Chapter News
February 2002


The October meeting of the Central North Carolina AMS chapter was held on Thursday, October 18, 2001, at the North Carolina Supercomputing Center in RTP. Vice chair Emily Byrd, a meteorologist at WNCN-TV in Raleigh, introduced the speakers for the evening, three teachers from public schools in North Carolina.

First to speak was Pam Croaker, a kindergarten teacher from Glendale-Kenly Elementary School in Johnston County. She described the nine-week weather curriculum taught to her class. The first lesson encourages the children to talk about their experiences with weather and what it means to them. This leads to lessons allowing the children to observe weather with the senses of sight, sound, smell, and taste.

Pam Croaker of Glendale-Kenly Elementary Schools in Johnston County displaying an example of the weather station constructed by her kindergarten students for their study of weather.

The third goal of the program is to have the children collect basic weather data on clouds, precipitation, and wind. Each child has their own "weather station" including a flag to judge wind speed using categories of "none", "some", and "strong". Each child also constructs a basic thermometer and measures the temperature each day, recording the data on a graph. A simple rain gauge is also used to measure rainfall, which is also recorded on a chart.

The students are encouraged to relate weather to their world, as they know it. For example, relating temperature to a thermometer they might see at the bank, on a thermostat in the house, in the kitchen, or at a doctor's office. For another project, they tested different types of fabric to see which best repel water. Also, they examined and measured the size of a puddle and tried to understand why it evaporated.

The second teacher who spoke was Barbara Trembly, a 5th grade teacher in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school district. She noted that after weather is taught in kindergarten, it is taught again in the 2nd and 5th grades. In the 5th grade, weather is taught as part of the energy and earth environment curriculum. The driving question behind the unit with weather is "Ask why and wonder how". Topics covered involve airmasses, density, the role of the heating of the earth’s surface, highs and lows, convection currents and clouds.

Concepts studied include cloud types, wind, fronts, and storms. Projects applying these lessons involve keeping records from a weather station at the school, keeping a cloud journal to see if the students can forecast weather by using the clouds, tracking hurricanes, and observing broadcast meteorologists.

The final speaker for the evening was Lysa Kosak. Lysa teaches high school science in Pitt County. In the new high school science curriculum, meteorology is taught in the 9th grade earth science course. Students use the internet to download weather maps showing temperature, pressure, wind, relative humidity, dewpoint, and precipitation. Students archive data using storm tracking, and analyze maps with isobars and isotherms. An effort is also made to extend lessons in meteorology outside the science classroom and into other courses. Lysa asked chapter members if they could provide tools to help teachers better integrate meteorology into other courses, or to possibly have a point of contact for science teachers.

Each of the teachers felt somewhat hindered in their teaching of science, including meteorology, by the testing standards imposed by the State of North Carolina for students of all ages. These educators felt significant pressure to instruct students in math and English, sometimes at the expense of other subjects, including the sciences. The teachers asked those in the chapter to call for action by public officials to increase the emphasis on science teaching in the classroom.

---Michael J. Brennan.


The November 2001 meeting of the Denver-Boulder Chapter was held on November 19 at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Mesa Lab in Boulder, CO. Dr. Susan Solomon gave a presentation to 75 attendees on her recently published book, The Coldest March, which is about Captain Robert Falcon Scott's fatal Antarctic expedition. The Coldest March is available through Yale University Press.

Dr. Solomon is a senior scientist at the Aeronomy Laboratory of NOAA in Boulder. She is a world leader in ozone depletion research who has been honored with the U.S. National Medal of Science, the nation's highest science award, for "key insights in explaining the cause of the Antarctic ozone hole." She has also received the highest honor of the American Meteorological Society, the Carl-Gustaf Rossby Medal. Dr. Solomon served as leader of the National Ozone Expedition at McMurdo Station, Antarctica, in 1986 and 1987, where she made key measurements that helped explain the reason for the ozone hole. She is also featured in the Smithsonian Institution's Museum of American History "Science in American Life" exhibit.

Dr. Solomon has made three trips to Antarctica to study its ozone layer. As she lived and worked in one of the most beautiful and threatening environments on the planet, she wondered whether modern science might shed light on Captain Robert Falcon Scott's fatal trek. Captain Scott was an Englishman who strove to be first at the South Pole but was narrowly beaten to the prize and perished on his way home. Dr. Solomon, sleuthing through the diaries and letters of the men of the Scott expedition, and comparing the meteorological information they recorded with data collected in recent years, has found much to challenge the legend of Captain Scott as a bungler doomed to failure.

