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Meet a Science Professional – November

This month we will meet KNWA/FOX24 Chief Meteorologist Dan Skoff from Northwest Arkansas. Dan was a big part of the first Young Meteorologist WeatherFest, held in Fayetteville, Arkansas in 2014. The WeatherFest has grow significantly since then with close to 10 Young Meteorologist WeatherFest’s being held around nation, including Atlanta, San Diego, and Detroit. The Fayetteville event is now an annual event held at the public library and will next be held in April of 2017! Follow Dan on twitter @WeatherDan and on Facebook at Meteorologist Dan Skoff.

 

Dan Skoff, KNWA/FOX24 Chief Meteorologist

  1. Tell us a little bit about yourself, your background, what got you hooked into meteorology, and about your current job as Chief Meteorologist at KNWA and FOX24. What are your responsibilities and what do you enjoy the most about your job.

I always knew I wanted to be a meteorologist at a very young age. One spring afternoon, when I was about 8 years old in Brookfield, Wisconsin, a tornado came within one quarter mile of my house. From the sky turning nearly black, to the tornado sirens going off and the sudden burst of wind knocking the leaves off the trees, to the roar of the tornado, and finally seeing the damage in our neighborhood, I knew I was hooked for life.  I decided to study the weather after seeing the destructive power of a tornado, so I attended the University of Oklahoma and got my Bachelor of Science in Meteorology.

For the past 10+ years I’ve been the chief meteorologist at KNWA and FOX24, which is the local NBC and FOX affiliate for the Northwest Arkansas/River Valley area.  I’m responsible for five newscasts every weeknight, along with making the local forecast and graphics, plus updating social media, the radio and the web.  It is also my job to cover extreme weather events on TV from crippling ice storms to dangerous and sometimes deadly severe weather.  One of the favorite parts of my job is teaching others about the weather and how it works. This includes teaching young children severe weather safety tips and giving storm spotter classes to adults.  It’s also very fulfilling that we have the potential to save lives during significant severe storms.

  1. Tell us about your involvement with PLANIT NOW and the Young Meteorologist Program.

PLANIT NOW and the Young Meteorologist program is a great platform to teach kids the importance of being prepared and learning severe weather safety.  The Young Meteorologist Weather Festival is a perfect place to learn many valuable safety tips so you and your family can respond to any weather emergency.  It’s been very successful over the past couple of years in the Northwest Arkansas area and it continues to grow. It’s a family fun event and a great time, all while being educational and proactive in emergency preparedness.   I also really enjoy showcasing the online game (YoungMeteorologist.org) at various weather talks and school visits.

  1. What’s the hardest part about forecasting in Northwest Arkansas compared to other places you were previously located?

Hands down the hardest thing about my job is forecasting winter weather and snowfall accumulation totals in Northwest Arkansas. It seems like almost every single winter system, the freezing line at the surface and above the ground is always right through Northwest Arkansas.  This means a messy combination of rain, freezing rain, sleet and snow.  This can widely impact snowfall accumulation totals.  We also have the Ozark Mountains, which play a major role in stalling or preventing shallow arctic air masses to enter the Northwest Arkansas area.  All of these factors combine to make for a VERY DIFFICULT snowfall forecast.

  1. Do you go out and do any storm chasing?

Every spring I try to make it out into the plains and do some storm chasing.  I’m fascinated with severe weather and I love to study how tornadoes develop. It amazes me how all the math in meteorology can be put into action and displayed right before your eyes as a powerful supercell develops and begins to intensify.  We’ll be doing another research project in the spring of 2017, so I’ll be venturing back out into the plains to intercept more tornadoes.  I’ve been chasing for nearly 20 years and I’ve seen 88 tornadoes and can’t wait to see more.

  1. What’s the craziest weather day or night you have experienced?

I’ve experienced a lot of crazy weather in my 16 years of being a meteorologist. I’ll never forget the May 3, 1999 tornado outbreak in central Oklahoma. We chased those storms for a local TV station in Oklahoma City and witnessed 20 tornadoes in one day. I also covered Hurricane Katrina from just north of New Orleans for KARK-TV in Little Rock, Arkansas.  Finally, the ice storm in late January 2009 was something I’ve never experienced before.  I’ll always remember the sound of tree limbs and trunks snapping combined with transformers popping at night as the ice brought down thousands of power poles leaving hundreds of thousands without power.  We’ve experienced some crazy weather in my time here in Northwest Arkansas.

