Extreme Weather Forecasting: A Summary of Weather Related Outreach Activities at the Aldo Leopold Nature Center in Madison, Wisconsin

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Tuesday, 4 February 2014: 2:00 PM
Room C109 (The Georgia World Congress Center )
Zachary Handlos, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI; and A. C. Winters

A primary goal of the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at the University of Wisconsin – Madison is to promote understanding of Earth's atmosphere and oceans through informal science education both on campus and throughout the community. One particular outreach event in October 2013 involved the design and implementation of activities that investigate extreme weather at the Aldo Leopold Nature Center (ALNC) in Monona, WI. The ALNC serves as an outstanding venue for such an event, as it recently opened an exhibit exclusively on climate change and contains several effective resources, including “Science on a Sphere,” a green screen room, and a 360-degree theater.

The goal of the event was to promote an understanding of extreme weather events, especially those that occur commonly in Wisconsin (e.g., severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, flash flooding and blizzards). The activities were designed to informally educate and engage participants via various “role-playing” activities, where participants acted as meteorologists in real world scenarios. Example activities included making physical weather observations outside of the nature center facility, analyzing current weather observations throughout Wisconsin and the United States, attempting to forecast future weather conditions, and a communication component, in which participants tried their hand at communicating severe weather threats and impacts as television meteorologists.

Throughout the event, participants were surveyed in order to determine its overall effectiveness. This feedback provides critical information on how to further improve the activities and maximize the educational value of this informal outreach event in future settings where a diverse audience is expected.