KSU geography students compete in weather forecasting contest

Megan Grote

Kent State does not have a meteorology department, but that does not keep geography students from competing with other schools to forecast tomorrow’s weather.

“Ever since I was eight, I’ve wanted to chase tornadoes and be a meteorologist,” senior geography major Jennifer Amendola said. “I love storms and lightning. Every time there is a storm, I am outside with my camera trying to get a picture of a lightning bolt.”

Amendola plans to attend graduate school to study meteorology in Oklahoma or Texas, but she said if Kent State had a program, she would be in it.

Kent State’s geography department offers climatology courses and a climatology minor within its program. Climatology is the study of long-term weather patterns, whereas meteorology is the study of more immediate conditions, such as the present-day weather.

Geography professor Scott Sheridan created the applied climatology course to help those students who are interested in learning about weather patterns get experience. He also helped the department enter a national forecasting contest.

Geography students who are enrolled in the applied climatology course consider sunny days to be boring weather-wise, he said. The more unpredictable the weather, the better the challenge is for the students. The students learn more from the challenging weather than from nice, sunny days.

The National Collegiate Weather Forecasting Contest is a competition between 29 colleges across the United States. Most of these colleges have meteorology departments, but Sheridan uses his climatology course to teach his students the fundamentals of weather so they can compete against the more experienced students.

Every two weeks, the participants make predictions for the assigned location. After the participants make their predictions for those weeks, the results for that particular location are released.

Currently, participants are making predictions for Alpena, Mich. The correct weather measurements are taken from the airport around the area.

Kent State did well with the results from the previous location of Charleston, S.C., Sheridan said. The entire Kent State forecasting team placed 15th out of 29 schools. Using just the top five team member’s scores, Kent State actually placed eighth.

 “I like the realm of geography,” geography graduate student Jason Senkbeil said, who is involved in the forecasting contest. “Meteorology detaches from society and the people and tends to lose track of the meaning of it.”

Being involved with the contest has taught Senkbeil that there is always something to learn about weather.

“It is always humbling,” Senkbeil said.

Kent State could benefit from a more extensive meteorology program as the interest is there, Sheridan said. But it would require at least several new faculty members to teach all required courses.

There are 33 students and faculty involved in the Kent State National Collegiate Weather Forecasting Contest. The group meets every other Monday at 3:20 p.m. in room 403 of McGilvery Hall. The contest will continue until April.

For more information, visit Kent State’s National Collegiate Weather Forecasting Contest’s Web site at sheridan.geog.kent.edu/nfc.html.

Contact Arts and Sciences reporter Megan Grote at [email protected].