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WATCH: Taken by storm

Future meteorologists hit the high plains for an up-close view of severe weather

June 26, 2019

By John Arnold

Metropolitan State University of Denver meteorology students learn all about mesocyclones and tornados in the weather lab run by Sam Ng, Ph.D.

But to fully understand and respect the kind of severe weather they’ll be forecasting as meteorologists, the professor of meteorology in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences wants them to see it for themselves. Not in textbooks but on the wind-swept plains of Colorado and surrounding states.

“So, our lab is actually outside, in the field,” said Ng.

Students in Sam Ng
Students in Sam Ng's Field Observation of Severe Weather Class connect what they learn in the classroom with real-world weather events. Photo by Sam Ng.

Every spring, with cameras, weather radar and instruments in hand, Ng and his students hit the road in search of the perfect storm. Students in this year’s course – Field Observation of Severe Weather – covered 3,750 miles in four states: Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma.

During the six-day road trip, the class witnessed two tornados, a mesocyclone, lightning, large hail and high winds.

Students in Sam Ng
Students in Sam Ng's Field Observation of Severe Weather class hit the road every spring to observe storm structures, like this mesocyclone in Imperial, Nebraska. Photo by Sam Ng.

“Almost everything that I would want the students to see that connects the theories with observation,” Ng said, adding that he emphasizes teaching students how to observe weather safely.

“There are a lot of people out there who have been too reckless chasing storms because they want to be the first to have the (camera) click,” he said. “What I’m hoping is for my students to learn from me and my co-instructor to become responsible storm observers and responsible meteorologists.”


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