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Summer 2015 Newsletter


As the 2015 SOARS summer comes to an end, our offices are quiet again but we’re excited about the future of another talented cohort of protégés. Our steering committee has a real knack for identifying the leaders in our field! This summer was unusual for us in the large number of protégés who were off-site. We had five protégés (and one SOARS protégé turned Hollings Scholar) at NOAA, two at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, three at CU-Boulder, two out on campaign with PECAN and one making measurements on the Juneau Ice Field in Alaska. Another conducted field work with her research team in Ghana prior to arriving in Boulder. It was fun getting to visit everyone, hear about experiences and build connections, as well as having protégés join the communications workshop remotely. Read on to hear more about some of these experiences. And once again we were fortunate to have very supportive mentors who made this all possible – thank you!

As the summer turns to fall, we look forward to the conference season and seeing many of you again. We hope you enjoy our newsletter,

The SOARS team

SOARS 2015


Leadership training

Leadership training 2015

SOARS 2015 flew by, starting in May with our traditional leadership training in conjunction with NEON and RESESS, moving into intense research experiences. The range of projects was once again impressive, covering everything from graupel representation in the Weather Research and Forecasting model to changes in rainfall over West Africa and estimating emissions from oil drilling sites in Utah.

Lauren in the field

SOARS protégé Lauren Deanes makes ozone measurements with a small M-Pod

Our collaborations continued to grow as proteges worked with partners at NOAA, Woods Hole Oceanic Institute, Elizabeth City State University, the Juneau Icefield Research Project and CU-Boulder. Field work was a large component of this summer too, with Jenine McKoy joining the REACCTING team, who she also worked with last year, to conduct field work in Ghana and Erin Doughterty and Anthony Torres joining the PECAN field campaign (see below). Arianna Varuolo-Clarke headed off to the Juneau Icefield to conduct glacier mass balance measurements in Alaska, while Lauren Deanes made ozone measurements around Boulder.

In addition to all that science, we had our weekly scientific communication workshops, which this year were livened up by some excellent hands-on teaching activities created and taught by the proteges, a career panel (with SOARS alum Dione Rossiter (AAAS) as well as Kevin Petty (Vaisala) and Holger Vomel (NCAR)), ethics discussions, and talks by SOARS founder Tom Windham, SOARS alum Marcus Walter and graduate students Hannah Atard and alum Rosimar Rios-Berrios (both University of Albany). We visited Vaisala, a well-known meteorological instrument and science company who has their US headquarters in Louisville, CO; Colorado State University for talks on graduate school applications; and of course, Rocky Mountain National Park.

Finally, we rounded off another successful SOARS summer with our annual colloquium and poster session. Our poster session has grown, this year including research by more than 50 students from 6 programs across the geosciences, and spanning high school to grad school. The students not only presented confidently and professionally, but took the opportunity to meet each other and learn about possibilities across the field. It was great to also have many SOARS alum join us for poster judging.

Poster SessionAbove: One room of the SOARS poster session. Below left: Protégé Awolou Sossa presents his work on West African Rainfall. Below right: Protégé Stan Edwin with Alums Logan Dawson, Vanessa Vincente and Matthew Paulus.









Field work in GHANA

Jenine downloading SUMSJenine with villagers in GhanaAbove:Jenine downloading SUMS data (top) and with villagers in Ghana. Below: Jenine visiting a village school.

By Jenine McKoy


This summer I had the opportunity to a conduct a field site visit with the REACCTING Team research group directed by Christine Wiedinmyer and Michael Hannigan. The REACCTING (Research of the Emission, Air Quality, Climate and Cooking Technologies in Northern Ghana) Project uses a 200 household cookstove intervention to understand cooking behaviors in Ghana. The field site for this project is located in Navrongo, Ghana, a small agricultural village located in the Upper North Eastern region of Ghana. During the two week field visit, I had the opportunity to collaborate with the Navrongo Health Research Center to visit households to download stove usage from an instrument called at SUMS or stove use monitor. Because the REACCTING project focuses on how cooking behaviors affects air quality, health and the environment, understanding stove usage in the study is an important segment of the project.

During my time in Ghana, I learned that culture plays a significant role in the design and implementation of a field project. I also learned a great deal about Ghanaian life and truly felt embraced by the people. This experience was extremely enlightening and unforgettable.

Jenine at village school

















By Lili Franklin

This summer, SOARS protégés Anthony Torres and Erin Dougherty crisscrossed the Great Plains collecting data on nighttime thunderstorms as they participated in the PECAN field experiment.  “Our investigation was focused on watching the evolution of storms as they made the transition from day into nighttime conditions,” said Erin. “This was the motivation for PECAN, because we don’t fully understand these processes within the thunderstorm.”

