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Fall 2021 News

“A&GS alumnus gift helps OU meteorology students build weather stations.” BRAD ILLSTON LOVES DATA. And as a University of Oklahoma senior research scientist for the Oklahoma Mesonet and Oklahoma Climatological Survey, things like air temperature, barometric pressure, wind speed and dew point are at the center of his world. So, when this self-described “data geek” received $50,000 in support to provide weather station equipment for a sophomore instrumentation class, he was blown over. Some $35,000 of the funding came from a gift to the OU Foundation’s Meteorology Development Fund by an anonymous alumnus of the College of Atmospheric and Geographic Sciences. Another $15,000 was made available from the OU Foundation’s James Bruce Morehead Endowment, which benefits atmospheric and geographic research. “The gifts created a hands-on experience for students,” Illston said. “Students in the class have always been able to use instruments to obtain data, but this allowed students to actually build their own weather stations from the ground up and see how the sausage is made.” The OU adjunct assistant professor and his students did their work last spring in an outdoor classroom on the National Weather Center’s roof. Illston unboxed the new equipment and divided his students into 10 groups of six to eight people. Then he took them into the outside elements, where each team went to work on the painstaking process of setting up their instruments. “They did everything from physical construction of the support frames to wiring instruments into a datalogger and programming the datalogger to record measurements,” Illston said. Once the weather stations were built, students continued the work of learning how to use the equipment and produce their own research-quality data. “Those numbers don’t just magically appear,” Illston said. “There is a lot of work that goes into it.” Students learned to extract and reformat raw data for scientific analysis, process and fill in missing data, write scripts to remove bad data, and perform statistics and graphical displays using the data, he added. Building weather stations is part of the meteorology profession, Illston said, but some meteorologists never gain that experience. The gifts gave OU students an important opportunity that will serve them in the future. While the weather station equipment is making OU’s instrumentation class a more unique and enriching experience, he said the equipment also is available to students working on special projects and has inspired others to try their hand at instrument design. One of Illston’s students announced that he planned to spend his summer building his own weather station in Maryland, and others have referenced their experience while applying to outside educational programs this summer. Meanwhile, he said, former colleagues and connections from other universities have gotten wind of Illston’s instrumentation class and are asking questions. “They want to know how the weather station project was done, and they’re looking at starting similar classes at their schools,” he said.
Image: Foundation Impact Publication – OU meteorology students build weather stations.
“Snider scholarship creates partnership between OU students and geography teachers.” Geography teachers in Oklahoma public schools have new advocates in their corner and tools at their fingertips through a $25,000 gift to the University of Oklahoma Foundation. The Snider Family Endowed Scholarship Fund provides a work-study position to students in OU’s Department of Geography and Environmental Sustainability, which is part of the College of Atmospheric and Geographic Sciences. OU students will collaborate with Oklahoma teachers to promote geography resources and learning opportunities through the Oklahoma Alliance for Geographic Education, or OKAGE, headquartered on OU’s Norman campus. OKAGE is part of a national consortium of geography educators and provides professional development events, curricula and materials. “Geographic education needs to have a higher emphasis than it traditionally has had in the past,” said scholarship founder Larry Snider, who earned a 1968 OU bachelor’s and 1969 OU master’s in geography before establishing a 23-year career as an intelligence officer with the U.S. Air Force. “We live in an evolving ‘worldscape’ in which we’re more interconnected than ever and, unfortunately, are witnessing a surprising lack of geography awareness,” said Snider. After military retirement, he taught geography at two Virginia colleges and worked as a defense contractor in strategic intelligence capabilities based planning. “Geography helps people understand such issues as why the U.S. is involved in ‘hot spots’ around the world or why trade relationships are so important,” he said. “Anything that enhances the ability of the OU Department of Geography to grow and contribute to the geographic knowledge of Oklahoma students is a double-win.” Snider’s OU ties are three generations deep. His late father, OU Regents Professor Glenn Snider, was director of teacher education, and Snider’s son, Eric, is a county planner who followed in his father’s footsteps by earning a 2001 OU geography degree. Recent OU