Scientists, since the 1950s have been predicting the weather with maps generated by computer models, but Millersville University’s Weather Information Center will now be looking at data in a new way.
In the fourth floor of Caputo, students in the Campus Weather Service gather around the Meteorology department’s new Electronic Wall Map. They meet seven days a week, three times a day Monday through Friday, and two times a day on the weekend to make predictions.
The Electronic Wall Map’s six flat screen monitors allow students and faculty to display weather maps, computer models, radar images, and satellite loops and analyze current observations, such as temperature, dew point, and wind direction to predict the weather.
Erik Pindrock, who has been involved in the Campus Weather Service for nine semesters, said, “By using the electronic map wall, I have a chronological process of forecasting that I can use for myself and also showcase to future employers.”
“You might call it the hallmark of the weather center,” said Eric Horst, founder of the Campus Weather Service and Director of MU Weather Information Center, who has worked part-time for WGAL as an on-air meteorologist.
The Electronic Wall Map replaces “old-school” paper weather maps, and, according to Horst, “allows us to display more dynamically what is going on in the atmosphere.”
Although students could do the same predictions with the paper map wall, the new wall facilitates forecasting by displaying different types of maps at the same time.
Senior Nate Wardle, who hopes to be the next Jim Cantore of the Weather Channel, explained what is “standard” on the six screens, including one monitor for a special feed from the WGAL radar, another for a national radar view, and current forecasts put out by the computer models, which is what was previously printed on paper maps to be analyzed.
“The Electronic Map Wall is extremely user friendly in that it is similar to a computer desktop, just much bigger,” said Wardle, but he admitted that it takes some time to become comfortable using one mouse to control all six monitors.
In addition to the six monitors, there is also one larger monitor used to depict areas of cloudiness, which shows satellite data.
Wardle is currently working on a research project with Travis Toth, Elmer Bauers IV, Dr. Richard Clark and Dr. Todd Sikora, on the Climatology of Severe Weather over the Chesapeake Bay. Valuing the new wall’s WGAL radar feed, Wardle believes it will be helpful when there are snowstorms over the area or severe weather.
The group has been chosen to present their findings in poster form at the Applied Climatology Conference at the National American Meteorological Society annual meeting in Atlanta, Ga the last week of Winter Break.
In comparison to other schools, Horst said MU’s Meteorology department has “gathered much acclaim” in recent years, for its students’ and faculty members’ efforts in research and contributions to the community, including collaboration with , Pennsylvania’s Department of Transportation (PennDOT).
Wardle acknowledged the appeal of this new map to potential students saying “I think Millersville always has been a university on the cutting edge of technology as a meteorology department, and this helps to fortify that.”
A lot of meteorology programs in the country are going through upgrades from paper-based map walls to electronic, according to Horst.
Utilizing the new Electronic wall map, the Campus Weather Service provides streaming video of daily short-term forecasts, bi-weekly extended forecasts Monday and Thursdays, as well as a monthly climatic review. Maps projected on the Virtual Map Wall can be accessed online at MU Weather information Center’s website at