TAMU DOW Lessons Learned

Instructor Point of View

Overall, having the DOW made substantial positive impact on all of the programs it touched. Access to and control of a mobile radar was a tremendous boon to the program. As an instructor, the DOW was crucial in conveying concepts related to radar site selection, scan strategy, and data interpretation for a variety of applications. The flexibility of a mobile, relatively high-resolution X-band radar was essential to the success of our summer programs, especially considering the lack of “interesting” weather during our deployments.

 

Student Point of View

Student comments on the presence of the DOW were uniformly positive across the programs. Examples:

“The field experiments in Galveston with the weather balloons, DOW radar, and SoDAR was very beneficial.”

“I can say that I was not able to take the radar course here at _____ because of scheduling conflicts, so it acted as a supplement for that class for me. Otherwise, I would have gone through my undergrad career without really having any experience with radar.

“The field research experiences were also very educational, since I have not had the opportunity to participate in fieldwork in the past.”

“Although we didn't see much [referring to the field experience lack of convection], looking at the small convective rolls under reflectivity and velocity, going through the struggle of finding a suitable location for the DOW, or even struggling to get interesting weather was a good scientific experience.”

Five students of the 12-member YAP Camp mentioned the DOW as one of the most positive aspects of the class.

 

Lessons Learned

Having a DOW coming off of a major field experiment adds risk in terms of reliability for the educational deployment, but the timing of our programs and PECAN demanded this arrangement. It was still worthwhile even with the problems we encountered towards the end of the deployment, and this would not keep us from asking for an asset in the future even if the situation was the same. The DOW is “Big Science” and for our programs will always make a big impact even with limited operation.

One factor that limits the educational deployment utility is the relative lack of ability to recall, display, and perform limited processing on recently collected data sets in near-real time during the deployment. This capability, for example, is relatively easy in the IRIS-based software that many radar systems have available. In a true field experiment setting this may not be a large problem, as most data is just collected and analyzed later. In an educational deployment, especially a mini-field campaign, many of the lessons need to be learned during the experience itself. It is in this usage where a very user-friendly recently-collected data display and processing native to the DOW would be very beneficial.

Another challenged faced during our deployments was limited knowledge by the TAMU instructors on ideal scan strategies specific to the DOW for clear-air mode. While the DOW has been used in previous research applications to detect clear air signals with great success, there was some difficulty in reproducing this particular application in the field. While experimentation with scan strategies was an educational experience (both for the instructors and the students), in future educational deployments it would be helpful from a data collection standpoint, if a resource were available to provide specific scan strategies/configurations specific to the DOW hardware for varying atmospheric conditions/applications.

Formatting of DOW portable hard drives in a PC and Mac-readable format would be helpful for retrieving data prior to the DOW departing.

A final lesson-learned is that we probably missed opportunities for PUBLIC outreach in both College Station and Galveston. The unusually hot and quiescent weather was not optimal for such activities, but we will plan better in our next educational deployment for these chances to showcase federal investments in science to the taxpaying public, as well as foster STEM interest among young learners.