graduate Isabel English of Tulsa was OKAGE’s first work-study student in a pilot program during the 2020-21 academic year. She designed lesson plans, linked teachers to resources for geography certification and delivered hands-on teaching tools—including a giant, walkable map of the United States—to more than a dozen schools. “We want to help public school students learn more and have fun doing it,” said English, who earned an OU bachelor’s in environmental sustainability in May and is pursuing a master’s degree in environmental management. “I really enjoyed getting to know the communities and working with teachers, helping students use the classroom resources and seeing how that has influenced their education.” This summer, OKAGE offered a geography workshop attracting teachers from across Oklahoma. The teachers learned to pose research questions through a geographic lens and conducted a field research trip in the Wichita Mountains. English helped teachers design a lesson plan on environmental conservation that they could adapt to destinations near their communities. Snider pointed out that technology innovations have opened geography career opportunities to OU students, including in urban and regional planning, emergency management and remote sensing. “Geography isn’t just places and capitals on a map,” he said.  “Planned gift becomes a new legacy for Geography and Environmental Sustainability.” A PLANNED GIFT to the University of Oklahoma Foundation will bring the connection between one Oklahoma family and their land full circle while forever changing the OU Department of Geography and Environmental Sustainability. Shortly before his death in 2019, Dennis Noble and his wife, Sandra, established an agreement to leave a portion of the mineral rights and sale of a large family ranch in Oklahoma’s Woods County to OU. Sandra Noble said that the land had been in her husband’s family since 1906. As only children with no descendants, they had a choice to make. “It’s a beautiful property,” she said. “We wanted to do something good with it, and I think we have.” The planned gift will eventually provide $1 million to establish the Dennis and Sandra Noble Chair in Historical Geography, with the remaining estate split between two endowed scholarships in climate science and geography. The Nobles’ endowed chair will be the first in OU’s Department of Geography and Environmental Sustainability, said professor and department chair Scott Greene. “There’s an incredibly strong link between history and geography, and the endowed position will allow us to help students learn that both time and space matter in perceiving the world around us,” he said. “Geography doesn’t do that by itself, history doesn’t do that by itself. Combining them into one position facilitates a transdisciplinary understanding of the world around us, which is absolutely critical to having an informed citizenry and improving society.” Greene said the Nobles’ scholarships in climate science and geography will raise the department’s visibility among potential students and help keep promising young Oklahomans in the state. “It also will allow us to imbed undergraduates in research so that, at an earlier stage than at most universities, students will be involved in real-world, societally relevant research that not only supports them, but also supports the state.” Dennis Noble held a 1963 OU bachelor’s of science in physics. While studying for his master’s, he went to work for the National Weather Service on OU’s north campus and eventually rose to the role of senior forecaster. “He was a whiz on radar,” said Sandra, who earned a 1963 OU master’s in history and 1973 master’s in geography before becoming a longtime geography faculty member at the University of Central Oklahoma. “It’s tremendously altruistic of the Nobles to say, ‘We’re going to support the students of Oklahoma,’ ” Greene said. “And they’re supporting them not just through a scholarship, but also through the tools they need to improve our state.” “We wanted to give in a way that helps students,” Sandra Noble said. “These kids have a tough time; you cannot over-encourage good students.”
Image: Foundation Impact Publication – Snider scholarship & A Planned gift
School of Meteorology, Advising and Mentoring Program. The Meteorology advisors are Brittney Johnson and Shelby Hill. Students will book advising appointments in With consideration from previous graduates, SoM will be establishing a new mentoring system. All students will have an academic advisor and a mentor, the mentorship will be from various members of the scientific community, the SoM and the NWC staff. The mentors will opperate in a pod or ecosystem, they will provide mentoring on career pathways, internships, research, jobs, networking, diversity, equity, and inculsion and much more! All Mentors will under-go training prior to the release of the program to prepare themselves to be equipped to serve the community. There will be no changing to the advisement of Freshman level students. MORE INFORMATION COMING SOON: In the coming weeks you will receive information concerning your assigned academic advisor and mentor profiles for you to request the ecosystem you would most like to join.
Image: Advising and Mentoring Program 2021

