May 4, 2015 to May 21, 2015
Project Location: 
Daytona Beach, FL
Project Description: 
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Convective-Boundary Research Engaging Educational Experiences (ERAU C-BREESE)

Principle Investigators: Shawn Milrad and Chris Herbster
Where: Meteorology Program, Applied Aviation Sciences Department, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University 
When: 4-21 May 2015
Facility: CSWR Doppler on Wheels (DOW)
ProposalERAU C-BREESE Proposal




Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Convective-Boundary Research Engaging Educational Experiences (ERAU C-BREESE) was an 18-day Doppler-on-Wheels (DOW) deployment from the Center for Severe Weather Research (CSWR), funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). ERAU C-BREESE ran from 4 – 21 May 2015 in central Florida; the project was organized and operated at ERAU by Principal Investigator (PI) Dr. Shawn Milrad, Dr. Chris Herbster (Associate Professor, Meteorology), and Robert Haley (Weather Systems Administrator, Meteorology). ERAU C-BREESE was offered as a “Summer A” (first summer term) 3-credit course aimed at ERAU Meteorology undergraduates. Eight ERAU students registered for the course (6 meteorology majors, 2 meteorology minors), with an additional 4-6 students auditing the course.

Figure 1: Google map of Central Florida with the pre-determined ERAU C-BREESE domain outlined by the purple box. Locations marked are: ERAU Daytona Beach campus (black star), Melbourne (MLB), Jacksonville (JAX), and Tampa Bay (TBW) WSR-88D NEXRAD radars (red stars), and the Orlando (MCO) Terminal Doppler Weather Radar (TDWR, blue star).


The leading objectives of ERAU C-BREESE were to:

  • Further the education of ERAU Meteorology undergraduates by incorporating the DOW into a summer course that provided hands-on experience with the latest radar technology and field equipment.
  • Expose ERAU Meteorology undergraduates to a real-time forecasting and real-world research environment.
  • Utilize collected DOW data to undertake a detailed modern scientific analysis of sea-breeze processes and convection in central Florida.
  • Expose local K-12 students and the general public to Doppler radar technology, ERAU Meteorology, and atmospheric science research.

Figure 1 shows the planned ERAU C-BREESE domain across central Florida. One of our  primary goals was to sample sea-breeze fronts, convergence, and convection in several locations representative of the warm-season climatology in the Florida peninsula. ERAU C-BREESE sufficiently accomplished this, with five IOPs near the Atlantic coast, two near the Gulf coast, and one in the center of the peninsula. 

Training and Outreach Activities


DOW-6 arrived at ERAU on the morning of Monday, 4 May 2015. DOW-6 remained in the ERAU parking lot (Fig. 2) for approximately three hours. Students were trained in groups of three by CSWR technician Alycia Gilliland (Fig. 2). They learned the differences between high and low frequency pulses, elevation angles, and about range-height indicator (RHI) scans. They also learned how to operate the DOW computer, properly take notes, and were introduced to the sample outreach displays. In total, 13 students (including those auditing) and three faculty/staff members were trained. The training day also provided campus-wide exposure and publicity for ERAU C-BREESE, as we had numerous curious staff and students stop to ask about the DOW.

Following the training session, ERAU C-BREESE students and faculty met to discuss the upcoming week’s weather. The discussion included a review of sea-breeze processes and convection, and a look at the suite of numerical model forecasts. A sea-breeze centric forecasting links page was established:

Figure 2: (left) DOW-6 at the ERAU campus just after it arrived on Monday, 4 May 2015, and (right) DOW course students being trained how to use and manipulate the radar and use the accompanying software.

Local School Outreach

Date and Time Outreach Location Numbers and Notes

Tuesday, 5 May 2015
8 am – 11 am

Mainland High School
Volusia County Schools
Daytona Beach, FL
98 people reached,
including several
incoming ERAU
Meteorology majors

Tuesday, 5 May 2015
2 pm – 4 pm

Galaxy Middle School
Volusia County Schools
Deltona, FL
174 people reached

Wednesday, 6 May 2015
8 am – 11 am

Belle Terre Elementary School
Flagler County Schools
Palm Coast, FL
337 people reached;
future science outreach
relationship with
ERAU established

Wednesday, 6 May 2015
11:30 am – 1:30 pm

Palm Coast High School
Flagler County Schools
Palm Coast, FL
41 people reached

Wednesday, 6 May 2015
3 pm – 4:30 pm

Rymfire Elementary School
Flagler Boys and Girls Club
Palm Coast, FL
80 people reached

Monday, 18 May 2015
8 am – 11 am

Pathways Elementary School
Volusia County Schools
Ormond Beach, FL
317 people reached;
most popular vehicle at
“Vehicle Day”

Table 1: Details of ERAU C-BREESE local school outreach visits including date and time,location, and number of people reached and notes about each visit.

