Weather Academy: Severe Weather Research at ULM

Published: Feb. 7, 2022 at 6:05 AM CST|Updated: Feb. 7, 2022 at 3:54 PM CST
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MONROE, La. (KNOE) - Spring severe weather season is just around the corner here in ArkLaMiss so we headed out to ULM to talk to Dr. Todd Murphy about how the department and the students will be getting some hands-on experience during this tornado season.

ULM’s Atmospheric Science Department will contribute to one of the largest and most comprehensive severe storm field campaigns to date. According to Dr. Murphy, “PERiLS is kind of a first-of-its-kind project to study tornadic squall lines in the southeast. It’s a very large project. It’s both a National Science Foundation and NOAA sponsored project, over $9 million of funds, and over 12 institutions are involved.”

PERiLS stands for propagation, evolution and rotation, and linear storms. The atmospheric science students and professors will be taking the Doppler radar and LIDAR vehicles out into the field ahead of these storm systems. They’ll be launching weather balloons with instrumentation that will feedback data about the state of the atmosphere. Specifically looking at how quickly wind direction is changing in a pre-storm environment.

“The primary goal of the project is to improve our understanding of how tornadoes form and squall lines, which is how in the southeast, most of our tornadoes actually come from squall lines,” said Dr. Murphy. “But it’s one of those kinds of big unanswered questions we have about tornadic research.”

Senior Jacob Zeringue is a student leader with the perils project. Well, he’s had the chance to do some research earlier in his college career, he’s excited to take on a leadership opportunity.

“It definitely has created opportunities for me because it’s good to put on the resume,” says Zeringue. “It’s it shows your future employers that you’re willing to work hard and go out in the field and learn what you what you’re sitting in the classroom learning about.”

Quite a few students will have the ability to head out and get hands-on experience this semester. Murphy says they hope to take three to five students out on the eight deployments planned for this year.

“I have a pool of students that I will rotate our rotate through. And the hope is that we get kind of a new group of students each time out in the field,” Dr. Murphy explained. “So a bunch of people can get experience with the instruments.”

Almost every student in the major has signed up to volunteer with this research project. But the students aren’t the only ones who are excited.

“I’m really excited for the research side of the project. Obviously, we really want to understand more about tornadoes and how they form and squall lines, but also for a lot of what we do here at ULM,” said Dr. Murphy. “Most of our research is heavily about getting our students out in the field, getting them hands-on kind of learning with instruments and you know, the outside is the natural laboratory for weather, and so the more we can get them out of the classroom, and actually experiencing weather where it happens. That’s a better opportunity for everybody to learn more.

For more information on the PERiLS Project, click here.

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