Sam Ng’s students learn all about mesocyclones and tornados in his weather lab at Metropolitan State University of Denver.
But to fully understand and respect the kind of severe weather they’ll be forecasting as meteorologists, he wants them to see it for themselves. Not in textbooks but on the wind-swept plains of Colorado and surrounding states.
“So, our lab is actually outside, in the field,” said Ng, a professor of meteorology in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences.
Every spring, with cameras, weather radar and instruments in hand, Ng and his students hit the road in search of the perfect storm. Students in this year’s course – Field Observation of Severe Weather – covered 3,750 miles in four states: Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma.
During the six-day road trip, the class witnessed two tornados, a mesocyclone, lightning, large hail and high winds.
“Almost everything that I would want the students to see that connects the theories with observation,” Ng said, adding that he emphasizes teaching students how to observe weather safely.
“There are a lot of people out there who have been too reckless chasing storms because they want to be the first to have the (camera) click,” he said. “What I’m hoping is for my students to learn from me and my co-instructor to become responsible storm observers and responsible meteorologists.”