  1. What advice to you have for young people out there interested in a career in meteorology?

If you want to become a meteorologist, my advice is go for it!!! Make sure you have a lot of math and science background, because you will definitely use it in the field of meteorology. If you want to be a TV meteorologist and be on-camera, make sure you get an internship to get your foot in the door gaining valuable knowledge and experience.  I love my job and enjoy teaching others about the weather, while making my weather reports educational and entertaining.

Meet a Science Professional – October

We will be having this new segment on our website that will be updated every month where we will recognize someone in the science field and get to know a little bit about them!

This month we will meet Dr. Patrick Marsh from the Storm Predication Center in Norman, OK. Follow Dr. Marsh on Twitter @pmarshwx

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Dr. Patrick Marsh, Meteorologist

         1. How did you become interested in meteorology and science?

This is really hard to answer as I’ve been interested in weather as far back as I can remember. As an elementary student I once wrote that when I grew up I wanted to be the director of the National Severe Storms Laboratory or what is now known as the Storm Prediction Center!. More specifically though, when I lived in Georgia as a child, I remember sitting outside and watching afternoon thunderstorms. What really confirmed my choice to follow a career path in meteorology was the April 21, 1996, tornado in Ft. Smith, Ark. Two children were killed by this tornado. In fact, the cousin of one of my good friends at the time was one of those killed. My response to this event was that I wanted to become knowledgeable in forecasting such destructive weather and strive to ensure these fatalities do not happen again. Since then, I have been angling myself to become a part of the field of meteorology, and, in particular, studying and forecasting severe thunderstorms.

2. Tell us about your education and what education and training is required to become a meteorologist.

Ever since I was a little kid my education plan was to attend the University of Oklahoma. Unfortunately when it came time to go to school, OU did not offer me any scholarships whereas the University of Arkansas offered me what amounted to nearly a full ride. Being the son of an accountant, it was easy choice to make; I attended the University of Arkansas. Unfortunately, the UofA doesn’t offer a meteorology degree. So rather than explicitly study meteorology, I was a double major in Physics and Mathematics. I then attended graduate school at OU and earned a Masters of Meteorology and eventually my Doctorate.
 
Regarding the training to become a meteorologist, it varies widely depending on what you want to do. If you wish to be an operational meteorologist within the federal government, the Office of Personnel Management has an explicit list of coursework that people must complete to work in a meteorology position in the federal government. You can find these requirements here: https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/classification-qualifications/general-schedule-qualification-standards/1300/meteorology-series-1340/.
 
If you don’t want to be an operational meteorologist within the federal government, the coursework will depend on who is hiring. Generally speaking, though, the list above works. The key is to remember that meteorology is an applied science. It lies in the intersection of applied physics and applied mathematics. And given the advent of high-performance computing and big data, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to break into meteorology without some sort of education in programming and/or Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

3. What’s the craziest weather day or night you have experienced?

I love it all! Sitting in a blizzard is cool; having thunderstorms produce copious amounts of sleet is awesome as well. Although the combined days of 19 and 20 May 2013 probably stand out as the most intense. On the 19th a long-tracked tornado developed north of my house by less than 5 miles. It then lifted almost 40 miles away, 5 miles away from a house I was moving into the following weekend. I spent most of that afternoon wondering if I would lose one or both residence! Then the following day, a violent, long-track tornado moved into Moore, OK, producing EF-5 tornado damage. All-in-all, in 2013, there were two separate stretched where EF-4 or stronger tornadoes occurred on back-to-back-to-back days.

4. Tell us about your past and current job roles in the science field.

At present I am a meteorologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Weather Service’s (NWS) Storm Prediction Center (SPC). We have the responsibility of forecasting severe thunderstorms and their associated hazards all across the continental United States. Additionally, we provide daily fire-weather forecasts given that many large fires are the result of lightning.
 
Before working at the SPC I was a graduate student at OU working for the National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL). Here I was involved in research projects such as the Verification of the Origin of Rotation in Tornadoes EXperiment 2 (VORTEX2). During this experiment I managed the operations center where we provided forecasts to those in the field and also maintained situational awareness to prevent the field teams from driving into something dangerous.
 
