Hobart and William Smith Colleges - Sanders ’17 Published in Journal of Hydrometeorology
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Sanders ’17 Published in Journal of Hydrometeorology

Matthew Sanders ’17 is the lead author of the article “Hydrometeorological Characteristics of Ice Jams on the Pemigewasset River in Central New Hampshire,” recently published by the American Meteorological Society’s Journal of Hydrometeorology. The article was also the subject of Sanders’ thesis at Plymouth State University in Applied Meteorology.

Sanders co-wrote the article with his undergraduate Honors adviser at HWS, Associate Professor of Geoscience Nicholas Metz, and his master’s thesis adviser at PSU, Associate Professor of Meteorology Jason Cordeira.

In their research, Sanders, Metz and Cordeira examine two ice jam events that occurred in the Pemigewasset River in February 2017 and January 2018. Ice jams, a common occurrence throughout the Northeast U.S., form when ice accumulates across a river channel and blocks the normal flow of water. Both incidents caused significant flooding in Plymouth and Holderness, N.H.

Sanders Matthew

Sanders stands in front of the Judd Gregg Meteorology Institute at Plymouth State University.

The incidents occurred in association with atmospheric rivers (ARs), a flowing column of water vapor in the atmosphere responsible for producing significant levels of rain and snow (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). While the February 2017 and January 2018 phenomenon had in common the ice jams and the ARs, “the antecedent hydrometeorological characteristics of the region were different,” the authors observe.

After conducting composite analyses of 20 ice jam events in New Hampshire, with data provided by the Ice Jam Database maintained by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL), the authors suggest that most ice jams on the Pemigewasset River share many common synoptic-scale antecedent meteorological characteristics. This information, Sanders, Metz and Cordeira explain, will provide researchers and communities with situational awareness for future events.

Earning a double major in chemistry and geoscience at HWS, Sanders also completed Honors for his research “Cold-Season Easterly Wind Events over the Eastern Great Lakes.” As a student, he participated in the RockSat-C program, where students research, design, build and deploy a sounding rocket payload into space from the NASA Wallops Flight Facility. He presented research at the Annual Northeastern Storm Conference three consecutive years and conducted field research in Hawaii for his “Geoscience Field Studies” course.

A UAS acquired image shows a section of the frozen Pemigewasset River.

A UAS acquired image shows a section of the frozen Pemigewasset River.

“My adventures in meteorology initially began during my undergraduate education at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, where I met Dr. Nick Metz and Dr. Neil Laird,” writes Sanders in his acknowledgements of his master’s thesis for PSU. “They established in me a solid foundation in meteorology, and it was through them that I became acquainted with Dr. Eric Hoffman, Dr. Cordeira and the Meteorology Program at Plymouth State.”

Cordeira, Metz and Laird are also collaborators through Northeast Partnership for Atmospheric and Related Sciences Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU). In July, they were awarded a $531,693 grant from the National Science Foundation to bring faculty research mentors from both HWS and PSU together with more than 55 undergraduate students from across the country during the four-year grant which funds 12 undergraduate participants and two REU program assistants each summer.

In the photograph above, Sanders presents his research at the Homecoming and Family Weekend Student Research Symposium at HWS in 2014.