Image: NWC Library Announcements

Flyer: DIG: Diversity and Inclusion in GeoSciences
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Spring 2021 News





April 2, 2021

A&GS Student Awards

Student awards

The College of Atmospheric and Geographic Sciences would like to highlight our student award and scholarship recipients from 2020 and 2021.  Scroll down to view the awardees.

Award winners will be announced throughout the month of April.  Please check back often as new content is added!

Thank you to the donors and congratulations to all students on such a remarkable achievement!

March 3, 2021

Improved Flash Flood Tools Aim to Increase Public Safety

Flash Flood Tools
Flash Flood Tools

Researchers from OU and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Severe Storms Laboratory are improving current software to enhance guidance for the categorization of flash flood warnings to increase public response and public safety.

Learn More about Flash Flood Tools

February 5, 2021

Tracking Weather As It Happens


OU and NOAA have developed a free smartphone app called mPING (Meteorological Phenomena Identification Near the Ground) to collect public weather reports. This data will help scientists compare these citizen scientists' field reports to radar detections in order to improve and develop new forecasting technologies.

Learn More about mPING

Fall 2020 News



November 18, 2020

Greg McFarquhar Named AGU Fellow

Dr. Greg McFarquhar
Dr. Greg McFarquhar

The American Geophysical Union has named Greg McFarquhar, director of the Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies and a professor of meteorology, among their 2020 AGU Fellows. AGU Fellows serve as global leaders and experts who have propelled understanding of geosciences and have made exceptional contributions in the Earth and space sciences community through breakthrough, discovery, or innovation in their disciplines. Since 1962, AGU has elected fewer than 0.1% of members to join this prestigious group of individuals.

Learn More about the 2020 Class of AGU Fellows

November 16, 2020

Data Science Institute for Societal Challenges Names Two Associate Research Directors

Dr. Jennifer Koch
Dr. Jennifer Koch

Jennifer Koch, an associate professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Sustainability, and Erin Maher, an associate professor in the Department of Sociology, have been named associate research directors of the University of Oklahoma Data Science Institute for Societal Challenges.

Founded in July 2020, the institute is designed to integrate data science expertise across the university and harness data science innovation to solve real-world problems.

Learn more about Dr. Jennifer Koch's Appointment

November 16, 2020

School of Meteorology Mourns Passing of Fred Brock

Dr. Fred Brock
Dr. Fred Brock

The School of Meteorology is mourning the passing of Dr. Fred Brock, who passed away October 21, 2020.

According to his obituary from The Norman Transcript, Dr. Brock completed a Bachelor’s degree in Education, served in the Navy, completed Master’s degrees in Meteorology and Instrumentation Engineering, and finally a Ph.D. in Meteorology here at the University of Oklahoma. He worked at the National Center for Atmospheric Research before eventually returning to OU to teach, research, and lead.

Learn more about Dr. Fred Brock

November 9, 2020

$7.4 Million U.S. Navy Grant to Make OU Home to the Nation’s Largest University-Based Near-Field Scanner for Antenna Measurements

OU Mobile Radar

A $7.4 million grant awarded from the United States Office of Naval Research to the University of Oklahoma will fund the development of a scanner and innovative digital radar solutions to support research, prototyping and testing of advanced digital radar concepts for the Navy and the U.S. Department of Defense. The project will also make OU home to the largest university-based scanner for near-field measurements in the nation.

Learn more about the US Navy Grant

November 3, 2020

Drones Support OU Weather Research

Thunderstorm clouds

Researchers from the University of Oklahoma and the University of Colorado at Boulder are taking part in a study using drones to study how storms form in coastal urban areas, data that will help improve computer models for weather forecasting and improve meteorologists’ understanding of the processes that lead to storm formation.