Additionally, I was the NSSL Liaison to the Hazardous Weather Testbed (HWT). Here I was tasked with maintaining data flows (read: make sure the data came arrived correctly) and developing software to allow for new visualizations of high-resolution numerical models.

5. What advice do you have for young people out there interested in a career in meteorology?

On a knowledge basis, learn to program. This will become increasingly important as the field continues to advance. In a more general sense, however, get involved! Reach out to people at the Storm Prediction Center; reach out to researchers; reach out to your local National Weather Service Forecast Office; reach out to your local television meteorologists! Meteorologists tend to be very good at mentoring the next generation. I have yet to find a meteorologist who wouldn’t take a few minutes out of their day to talk with and engage with a young, passionate person! You can do this via email or by social media. Feel free to email me (patrick.marsh@noaa.gov) or Tweet me at @pmarshwx! I have a soft spot in my heart for students — mainly because so many older people invested in me when I was a student. It’s time for me to pay it forward, and I know many others in this field who feel the same way!

Young Meteorologist WeatherFest: Teaching Young Students About Severe Weather

Click the link below to view an article about the Young Meteorologist Program that was featured in the FEMA Children and Disasters Newsletter.

JuneFEMANewsletter_508

NOAA’s National Weather Service

Welcome to meteorological summer and right on time is the launch of the WRN Summer Seasonal Safety Campaign.  Safety content, stories, blogs, social media posts, and infographics are now available for your use.
  • Engage your employees and increase your organization’s resilience.
  • Reach out to your stakeholders via social media.
  • Use the content provided over the course of the next three months.
  • Certain hazards not relevant in your area?  Summer travel increases the need for awareness in areas that aren’t familiar.

Here is our seasonal campaign landing page and included below is the “coin” for your use.

We invite you to surf around the new-look Weather-Ready Nation homepage.
www.noaa.gov/wrn

The website refresh really has our WRN Ambassadors in mind–better content relevant to your needs, easier navigation, and more hazard preparedness sites.

National Weather Service Director, Dr. Louis Uccellini, invites you to join him for a discussion on the NWS FY2017 President’s Budget on Wednesday, March 23, from 10:00-11:00 AM EDT. Q&A will follow Dr. Uccellini’s remarks.

We offer two options for you to join us. First, for those of you in the Greater Washington, D.C. area, we will be hosting the briefing at the NOAA Auditorium on the NOAA HQ campus in Silver Spring. If you would like to join us in person, please RSVP to douglas.hilderbrand@noaa.gov

A second option is to join us via webinar. Please register at:
https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/4724131246687779843

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

If you have any questions, please reach out to Doug.

Follow us on twitter @WRNAmbassadors

 

NWS National Seasonal Safety Campaign: Preparing the public for hazardous weather year-round

Weather.gov > NWS National Seasonal Safety Campaign: Preparing the public for hazardous weather year-round

December 1 March 1 May 15-21 June 1 September 1

NOAA’s National Weather Service (NWS) wants you to be prepared for hazardous weather year-round. The aim of the National Seasonal Safety Campaign is to build a Weather-Ready Nation, one that is prepared for extreme weather, water, and climate events.

Each campaign includes seasonal resources that provide information that is vital to keeping you and your loved ones safe. These materials include websites, articles, social media, infographics, videos and other content around the weather hazards most common during the current season.

Materials for each campaign can be found by clicking the buttons at the top of the page. All content can be shared – we encourage it!

A New, More Timely Approach to Weather Preparedness

NWS chose to replace national safety awareness weeks with a year-round approach for a simple reason: bad weather happens year-round. For example, severe weather can occur anytime – it does not wait for a single week in March. With the National Seasonal Safety Campaign, we seek to inform the public about seasonal weather hazards during the time they are most common. This is a 365-day a year effort and can’t be confined to a single week.

Partner Support

While NWS will no longer lead national weather awareness/preparedness weeks (with the exception of Hurricane Preparedness Week), it will continue to support pre-existing awareness/preparedness weeks such as Rip Current Awareness Week and Lightning Safety Awareness Week.

In addition, NWS actively works with partners such as FEMA to provide consistent messaging on weather preparedness. Together with Weather-Ready Nation Ambassadors, NWS strives to communicate the importance of being prepared for extreme weather. We can’t do it alone! It takes all of us, working together, to build a Weather-Ready Nation.