OU) School of Meteorology (SoM) seniors Kevin Scharfenberg, Brian Good, and Kevin Manross began discussing the need for students to have an avenue to sharpen their forecasting skills. SoM Director, Dr. Fred Carr, agreed with the students concern and offered to provide limited funding to the students in hope of creating a student run forecasting organization. Shortly after this meeting a single computer was purchased and the Oklahoma Weather Lab (OWL) was born..

OWL began with only a limited number of students; however, these first students developed the first OWL website and drummed up interest in the organization. OWL continued to grow in numbers every semester, meeting at dedicated times in various campus computer labs. It was not long before the OU community began to take notice of what valuable information students were providing and it wasn't long before the campus newspaper, OU Daily, began carrying their forecasts. It was around this time OWL purchased its second computer.

The students' passion and hard work was rewarded in the spring of 2003 with a forecast room complete with observation window and a Linux powered weather server. About this time in OWL's history it became apparent that OWL should begin producing its own weather graphics. A group of students headed up by Eric Nguyen, Chris Walsh, and Jim Southard began a spin-off organization known colloquially as the “Hoot Project”. This project was determined to produce a high quality weather graphics in real time, free to the public. The Hoot website was officially launched in spring 2006.

After the 2005-2006 academic year, a substantial portion of the OWL leadership graduated, leaving OWL with little experienced leaders. At the same time Hoot was thriving under the leadership of Ben Baranowski, Kevin Goebbert, Patrick Marsh, and Chad Shafer. With the upcoming move to the National Weather Center it was decided that the time was right to bring the two organizations together under one organization. The new organizational structure consisted of two divisions: Operations (forecasting / public relations) and Development (weather graphic / website development) overseen by an elected executive committee.

OWL continues to thrive in its new environment. For the second consecutive semester, OWL has seen a record number of students participating in either the operational setting, development setting, or both. OWL now produces up to three forecasts daily for the entire state of Oklahoma. OWL has also provided on site support for several local events, including support for a local arts festival during the tornado outbreak of 4-6 May 2007 and a multi-state regional soccer tournament during the excessive rain event of 19 June 2007 through 5 July 2007. Furthermore, on 1 October 2007, OWL launched a new forecasting website – the first major overhaul of OWL's website since the creation of the first. The SoM recently purchased OWL a new web-server to host both the OWL forecast website and weather graphics site. Additionally, the SoM purchased OWL a dual-core, dual-processor process machine for creating weather graphics

The SoM provides infrastructure support for the organization, but does not take part in the daily activities of maintaining the websites nor OWL's products. Students involved with OWL must learn responsibility of producing timely, accurate forecasts, meeting project deadlines, team work, and commitment in order to succeed.

Poster Session 1, Student Conference General Poster Session
Sunday, 20 January 2008, 5:30 PM-7:00 PM, Exhibit Hall B

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