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Watching for warnings: a real-time severe weather nowcasting simulation for the undergraduate classroom

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Tuesday, 25 January 2011: 5:00 PM
Watching for warnings: a real-time severe weather nowcasting simulation for the undergraduate classroom
604 (Washington State Convention Center)
Timothy J. Wagner, Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison, WI; and M. S. Kulie
Manuscript (158.1 kB)

For the past five years, the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences has offered an upper-level undergraduate course entitled “Radar and Satellite Meteorology.” This course consists of lectures on remote sensing theory as well as laboratory exercises that involve hands-on investigation of real-time and archived radar and satellite data. One of the most consistently popular exercises is a radar meteorology lab that simulates a severe weather outbreak and places the student in a real-time operational decision-making environment. Archived Level-II and Level-III Next-generation Radar (NEXRAD) data is viewed with either the freely available Integrated Data Viewer (IDV) or McIDAS-X software packages. The “bundling” feature of these software packages allows the instructor to pre-package radar data (e.g., reflectivity, storm-relative Doppler velocity) and feed it to the students every four to five minutes, simulating the delay between radar volume scans. Teams of students are required to monitor the evolution of the situation and issue severe weather warnings based on radar analysis skills developed in lecture and previous labs. Documented storm reports are also integrated into the lab to assist – or sometimes detract from – the students' warning decisions, and the classroom clock is even adjusted to correspond with the time of the events. This exercise provides students with a unique operational experience that is often missing from the undergraduate curriculum. Its inherent portability and flexibility allows instructors to adapt it to any historical severe weather event, making it appropriate for courses in mesoscale and synoptic meteorology in addition to remote sensing.