Doppler On Wheels Returns To SUNY Oswego

By Andrew Kunkel, Contributing Writer
OSWEGO, NY – SUNY Oswego’s meteorology department has a new way to track the weather on the shores of Lake Ontario.

The doppler on wheels (DOW), on loan from the Center for Severe Weather Research in Boulder Colo., is a flatbed truck with a large radar dish and equipment for catching weather on site when it happens.

The DOW was brought to Oswego by the National Science Foundation, in an education program where they allow the truck to go to colleges for three weeks at a time. This encourages meteorology students to learn how to use the technology, design their own experiments and collect data with the equipment.

“They learn how to run the radar, then they learn some of the limitations of the radar, they learn what can go wrong, and what can go right. The big thing they learn is how precipitation forms. The other big thing they’re learning is how to design experiments. Weather, unlike chemistry or physics, doesn’t have a controlled lab where we can set up experiments and do them perfectly. It’s depending on the weather, which changes constantly,” said meteorology professor Scott Steiger.

Steiger is also a member of the lake effect storm prediction research center on campus, where students help forecast weather for local school districts and do research using equipment like the DOW.

“Our students are heavily involved with that, they issue forecasts three times a day for these districts. Mostly schools in Oswego county and some in Jefferson,” said Steiger.

The DOW was also brought to Oswego in December 2010, where it analyzed lake effect snowstorms as soon as it arrived.

The crew analyzed seven different events, and was able to see first-hand the heavy rotation present in the storms, even causing waterspout tornados on the water. There will be a formal academic paper published soon.

“I’m really glad we can do the research here and get the students a lot of hands on experience. Even when we don’t have the DOW, students have a chance to analyze state of the art data and make hypotheses,” said Steiger.

The million dollar piece of technology will be in Oswego until April 8.