HAMPTON, Va. (October 22, 2019) –The Hampton University Severe Weather Research Center hosted a meeting with Hampton City officials to showcase the Center, what it is doing in regards to research, and to explain how the work that is being done will help forecast severe weather in Hampton Roads and beyond.
“This is a great opportunity to show Mayor Donnie Tuck and Hampton City officials how the Hampton University Severe Weather Research Center is using big data analytics to provide the residents of Hampton Roads with information in real time about approaching hurricanes, tornadoes and other severe weather events,” said Hampton University President, Dr. William R. Harvey.
The meeting and tour of HU’s Severe Weather Research Center was organized to show the results of the funding received from the City of Hampton’s Economic Development Authority (EDA) of $75,000 to install an air conditioning system and electrical wiring for a supercomputer, and also a $135,000 grant from the EDA to expand its operational capabilities.
Different presentations were given, and city officials were shown the supercomputer, which is a high-performance computer cluster for Numerical Modeling and Simulation. Both numerical data and imagery is what meteorologists utilize to improve predictions of severe weather. The weather antenna, located on the 14th floor of the Harbour Centre, captures real-time images and data from polar orbiting weather satellites, which can be transformed into imagery and atmospheric measurements, as they pass overhead.
“Forecasters can look at these images and get an idea of what is going on, but what goes into numerical prediction models, which are computer driven, has to be quantitative numerical data, not imagery. Those come from the sounding instruments. That’s where you have measurements of temperature and water vapor and other things that affect the weather, like cloud height, and that’s what we focus on here in this Severe Weather Research Center,” said Dr. Bill Smith, Director of the HU Severe Weather Research Center.
“It was a very productive day. Everyone did a great job of presenting the work that we’re doing, explaining how our work is going to advance the state of the art knowledge about severe weather, how to predict, where it’s going to happen more precisely and how that fits into the grand scheme of weather prediction that NOAA does, which is really the operational model. We are cooperating with them so that they will be better in the future,” said Dr. John McNabb, research assistant professor in the Hampton University Department of Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences.
Then each attendee was taken to the rooftop to see the actual receiving antenna and cluster condensing units on the 14th floor.
Hampton Mayor Donnie Tuck had visited the facility about three years ago to see the weather antenna, but he believes people at the time really had no idea about the functionality of the antenna. “I’ve heard Dr. Harvey on different occasions speak about the number of satellites that Hampton University receives data from and how the Governor ordered an evacuation because of Hurricane Florence, but because of the ability of the antenna to track the weather, Hampton University was very confident that we were going to be okay here. I think as a Council, it was very beneficial for us to come up here and get an idea of what is going on, and what kind of research is being done in this facility,” Mayor Tuck said.
Graduate student Elliott Shiben showcased a poster about the research he is doing in the Department of Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences. “We’re applying artificial intelligence to try to forecast severe weather. We want to train computers to pick up on weather trends that we as human beings might not recognize and to forecast severe weather better,” said Shiben, third year PhD, Atmospheric Sciences. Shiben uses the Center’s supercomputer to help increase the size and computation power for his research.
What’s next for the Hampton University Severe Weather Research Center?
“The next step for the Center is to bring in a Postdoctoral Fellow, at least one, hopefully two, to work with Bill Smith, and to expand the Center’s capabilities. He especially needs researchers that have worked in this specific area before,” said Dr. M. Patrick McCormick, Co-Director for the Center for Atmospheric Sciences.