ULM's atmospheric science program earns grants worth more than $200,000

Courtesy: KNOE

MONROE, La. (KNOE 9 News) - ULM's atmospheric science program has received three grants totaling $263,767.

"It just really betters the program here. Some of the grants, the equipment grants for example, are going to allow us to compete for more grants in the future," says ULM assistant professor of atmospheric science, Dr. Todd Murphy.

The grants were awarded by different groups: the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the Louisiana Board of Regents - the last of the three giving the program a new tool called a microwave radiometer.

"The radiometer is a piece of equipment. It's about the size of a mailbox. It's not very big, and it takes continuous readings of temperature and moisture in the atmosphere," says Murphy.

The radiometer will be placed on top of Hanna Hall. It will send back data every minute, which is better than what a weather balloon accomplishes.

"We have a balloon team. As the balloon goes up, it takes readings of pressure, temperature, moisture, and wind. But it costs a little bit of money to launch a balloon, and you can't launch them all the time," Murphy says.

The perfect time to launch a weather balloon is during tornado season. More of the grant money will send Murphy and several students to north Alabama in the spring, where they will launch balloons to learn more about the formation of tornadoes.

An updated computer lab, complete with new software, is also in the works.

"Now that we have the radiometer, the balloon team, and we've upgraded all of our computer infrastructure, it's just a really great time to be a ULM atmospheric science student," says Murphy. "You can do a lot of things here than you can't necessarily do at other programs."