WxChallenge is an online North American forecasting challenge held by the University of Oklahoma, dedicated to building forecasting experience within undergraduates, graduates, and professors across many different universities in the United States and Canada. Every week forecasters across North America compete by forecasting for four days at a specific city in an attempt to be the closest in accuracy with respect to the temperature (both high and low), wind speed, and precipitation. The forecast city is changed bi-weekly allowing forecasters to gain experience in new locations. NC State has participated in this competition since its inauguration during the 2006-2007 school year. The competition is fierce, and there are multiple competitive levels to help even out the playing field. Freshmen and sophomores are placed in “category 4”, juniors and seniors category 3, graduate students category 2, and professors and professionals are placed in category 1. The WxChallenge helps to foster friendly competition between students as well as different schools, and provides valuable forecasting experience for undergraduates in meteorology programs across North America.
Throughout the overnight hours of May 4th into May 5th, 2017, a severe weather outbreak occurred across central North Carolina. As a result of these storms, the National Weather Service Forecast Offices in Raleigh and Wilmington, NC as well as Greensburg-Spartanburg, SC and Wakefield and Blacksburg, VA confirmed 95 wind damage reports and five tornadoes. This severe weather event occurred in a high shear, low-CAPE [convective available potential energy] environment characterized by a large magnitude of change in wind speed and wind direction with height and relatively low energy (or fuel) available to thunderstorms. These types of environments, often abbreviated as HSLC environments, are fairly common throughout the Southeastern and southern Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States and often present great forecasting difficulties.
This was a very busy spring semester for our newly-organized NC State meteorology program outreach team. Our student representatives enjoyed meeting prospective students, hobbyists, alumni, and people who share the same passion for weather during small events on campus, at some of the NCSU AMS events, local schools, and even the Raleigh science museum!
On the evening of March 14th, NCSU AMS hosted the SKYWARN Basic Training with meteorologist Ryan Ellis of Raleigh’s National Weather Service (NWS). Students and members of the general public were provided with the opportunity to either join or update their involvement in the SKYWARN trained storm spotter network. Initially, NCSU’s Student AMS Chapter annually joined together with meteorologists from Raleigh’s NWS to provide a dual-offering of the basic and advanced SKYWARN training seminars in the early fall. However, students and employees at NWS Raleigh jointly decided it would be beneficial to try offering a basic training session ahead of the spring severe weather season. The dual-offering of the SKYWARN training hosted by NCSU’s AMS in the fall will be scheduled over the coming months with a date to be announced by mid-August, so stay tuned!
Numerous students and faculty members from NC State’s Meteorology program recently attended and presented research at the 97th annual AMS Conference in Seattle, WA. The conference, held January 21-26, 2017, featured research presentations, networking events, and award ceremonies for students, faculty, and researchers from other universities as well as employees of meteorological companies and organizations. More information about the 97th Annual AMS Conference can be found at the 97th Annual AMS Conference Page.
In preparation for the winter weather event that occurred on January 6th and 7th, NCSU Soundings Club organized a weather balloon launch. The launch, scheduled for approximately 7pm on January 6th, was an effort to evaluate thermodynamic conditions in Raleigh as precipitation fell in the area. The data from this launch would assist area forecasters in determining the possibility of a transition from rain to either freezing rain, sleet, or snow would occur that evening. In addition to Soundings Club officers, students and alumni of NCSU’s Meteorology program and reporters from local news station WRAL attended the launch. The launch, from the time of initial preparations to the post-launch data retrieval, was broadcast over social media via Facebook Live by WRAL Meteorologist Nate Johnson.
As Hurricane Matthew approached the North Carolina coastline as a Category 1 hurricane with an uncertain projected path (Figure 1), many residents did not alter their weekend plans despite the projected impacts. University football games at NC State, Duke, and UNC were also held as planned despite worsening weather conditions as Matthew approached. This magnified the issue that explaining the severity of all hazardous impacts possible with a hurricane is challenging. Tropical systems are only categorized as a function of wind speed by the Saffir Simpson scale, not accounting for other associated threats imposed by tropical systems. For future events, it is imperative that meteorologists from all sectors express flooding concerns and other hazards that threaten life and property to assure necessary preparations are made in advance of impactful storms.