199 Meteorological Applications in a Collaborative Classroom and Stereo Visualization Laboratory

Monday, 11 January 2016
Brian J. Billings, Millersville University, Millersville, PA; and R. J. Kubesh, S. E. Arcand, and M. C. Gill

In the summer of 2013, planning began on a laboratory for Saint Cloud State University's new Integrated Science and Engineering Laboratory Facility. The lab was designed to achieve two goals. First was to provide a collaborative classroom environment where data and displays could be shared between students and the instructor. Second was to support creation of immersive 3D visualization environments. This presentation highlights applications that have been developed using the Integrated Data Viewer (IDV) for various classes and projects in the meteorology program.

The lab contains three vertical and six horizontal touchscreen monitors which are all networked together. In one exercise, the same radar or satellite imagery was passed to students working on different horizontal stations. As they annotated severe weather and cloud features, work that was particularly good or that had instructive mistakes could be pulled to a vertical monitor and explained to the entire class. Other exercises involved students working on a subset of data that would be recombined to diagnose a severe weather event. For the 1966 Tokpea F5, each student received station plots for a different mandatory level to hand analyze, with the result that the overlap of key ingredients occurred in eastern Kansas. For the May 1985 tornado outbreak, a different skew-T was passed to each station where students examined the sounding, parcels launched from various levels, and the effect of modifying the profile. Using chat, they could compare what they saw and create a new profile representing the underrunning process which led to the outbreak.

Stereo imagery can be viewed in the lab using both a projector and shutter glasses or with the fully immersive Oculus Rift. The ease of using IDV with the projector is valuable because the view can be tested to see if a stereo effect enhances student understanding or merely distracts from it. Successful tests can then be exported using object files and used in scripts for the Rift. Examples of environments related to classroom topics are a trowal with isosurfaces of vorticity and temperature advection, a 500 mb surface curving through its actual geographic coordinates, and similar surfaces combined with wind speed isosurfaces and temperature shading to illustrate thermal wind balance. The later two examples work especially well in stereo as students can see the depth without constantly rotating the viewpoint. This aspect of the lab has also been used to help with department research projects. RHI scans of virga from a 2010 DOW visit were displayed inside of a WRF simulation showing isosurfaces of grapuel and rain mixing ratios. The location of the bright band at the melting level is clearly visible. The lab has also been used to view stereo photographs of New Zealand wave clouds and Midwest convection, numerical simulations of tropical cyclones interacting with topography, and radar isosurfaces of Doppler velocity undergoing wave breaking.

As with all facilities in the new building, this lab is also intended to foster student interaction with industry professionals, and NWS and private sector forecasters have already visited on three occasions. In addition to suggestions for further educational use (such as combining several student frontal analyses to illustrate ensemble statistics), it was also noted that the stereo displays of real-time data were closely linked to training on theoretical concepts and could be useful in attracting future clients. IDV was also said to be potentially useful for developing and sharing case studies of busted forecasts and for aviation forecasting using the flythrough mode. Discussions are still underway on the possibilities of the collaborative classroom as a training tool for forecasting by multiple offices or departments and the use of immersive environments for attracting the general public to websites or channels.

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