PLYMOUTH, N.H. – Plymouth State University student Heather Janssen wanted to hone her skills in intensive weather observation and forecasting this summer, and she’s certainly getting what she hoped for. Janssen, a senior PSU Interdisciplinary Studies major with a focus on Meteorology, is one of a dozen members of the State University of New York Oswego Storm Forecasting and Observation Program that are storm chasing through the Midwest and West. She’s already experienced an intense hailstorm and severe thunderstorms, but that’s just what she was hoping to see, firsthand.
“This program teaches you how to further your forecasting skills and take what you learn in the classroom and apply it in the real world,” Janssen said. “It is about going outside and witnessing the atmosphere evolve in front of your eyes. So far, we’ve been to North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, as well as New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa and Wyoming.”
Janssen said it is one thing to study severe weather in a classroom, but it’s a different experience to see it first-hand.
“I did not expect to be driving through a thunderstorm that has heavy rain, strong winds, and potential hail, said Janssen. “I also did not expect to be hit by baseball-sized hail while we were stopped at a rest stop near York, Nebraska. We were in the vans when this happened and left damage to our two front windows and shattered a side window.”
Janssen’s co-advisor at PSU, Meteorology Professor Dr. Eric Hoffman, noted Heather is receiving a great learning experience.
“They get to put quite a bit of their knowledge of meteorology to use,” said Hoffman.
“They have to forecast for thunderstorms and know when, where, and what type of storms will form on that day. Then they have to drive to the location where storms are expected to form. Visual observations of storm structure that can only be obtained from trained storm chasers are a valuable scientific tool for improving our understanding of the storms to be able to predict them and improve public storm warnings.”
PSU’s Meteorology program currently has 50 undergraduate and 10 graduate students; many students pursue graduate education. PSU Meteorology graduates are well represented in forecasting careers and private industry, including Weather Services Inc. in North Andover, Mass. Students are also employed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Weather Service. In addition, several graduates have successful careers in broadcast meteorology, with alums on the air in Providence, Rhode Island, Portland, Maine, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and other locations.