Public Joins HWS for NSF Project Launch – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Public Joins HWS for NSF Project Launch

A major atmospheric science project involving Hobart and William Smith Colleges and funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) kicked off Dec. 4 at the Penn Yan Airport. Winter weather was the central theme of a “Community Day” event attended by more than 250 people, including HWS students and faculty, third-graders from Phelps-Clifton Springs Intermediate School, high school students and earth science teachers, and Central New York media.

Called “Ontario Winter Lake-effect Systems” (OWLeS), the NSF project is bringing together more than a half-dozen colleges, universities and agencies across the country to collaborate on research in the Lake Ontario and Finger Lakes regions. The focus of their cooperative work will cover several key topics related to heavy snowfall, lake-effect snow storms, and boundary-layer meteorology.

The event at the Seneca Flight Operations hangar gave project collaborators the chance to showcase their involvement in the OWLeS project, while offering a unique opportunity for the public to view the equipment and meteorological instruments that will be used while collecting data in December and January. On site were three Doppler-on-Wheels (DOW) mobile radar systems, all of which are managed by the Center for Severe Weather Research, and the University of Wyoming King Air (UWKA) research aircraft that will be used to collect data during flight.

Other project collaborators provided information about their instruments and participation in OWLeS during the event, including Millersville University, Pennsylvania State University, State University of New York – Oswego, University at Albany, University of Alabama in Huntsville, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, University of Utah and University of Wyoming. Representatives from the National Science Foundation and National Weather Service Offices in Binghamton and Buffalo were also on site Wednesday.

“This has been a fantastic event for everyone,” said Associate Professor of Geoscience Neil Laird, who is spearheading the HWS portion of the project along with Assistant Professor of Geoscience Nick Metz. “The OWLeS Community Day was a great opportunity to connect the scientists and students involved in the project with members of the public. We shared information about the objectives of the project, the measurements that will be collected, and gave tours to everyone allowing them to sit in the driver seat of the equipment – ranging from the cockpit of the aircraft to the controls of the mobile radar truck.”

Aside from the DOW radars and UWKA research aircraft, the OWLeS project also will use multiple measuring devices such as deployable surface weather stations (called “tornado pods”), vehicle-mounted weather stations, and rawinsondes (i.e., weather balloons).

Outside the hangar, HWS geoscience students Caitlin Crossett ’15 and Raleigh Grysko ’15 conducted a weather balloon launch for a large audience of students and teachers. Crossett and Grysko demonstrated the kind of measurements they’ll be taking as part of a major winter weather research project in the weeks to come and launched the balloon as the crowd provided the “count down.”

“This is a really great project because of the opportunity we have as undergraduates to participate in this kind of research,” Crossett said. “This is the kind of important work that we’ll be able to put on resumes or use as experience if attending graduate school. We’re also getting firsthand experience with the equipment.”

Grysko said he was looking forward to conducting research in the region and throughout Upstate New York. “HWS is a nice central location for this project and I’m interested in seeing real-time data collected in the area and near Seneca Lake,” he said.

Other students from HWS who will be participating in the OWLeS project are: Brooke Adams ’16, Zachary Dameron ’16, Nicole Desko ’15, Pamela Eck ’15, Chad Hecht ’14, Macy Howarth ’16 and Aboubacar Okeke-Diagne ’15.

Aside from faculty and students, other members of the HWS community were in attendance at the Community Day. Jamie Hefti ’98, a biology and earth science teacher from Pulaski Central School District who is a Hobart alum, attended the event with a colleague.

“Considering Pulaski’s location along Lake Ontario, we wanted to see how we might get our high school students involved with the OWLeS project,” Hefti said. “It could be a good opportunity for collecting weather data in our area.”

With more than 100 project collaborators and about 250 people on-site throughout the OWLeS Community Day event, Metz called the event a success.

“It’s terrific to see this kind of engagement,” Metz said. “This is a very unique and important opportunity for everyone involved. All of the facilities are available for public viewing and for the undergraduates, there are few opportunities for this many students and researchers to be in one place at the same time for this kind of event.”

To view the WROC-TV Channel 8 weather team’s coverage of the event, visit:

To view the WSYR-TV Channel 9 weather team’s coverage of the event, visit:

For more coverage about the Colleges’ involvement with the OWLeS project, visit: