Colloquium offers grad students cutting-edge atmospheric science, crash course in communicating severe weather

Constantly changing, complex atmospheric variables make weather notoriously difficult to predict. However, accurately forecasting severe weather and effectively communicating that information are critical for protecting lives and preventing property damage.

“Even as weather forecasts are steadily improving, there are still fundamental limits on predicting the future weather,” said Colorado State University Atmospheric Science Professor Russ Schumacher. “Furthermore, there are still a lot of questions about how best to produce and deliver information about the risks associated with hazardous weather.”

Schumacher is one of the organizers of a gathering this summer that will bring together leading researchers and graduate students from multiple disciplines to address these challenges. Three CSU atmospheric science students, Sam Childs, Faith Groff and Chelsea Nam, are among the 25 chosen for this Advanced Study Program colloquium, hosted annually by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).

Sharing expertise to solve global problems

Every year NCAR selects a new or rapidly developing area of research, and lecturers share their expertise with graduate students on a topic for which quality course material may not yet be available. This year’s colloquium will take place at NCAR in Boulder July 15-26 and will focus on “quantifying and communicating uncertainty in high-impact weather prediction.”

As part of the program, students will break into interdisciplinary teams to create uncertainty assessments for high-impact weather events, combining weather prediction, data science and risk communication.

Nam, whose research focuses on tropical cyclone genesis and heavy rainfall, looks forward to the colloquium to help her shape her future research. Communicating tropical cyclone hazards is challenging, she said. Flooding from rainfall and storm surge cause most of the damage, not wind gusts, but tropical cyclone forecasts often focus on maximum wind intensity.

“Rainfall can depend highly on topographic interactions,” she said. “Heavy rainfall can occur in weak TCs shortly after genesis, or during extratropical transition, making it a very difficult forecast problem.”

Making connections with researchers

With her background in tropical cyclone risk studies and growing experience in radar and mesoscale modeling, Nam would like to contribute to solving this problem. She anticipates the colloquium will help her reach that goal.

“I expect to gain a better understanding about how hazard prediction works in operations,” she said. “I’m also excited about the opportunities to work with other students as a team to build a roadmap to improve future hazard prediction.”

Connections formed at the colloquium will be just as valuable to the grad students as the in-depth knowledge they will gain. Schumacher has experienced these benefits of the program firsthand.

“Having participated in an ASP summer colloquium as a graduate student myself, I know they represent a special opportunity for students to learn from researchers at the cutting edge of relevant topics, and perhaps more importantly to form a community that will continue to work together for many years into the future as they begin their careers.”

From left, Faith Groff, Sam Childs and Chelsea Nam will participate in NCAR’s Advanced Study Program colloquium this summer.
From left, Faith Groff, Sam Childs and Chelsea Nam will participate in NCAR’s Advanced Study Program colloquium this summer.