PECAN storm cloud

A huge thunderstorm, typical of those studied during PECAN. Photo by Kristen Rasmussen.

Plains Elevated Convection at Night (PECAN) drew over 250 scientists, students and support staff from eight research laboratories and 14 universities to the Midwest this summer to explore the mystery of large storms that form at night without the help of convective forces created by a sun-heated Earth. Sometimes these thunderstorms combine into giant systems that can cover an entire state. Nighttime thunderstorms can be responsible for a large proportion of the warm season rainfall that’s needed for crops across the Great Plains, but can also be destructive and unpredictable. PECAN researchers deployed aircraft, weather balloons, and several different types of radar and ground instruments to collect dense and coordinated observations to better understand these nocturnal events.

PECAN was a massive field experiment, but the small PECAN Precipitation Instrumentation Experiment (PIE) group, led by NCAR Advanced Study Program post-doctoral fellows Kristen Rasmussen and David Bodine, was the only team focused specifically on measuring the size and distribution of raindrops in order to get more information on the microphysical characteristics of the storms and better rain estimation. “We tried to come up with a unique element that would add value to PECAN,” says Kristen. “We hope to compile drop-size distribution estimates of all the storms we observed, for a better understanding of nocturnal storm characteristics and microphysics throughout the Great Plains.”


The disdrometer. The laser beam travels between the two heads, measuring characteristics of the precipitation. Photo by Michael Thomas.

Anthony explained that the rain falls between the two disdrometer heads and passes through a wide laser beam that measures the number, size and fall speed of the drops. Rain estimation from radar measurements usually includes assumptions of the drop-size distribution. Measurements of this exact parameter by the PECAN PIE team will provide additional information for other researchers when analyzing their radar data from the field campaign. “I’m interested in understanding how to improve estimates of total rainfall from ground and space-based radars” he said.

Erin will also be analyzing radar data – as well as information from disdrometers and radiosondes – in an attempt to understand the evolution of the nocturnal storm environment and storm development. With thermodynamic profiles, as well as other characteristics, she hopes to understand the three-dimensional structure of these large-scale nocturnal events, and in turn better predict how they might behave.  

Mobile mesonet

Above: This truck, loaned by the Center for Severe Weather Research, served as a mobile laboratory for the PECAN PIE team. Attached to the vehicle at all times, the Mobile Mesonet is a suite of meteorological instruments that can measure wind speed and direction, pressure, temperature and relative humidity. Below: Erin and Anthony check instruments before a deployment. Photos by Kristen Rasmussen.

Anthony and Erin

Neither Anthony nor Erin had any idea what to expect when they signed up for PECAN – their first field campaign – with mentors Rasmussen and Bodine in charge.

Anthony said the 12-15 severe storms they encountered added up to “the most severe weather I had ever experienced in my life.” And, no one was quite prepared for the idea that they would have to travel 22 out of the 32 days of their PECAN experience, setting up 30 days worth of intense observations while covering twelve states. Often they drove 10 hours a day to chase the elusive thunderstorms, scrambling to set up instruments in the dark, and staying up through the night collecting observations. 

Although it was physically challenging, PECAN far exceeded personal expectations according to the SOARS protégés. “We got far more data than we ever thought we would get,” said Erin. “The ability to work with top scientists was the greatest thing,” according to Anthony. “It showed me why I’m doing what I’m doing.”  Anthony will be pursuing graduate studies at the University of Michigan this year, studying how C02 moves around seasonally in mesoscale systems, and Erin will be starting graduate school at the University of Albany and researching tropical cyclones – a topic she also investigated while in SOARS. Meanwhile, Kristen and David will be busy drilling into masses of new data in hopes of figuring out just what drives these giant nighttime thunderstorms across the Great Plains.


Measuring GLACIER Mass Balance in AlaskA

By Lili Franklin

Arianna on climbing wall

SOARS protégé Arianna Varuolo-Clarke, practicing on the climbing wall as part of her crevasse training in preparation for her research on the Juneau Icefield.

In a unique program partnership, this summer SOARS protégé Arianna Varuolo was sponsored by the Center of Excellence in Remote Sensing Education and Research at Elizabeth City State University and SOARS to participate in the Juneau Icefield Research Program (JIRP), an 8-week intensive field research program on the glaciers of Alaska.

Juneau has one of the best-studied icefields in the world, Arianna explains. Since the 1940s, scientists have been routinely recording what is called the “mass balance,” a measure of how much mass the glaciers there have gained or lost. The Juneau Icefield is actually made up of a number of glaciers - including the Taku, one of the largest and best known, and Lemon Creek, one of the smaller ones.