One of the primary missions of ERAU C-BREESE was to perform outreach to the local community, particularly K-12 students. This served several purposes: 1) Increase awareness of Doppler radar capabilities, technology, and CSWR/NSF educational deployments, 2) expose local high, middle, and elementary school students to field research and instrumentation, and 3) increase the visibility of the ERAU Meteorology Program throughout central Florida.

Figure 3: (left) DOW-6 at Mainland High School in Daytona Beach, on Tuesday, 5 May 2015, and (right) at Belle Telle Elementary School in Palm Coast, on Wednesday, 6 May 2015 (Table 1).

Table 1 details each local school outreach stop. Most of the outreach was completed in the first two post-training days (5 – 6 May 2015), with five total school visits in that time. Over 700 people (students and staff) across two counties were reached during those five diverse visits, including 337 alone at Belle Terre Elementary School in Flagler County. The staff at Belle Terre was so impressed with ERAU Meteorology students during our visit that they invited us to participate and present at their annual Science Day event during the 2015 – 2016 school year. 

At each outreach stop, one DOW course student remained inside DOW-6 at all times, explaining the imagery on the screens to visitors. The imagery included DOW reflectivity and radial velocity from the Goshen, WY 2009 tornado during VORTEX-2, DOW reflectivity and velocity scans from Hurricanes Isaac (2012) and Ike (2008) along the Gulf Coast, and video taken during the landfall of Isaac. One or two additional DOW course students would staff the tornado pod, which was typically placed on the sidewalk outside DOW-6. Alycia Gilliland, Shawn Milrad, and Chris Herbster supervised and helped with crowd control at each outreach location, but almost all of the scientific material was explained by DOW course students.

Figure 3 shows pictures from Mainland High School in Daytona Beach and Belle Terre Elementary School in Palm Coast. In the left-hand picture, DOW course student Josh Young is explaining the mesonet tower and other aspects of DOW-6 to high school students. In the righthand picture, ERAU Meteorology major Jenny Brown can be seen in the foreground explaining the tornado pod to a group of third-graders.

Our final school outreach visit took place on 18 May 2015, near the end of the deployment. We were invited to participate in Pathways Elementary School’s (Ormond Beach) Vehicle Day, which included other vehicles such as firetrucks, police cars, municipal repair vehicles, and public buses. DOW-6 was by far the most visited vehicle at the event, and we reached more than 300 people (Table 1).

Overall, we found the school outreach visits to be extremely rewarding. A large number of local K-12 students were exposed to meteorological instrumentation and research, ERAU students gained experience in public scientific outreach while becoming more comfortable operating the DOW equipment, and each event generated substantial local exposure for the ERAU Meteorology Program. Through ERAU C-BREESE, ERAU Meteorology was also able to establish future working relationships and contacts with local community schools.

NOAA Hurricane Awareness Tour

Through a partnership with the National Weather Service in Jacksonville, FL (NWS JAX), ERAU C-BREESE was invited to participate in the NOAA Hurricane Awareness Tour stop at Northeast Regional Florida Airport in Saint Augustine, FL. This was an all-day (8 am – 5 pm) public event on Thursday, 7 May 2015. DOW-6 was located on the grassy area of the tarmac near local emergency management and media exhibit booths (Fig. 4). Two NOAA hurricane hunter aircraft (G-IV and P-3, Fig. 4) were available for school and media tours in the morning and general public tours in the afternoon. These aircraft greatly increased the attendance at the event, during which 550 people toured DOW-6. In addition, ERAU Meteorology students were able to tour the NOAA aircraft, meet with the hurricane hunters, and establish relationships that may lead to future internship and employment opportunities. 

During the event, Dr. Shawn Milrad did a full interview about ERAU C-BREESE, DOW technology, and ERAU Meteorology with Action News (CBS) Jacksonville chief meteorologist Mike Buresh, which was later aired during their half-hour hurricane special. Through this interview, we were also able to secure Action News’ participation in an ERAU C-BREESE IOP. Finally, this event helped establish a better working relationship with NWS JAX, and exposed a large public audience to ERAU C-BREESE, CSWR, and ERAU Meteorology. We consider this event one of the major and lasting successes of the deployment.

Figure 4: (left) NOAA Hurricane Hunter (P-3 and G-IV) aircraft at the Hurricane Awareness Tour at the Northeast Florida Regional Airport in Saint Augustine on Thursday, 7 May 2015 , and (right) DOW-6 at the same location, with Dr. Shawn Milrad being interviewed by Action News (CBS) Jacksonville chief meteorologist Mike Buresh.

Campus and Community Outreach

We had two additional outreach events not discussed above: 1) Open House on the ERAU campus on Friday, 8 May 2015, and 2) an appearance at the Museum of Arts and Sciences in Daytona Beach on Sunday, 17 May 2015. These two events reached a total of more than 100 people combined, including a large group of homeschooled children on 8 May. Moreover, these outreach opportunities provided ERAU C-BREESE and DOW-6 additional community exposure, as both events were heavily advertised in local print media and university web publications. As with the school outreach events, DOW course students took the lead in explaining the DOW-6 equipment and displays to visitors.

