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Teaching GIS in the atmospheric sciences curriculum

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Monday, 24 January 2011
Teaching GIS in the atmospheric sciences curriculum
Washington State Convention Center
J. Greg Dobson, University of North Carolina Asheville, Asheville, NC

As the use and application of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and other Geospatial technologies continue to expand in the Atmospheric Sciences arena, especially within NOAA and the National Weather Service, the need to introduce GIS to Meteorology degree-seeking students has become increasingly important. Therefore, a new course in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of North Carolina – Asheville is making an effort to meet this need. ATMS 373-02, or more commonly referred to on campus as “GIS in Meteorology”, has been designed to provide the Department's students an overview of GIS by demonstrating its application to the fields of meteorology, climatology, and hydrology. This is a unique course in general as very few similar courses exist in other Universities and of this small group, only a handful of them are actually embedded directly into Atmospheric or Meteorology curriculums. By teaching this course directly within these curriculums, it allows for explicit focus on how GIS can be applied to meteorological applications, again making “GIS in Meteorology” different from most other similar courses.

Through a series of lecture and computer lab exercises, students gain a thorough understanding of basic GIS theory, principles, software, and data formats, all while working with real-world, and some cases, real-time, meteorological data. The first half of the semester focuses on GIS as it relates to ArcGIS Desktop software, primarily using the shapefile data format. The second half of the semester focuses on Google Earth and other Virtual Globes, Google Maps and the Google Maps API, and briefly on Open Source GIS technologies. Specific application examples include data management and visualization, situational awareness, terrain and data analysis, storm assessments, precipitation and event mapping, and decision making. This Poster presentation will provide a course overview and provide examples of lecture and lab content, and discuss options for expanding the course to an increased audience.