Arianna on the icefield during JIRP.

So how exactly does one calculate the mass balance of a glacier? If you’re studying the Juneau Icefield says Arianna, it starts out at the trailhead behind Home Depot on the edge of the city. First of all the group - consisting of 32 students, seven support staff and a dozen or so scientists and faculty advisors - had to start out hiking the first section of the long trip out to the first research camp. Then, the students had two weeks of mandatory safety training and ski training. Most important were the detailed instructions on what to do if someone slid into a crevasse: how each skier would “arrest” so the whole group wouldn’t get dragged into the crevasse along with the first person, and how to build proper “anchors” in the snow and ice so that someone dangling from a rope could be rescued. In case you weren’t a skier, the expedition gave everyone ski training, since that’s the best way to get around the Juneau Icefield.

After the safety training Arianna and the group skied to their field sites and began their work, digging several dozen pits in different locations around the icefield. She weighed the snow and measured the layers, marking the depth and density of this year’s snowfall and comparing it to previous years. Summer is for data collection, and at the end of the melt season, Arianna will be looking at the relationship between mass balance and climate change for her senior thesis, at Lyndon State College.
This work will  follow in the footsteps of Matt Beedle, her JIRP faculty advisor from the University of Northern British Columbia. Ten years ago Matt studied mass balance on the Juneau Icefield, and now Arianna will be correlating new measurements of temperature and precipitation to his original findings, then incorporating different data sets and hopefully also doing some modeling.


Arianna on the icefield during JIRP.

All the glaciers on the Juneau ice field have been shrinking and changing,” Arianna says. “It was so humbling being in Alaska because it’s hard for me to go on as if nothing is happening.”  Temperatures in the Arctic region are changing far more rapidly than on other parts of the planet, which is why it’s so crucial to be studying these glaciers so carefully. “I’ve always been a bit of a treehugger,” Arianna says, “when I got to school and learned more about climate change, I wanted to do something about it. I understand that for people who can’t see such fragile parts of the earth that are changing so fast - like Alaska - it might not be obvious. But, what I’m realizing now is that scientists have figured out climate change. I want to be working at the next level from that dealing with real people and saying to them, ‘This is what is happening, and this is what we can do about it.’ That’s why I want to do applied research. I have a passion for research that will influence people.”


SOARS Research 2015


Ryan Adams: Modification of a tropical storm tracking algorithm for extra-tropical cyclone detection

Alicia Camacho: North Atlantic Oscillation, jet and blocking in CESM1 large ensemble simulations

Eugene Cody: Assessing air quality sensitivity to residential emissions using WRF-Chem model simulations and observational data in China

Gabriela De La Cruz Tello: Links between oxygen minimum zones and the Hadley circulation

Lauren Deanes: Small-scale spatial variability of ozone in Boulder, Colorado

Erin Dougherty: Precipitation characteristics of warm-season nocturnal convection in the Great Plains as determined by ground-based measurements during the PECAN field campaign

Stanley Edwin: Characteristics and forcing mechanisms of funnel clouds in Alaska

William Evonosky: Interactive ion-neutral dynamics in the low latitude evening ionosphere

Alan Gorchov Negron: A spatially resolved fuel-based inventory of U.S. oil and natural gas emissions

Jenine McKoy: Risky exposure: Methodologies for examining air pollution in Northern Ghana

Meghan Mitchell: Validating the WRF-Chem model for wind energy applications using High Resolution Doppler Lidar data from a Utah 2012 field campaign

Nkosi Muse: Ingesting geospatial data into Hazard Services’ database for National Weather Service flood alerts

Steven Naegele: Impacts of graupel parameterization on idealized and real case simulations of squall lines

Zoraida Pérez Delgado: Satellite and model analysis of coral reefs in the Western Indian Ocean: 2001 to 2007

Awolou Sossa: The influence of the Madden-Julian Oscillation on large daily precipitation events in West Africa

Anthony Torres: Comparison of ground- and space-based radar observations with disdrometer measurements during the PECAN field campaign

Rosa Vargas-Martes: Exploring the synoptic evolution of MJO events identified by multiple algorithms

Arianna Varuolo-Clarke: Juneau Icefield Research Program: Mass Balance of Taku and Lemon Creek Glaciers

Breanna Zavadoff: Examining tropical cyclone development in the southwest Caribbean Sea


"SOARS not only gives you the confidence to know that you are a valued student, but it also lights a fire under you to know that academically we must strive to do even better." - SOARS protégé, 2015



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