UAH students with the UPSTORM organization supported by the Atmospheric Science Department and SWIRLL research center, released weather balloons to study the atmospheric conditions.
— NWS Huntsville (@NWSHuntsville) January 6, 2017
"These weather balloons give you real-time data of temperature, pressure, wind speed, wind direction," explained student Adam Clayton.
Clayton said he was in the group that woke up before the sun rose, to be at UAH at 5:30 a.m. While the rest of the university was closed, they went to work studying the conditions.
This particular weather event has been a tough one to forecast, say these budding meteorologists. They explained that models have been contradictory. These students' data, analyzed at the SWIRLL lab, assists the National Weather Service forecasters by adding to the computer-generated information.
"When they see their models are trending the wrong way, a lot of our data can help correct that," explained UAH SWIRLL researcher Ryan Wade.
Students say this winter weather was good practice in thinking critically about the weather.
"This was my first winter weather event while I've been at UAH and been able to be involved in the research process," said student Kalitta Kauffman. "It's been very educational on what techniques work and how we use our instruments to adjust to winter weather, after using them for severe weather."
Students find value in the hands-on experience they can get with SWIRLL.
"It's giving us a chance to learn more about models," she explained. "We're never sure on exactly what's going to happen, that's why it's called a forecast!"