Learn more about drones and OU weather research

October 9, 2020

OU Researchers Conduct First Drone-Based Weather Observations At Max Westheimer Airport

Launch of the OU CopterSonde from the University of Oklahoma Max Westheimer Airport. The airport tower can be seen in the background.
CASS at Max Westheimer Airport

Everyone has been impacted by unexpected weather events at some point in their life with consequences ranging from being mildly inconvenienced to experiencing life threatening conditions. One community that is particularly susceptible to the weather is aviation. There has been an on-going effort to improve weather awareness for aviators with an emphasis on conditions at airports. Supported in part through funding from NASA, the OU Center for Autonomous Sensing and Sampling is working with individuals at the OU Max Westheimer Airport to conduct novel observations of the atmosphere using state-of-the-art Unmanned Aircraft Systems, or drones. Resulting measurements can be used to improve numerical weather prediction model forecasts or communicated directly to pilots  to help keep them apprised of current weather conditions.

Learn more about drone-based weather observations

October 8, 2020

OU and NOAA Team Up to Provide Radar Coverage During Hurricane Delta

OU/NOAA Mobile Radar Truck, OU, NOAA, School of Meteorology
OU/NOAA Mobile Radar Truck

As Hurricane Delta lumbers toward the Central Louisiana coast, the University of Oklahoma’s Shared Mobile Atmospheric Research and Teaching radar team, in collaboration with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Weather Service, is deploying a mobile weather radar to the area around Lake Charles, Louisiana.

Learn more about Hurricane Delta research

September 17, 2020

How Do Weather Forecasters Communicate Risk Before, During, and After Extreme Weather Events?

Screenshot from NOAA's Hazardous Weather Testbed
NOAA's Hazardous Weather Testbed

Researchers at the University of Oklahoma’s National Institute for Risk and Resilience, Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies, and the National Severe Storms Lab recently conducted a transdisciplinary experiment exploring the effect of social and behavioral data on how weather forecasters communicate risk before, during, and after extreme weather events.

Learn more about this interdisciplinary experiment

September 17, 2020

OU Researchers Collect Data From Hurricane Sally

Hurricane Sally radar image depicting a vertical slice, including blue, green, and red coloration.
Hurricane Sally radar image

University of Oklahoma scientists led by Michael Biggerstaff, OU School of Meteorology professor, deployed a Shared Mobile Atmospheric Research and Teaching (SMART) weather radar south of Mobile, Alabama, in advance of the landfall of Hurricane Sally. There they measured the structure of the winds in the hurricane boundary layer, the lowest mile of air above the ground.

Learn more about Hurricane Sally data

September 14, 2020

Undergraduate Research Assistant Publishes First-Authored Paper

Ariel Jacobs, CASS Undergraduate Research Assistant
Ariel Jacobs, CASS UGRA

Congratulations to Undergraduate Research Assistant Ariel Jacobs, who published her first-authored paper, "The Effect of Climatological Variables on Future UAS-Based Atmospheric Profiling in the Lower Atmosphere."  Click below to access the article, and learn more about what CASS is currently researching by visiting their Twitter.

Arial's Article                                                      OU CASS Twitter

September 12, 2020

SOM Faculty Member Leads Development of Probabilistic Precipitation Retrievals

Dr. Pierre Kirstetter
Dr. Pierre Kirstetter

OU School of Meteorology faculty member Dr. Pierre Kirstetter is leading the development of probabilistic precipitation retrievals for hazard applications in the National Weather Service.  Progress in precipitation science and applications is critical to advancing weather and water budget studies and to predicting natural hazards caused by extreme events, from local to global scales. It requires more than just one deterministic precipitation “best estimate” to adequately cope with the intermittent, highly skewed distribution that characterizes precipitation. Probabilistic Quantitative Precipitation Estimation (PQPE) is an approach that integrates remote sensing, meteorology, hydrology, and artificial intelligence to advance precipitation estimation, processes understanding, and applications.

Learn more about probabilistic precipitation retrievals

September 11, 2020

Improving Understanding of Climate Change Through Cloud Formation

Greg McFarquhar stands on the deck of a research ship.
Greg McFarquhar, Director of CIMMS

Greg McFarquhar, the director of the Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies and a professor in the School of Meteorology at the University of Oklahoma, will lead a three-year project funded by a $689,082 grant from the Department of Energy. The project uses unique sets of data collected in polar regions that give information on the small-scale properties of aerosols and clouds, data that will provide better insight into weather prediction models.

