This summer, upstate New York has had its fair share of unpredictable weather, from sunshine and hail showers to thunderstorms and tornadoes, but the students conducting research alongside Assistant Professor of Geoscience Neil Laird don’t seem to mind.
“We get pretty excited when there are thunderstorms around here,” laughs Richard Mable ’10.
The geoscience and environmental studies double major is one of six students working in pairs through Laird’s lab to research thunderstorms, frontal systems and ice covers. Mable, alongside recent Cornell graduate Marikate Ellis, is studying the development of thunderstorms and their interactions.
“We’re looking at thunderstorms passing over Lake Michigan and whether they strengthen or weaken in intensity,” Mable explains.
Because Lake Michigan is a “stable environment,” Mable and Ellis are concentrating on how thunderstorms change and react as they cross over the marine boundary layer of the lake.
Ellis, an atmospheric science major, who will be attending Penn State in the fall, adds, “we’re studying six years worth of radar research,” as they build a database of cases to improve the understanding of severe thunderstorms.
Jamie Tucciarone ’09 and Purdue University rising senior Dave Zelinsky are researching the variability of ice cover on Lake Erie, looking at the rapid changes in the ice cover of the lake and how they are linked to weather conditions.
“We’re looking at whether the ice is thawing or if there’s an actual shift in the ice,” says Tucciarone, a double major in mathematics and environmental studies.
Zelinsky, who is focused on studying the weather associated with the changing events, adds that their research may someday help with predicting these weather changes.
Meanwhile, Richard Maliawco, a rising senior at Linden State College, and Melissa Payer, who just graduated from Plymouth State College and will be attending the University of Albany in the fall, are focusing on how fronts interact with the Great Lakes and change in intensity as they move across the region. Because their internships are made possible with grants through the National Science Foundation, Laird’s students will get the chance to present their work at regional conferences in the fall and next spring.
Over the course of the summer, these students will also get the chance to present the research on their projects to six scientists visiting from other colleges.
“Students will give informal presentations to the visitors, and get immediate feedback,” Laird explains. “I love structuring the project that way. It makes it so much stronger. All of the input has the potential to make the project all that much more robust!”