We had two comprehensive television media interviews during the deployment: 1) Action News (CBS) Jacksonville, during the Hurricane Awareness Tour and IOP7, and 2) News13 (Orlando) during IOP8. ERAU students and Dr. Shawn Milrad were interviewed by each news crew and segments about ERAU C-BREESE and DOW technology aired on each station in midlate May. Figure 5 shows DOW course student and ERAU Meteorology major Katie Lenninger being interviewed by Action News Meteorologist Garrett Bedenbaugh during IOP7. The interview included a live shot on the 5 pm local newscast of the thunderstorms DOW-6 was scanning at the time. Overall the media coverage allowed ERAU students to get experience with public speaking and exposure, and was very beneficial to the notoriety of the ERAU Meteorology Program, CSWR educational deployments, and NSF support.

Figure 5: ERAU DOW course student Katie Lenninger being interviewed by Action News (CBS) Jacksonville meteorologist Garrett Bedenbaugh on Tuesday, 19 May 2015, near Hastings, FL.

Deployment Procedures and IOPs

Planning IOPs

Each morning of a particular IOP, ERAU C-BREESE faculty, staff, and students would meet in the ERAU Meteorology Lab to examine weather data and agree on a plan for the IOP. The weather discussions were led by Dr. Shawn Milrad, but were generally informal and collaborative, with student participation very encouraged. Weather discussions would start with observational tools such as satellite imagery, surface plots, and 1200 UTC soundings. Subsequently, we usually examined high-resolution model output such as NCEP High-Resolution Rapid Refresh (HRRR) and NWS Melbourne’s 2 km WRF model. When viewing forecast model output, we primarily focused on mass fields and forcing mechanisms (sea-breeze onset, wind shifts, convergence, instability, vertical wind shear, etc.), and not model forecast radar reflectivity. We ended the forecast discussion with a look at the general weather patterns for potential upcoming IOPs (mostly using global numerical weather prediction models), so that students were prepared for the days to come. 

The final step of each morning meeting was to determine a deployment location for that day’s IOP. This was not an easy task, as much of central Florida is lined with tall trees, lakes, and rivers. Generally scanning toward the coast (e.g., Atlantic Ocean, Tampa Bay) was not a problem, but choosing acceptable locations for scans in other directions was often challenging. Before departing ERAU, faculty and students scoured Google Maps street and terrain view for possible scanning locations. Some of this work had been done prior to the arrival of DOW-6 and some was weather-dependent. In general, the locations we selected ended up being suitable for
360° scans at all elevation angles. 

During each IOP, students had to take comprehensive notes about what they were scanning, how they were scanning it, and how each meteorological phenomenon was evolving over time. For these purposes we created student activity worksheets that asked the following questions:

  • How often is the DOW taking a horizontal scan? Explain the decision-making process.
  • Describe the phenomena you are scanning. Include approximate location (direction and distance) and time information.
  • What are the spatial dimensions (i.e., width) of the phenomena you are scanning?
  • What is the maximum intensity of the reflectivity?
  • What is the radial velocity?
    • Do you see any radial velocity couplets? If so, describe their intensity and location.
    • Do you see a microburst or downburst signature? If so, describe their intensity and location.
  • How has the phenomena you are scanning changed over time? Be as descriptive as possible.
  • How do the radar scans compare to what you are seeing visually. Be as descriptive as possible.

These worksheets were collected at the end of each IOP and used by both Alicia Gilliland and ERAU faculty to assess student performance and add to the IOP logs. They were extremely useful in the post-deployment research portion of the DOW course when students started to analyze DOW data.

Specific IOPs

Table 2 describes each of the eight IOPs, including locations, times, and observed phenomena. The IOP locations are shown on a map of central Florida in Fig. 6. In general, there were 2-4 DOW course students inside of DOW-6 during each IOP. Not all DOW course students participated in each IOP, and the students were inside DOW-6 on a rotating basis. Overall, each DOW course student participated in at least half of the IOPs, with four students participating in at least 75% of the deployments. When there were more students on an IOP than could fit in the DOW at one time, students who were not in the DOW would keep an eye on surface observations, NEXRAD radar and satellite imagery, primarily using smartphones. Dr. Shawn Milrad was present for all eight IOPs, while either Dr. Chris Herbster or Robert Haley
were always present to assist.

For IOP1 (Table 1), in an effort to ease students into taking DOW observations, we chose a day where convection was unlikely, but a sea-breeze front was expected. We chose to deploy at the Titusville, FL marina on the Indian River (Fig. 6), which presented good views for scanning. Students were able to identify and record the sea-breeze front moving inland throughout the afternoon. This experience allowed students to get comfortable with operating DOW-6 and properly take the required amount of notes, which made subsequent convective IOPs (IOP2 –IOP8) run much more smoothly.

Figure 6: Map of IOP locations during ERAU C-BREESE, as detailed in Table 1.

>> Read the complete ERAU C-BREESE Final Report