Learn more about the grant and cloud formation

August 27, 2020

OU Researchers Travel to the Gulf of Mexico to Intercept Hurricane Laura

OU and NOAA personnel stand in front of radar trucks at the National Weather Center.
OU & NOAA Researchers

A team of research scientists from the University of Oklahoma and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Severe Storms Laboratory have traveled to Texas near the Gulf of Mexico to collect data during the landfall of Hurricane Laura.

The data collected will allow for a better understanding of hurricane winds and the damage they cause. This knowledge will aid in the development of cost-effective building codes to lessen future damage, provide more data to improve other infrastructure, and increase storm resilience.

Learn more about Hurricane Laura research

August 26, 2020

OU Receives $20 Million Grant to Lead Inaugural National Science Foundation Artificial Intelligence Institute

Dr. Amy McGovern pictured in front of the National Weather Center Science on a Sphere.
Dr. Amy McGovern

The University of Oklahoma is leading a National Science Foundation AI Institute for Research on Trustworthy AI in Weather, Climate, and Coastal Oceanography that is being hailed as a “historic milestone in environmental science.”

NSF recently announced an investment of more than $100 million to establish five AI Institutes to support research and education hubs nationwide. Amy McGovern, an OU professor with dual appointments in the School of Computer Science in the Gallogly College of Engineering and in the School of Meteorology in the College of Atmospheric and Geographic Sciences, will lead the NSF AI Institute for Research on Trustworthy AI in Weather, Climate, and Coastal Oceanography, which received $20 million of the NSF funding.

Learn more about the National Science Foundation Artifical Intelligence Institute

August 19, 2020

OU and OSU Take Off to Support Atmospheric Research

A CASS quadcopter drone
A CASS quadcopter drone

During August 2020, teams from the University of Oklahoma (OU) Center for Autonomous Sensing and Sampling (CASS) and the Oklahoma State University (OSU) Unmanned Systems Research Institute (USRI) joined forces at OU’s Kessler Atmospheric and Ecological Field Station (KAEFS) to conduct innovative atmospheric research using unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) or drones, which could lead to improved weather forecasts. Both the OU and OSU teams are developing and testing state-of-the-art UAS, instrumented with meteorological sensors designed to collect precision atmospheric data in the Earth’s lower atmosphere, which can be ingested by weather forecast models. Despite the challenges of COVID-19, the scientists and engineers from CASS and USRI were able to maintain safe practices and socially distance as they worked to together to push the envelope of UAS atmospheric research. 

Learn more about OU and OSU's Atmopsheric Research

August 14, 2020

Welcome Letter from Dean Berrien Moore

Dean Berrien Moore III
Dean Berrien Moore III

Dear A&GS Friends, Students, Staff, Faculty, and NWC Colleagues--

As we together return to campus for the 2020-2021 Academic Year, OU and the College of Atmospheric & Geographic Sciences (A&GS) remain committed to safety, inclusivity, intellectual growth, and excellence. Even in these trying times, A&GS faculty and staff are committed to making this academic year a fun and rewarding experience for our students.

Our College is unique in that one of our main two academic buildings is the National Weather Center (NWC), a shared facility with NOAA federal partners and several OU and State operational and research units. This adds a bit of “complexity” in safety planning, but “complexity” is not new to A&GS students.

In the COVID-19 environment, A&GS and NWC leaders have focused, particularly and appropriately, on the safety of our students, staff, faculty, and the NWC Community. This is of utmost importance. I should add that this leadership team was enriched by the new leadership of the Department of Geography and Environmental Sustainability (Chair Professor Scott Greene and Associate Chair Bruce Hoagland).

This leadership team has worked diligently on a path forward with a particular focus on NWC specific policies and procedures for the safety of all. We have encapsulated these policies and procedures into a living document that gives guidance to this path. This document (pdf) builds upon and is consistent with OU policies and procedures; it is also sensitive to NOAA and State guidelines. As the environment changes, this document will change as needed. We will be actively watching and planning to help overcome the hurdles of the evolving and changing COVID-19 pandemic. Together we will navigate the paths going forward.

Again, we are all in this together, and we will prevail together. 

Boomer Sooner

Berrien Moore III
Dean A&GS
Director NWC