By comparing temperature data collected painfully and meticulously by Scott with that collected by today's automatic weather stations, Dr. Solomon showed that an extremely rare spell of dramatic cold was the deciding factor in Scott's death. Challenging the assumption that Scott was fatally ignorant of Antarctic weather, she finds that he had an admirable grasp of meteorology and was adequately prepared for normal Antarctic conditions. Dr. Solomon's investigation of the weather conditions the men faced and of what kind of people they were shed new light on the mystery of Scott's final days.---Andrea Adams.


The 15 November 2001 meeting of the Washington DC Chapter of the American Meteorological Society (AMS) was held at the campus of the University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland. Dr. Eugenia Kalnay, Chair of the University of Maryland's Department of Meteorology, hosted the meeting. The meteorology department graciously provided a free light meal to DC AMS Chapter members.

After chapter members and guests enjoyed pizza and sodas, Dr. Ross Dickerson took members and students present on a tour the Department of Meteorology's facilities. The tour was followed by presentations on our meeting topic, "Educational Opportunities in the Atmospheric Sciences".

Vice Chair Ken Carey opened the meeting by providing details to chapter meeting topics and outreach initiatives. He described how this meeting came to fruition after a concerted chapter effort to reconnect chapter members with an important segment of the society -- educators and students. Ken then outlined the wide variety of upcoming meeting topics. Guest and topics will include the power and transportation industries, Vice Admiral Paul Gaffney's guest appearance in January, weather derivatives discussion in February, career opportunities panel in March, focus on severe weather forecasting and storm spotting and chasing in April, Washington media weather broadcasters in May, and our finale, a banquet in June honoring all science fair winners, with Congressman Dennis Moore on tap to speak. We also will be heavily involved with regional and local science, engineering, and technological fairs, including three new ones at the University of Maryland, Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland, and the Virginia Junior Academy of Sciences fair in Hampton, Virginia. We also are exploring several different outreach efforts, including mentoring of middle and senior high school science students.

Our guest speakers and educators were featured next. The presenters were Dr. Kalnay (University of Maryland), Dr. Vernon Morris (Howard University), Ms Elizabeth Mills (affiliated with the AMS's Education Program), and Jayne Koester [a Maryland AMS Atmospheric Education Resource Agent (AERA)].

Back row:
Ken Carey, Susan Hurstcalderone (Science Teacher), Elizabeth Mills (AMS, Education Programs), Ella Jay Parfitt (MD Association of Science Teachers), DR Jeff Stehr (UMD), John E. Jones (Deputy Assistant Administrator for NWS)

Front row:
Mike Mogil (CCM, "How the Weather Work"), Jayne Koester (MD AERA), DR Vern Morris (Howard University)

Dr. Kalnay talked a bit about the Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center (ESSIC) at the University of Maryland. It was established by a collaborative agreement between the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA's) Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) and the University to carry out preeminent research and teaching programs in Earth System Science. The research goal of ESSIC is to expand scientific knowledge of Earth, including its land surface, atmosphere and oceans, particularly by using satellite-based remote sensing data. DR Kalnay finished her presentation by giving a few the Department of Meteorology's students an opportunity to talk about their research. The web site for the ESSIC is

The next presenter, Dr. Vern Morris of Howard University, told the group that Howard University does not have a single Meteorology Department. Since 1996 the University has developed a cadre of faculty and graduate students from the Physics, Chemistry, and other physical and geophysical departments, to do research in such areas as atmospheric modeling, chemistry, and turbulence. There are currently 3 full time faculty, 9 adjunct faculty from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NOAA/NCEP), and 14 graduate students in the cadre. DR Morris stated that in the future the University would like to both hire 2 more full time faculty members and open up the cadre to undergraduate students. With Outreach Funds they received from NOAA, Howard University is working on sponsoring a "Weather Camp." The concept is to provide a focused experience in the atmospheric sciences for high school students. The mission of the Weather Camp is to foster young people to go in to atmospheric training and related fields, and to encourage them to work for NOAA. The Camp would sponsor about 10 students each summer, with housing possibly provided by the University of Maryland. The students would work with NOAA meteorologists and scientists, as well as the faculty of local Universities.

Ms Elizabeth Mills of the AMS Education Program provided a detailed overview of AMS' educational initiatives. She stated that the AMS goal is that all students become scientifically literate, enabling them to lead satisfying and productive lives as contributing members of a democratic society. To help attain this goal, the AMS provides up-to-date teacher training, produces instructional resource materials, and conducts activities to make the information highway an avenue for learning. The AMS promotes atmospheric and oceanic educational activity by:

  1. actively encouraging scientists, science educators, and teachers to work together,
  2. providing training for K-12 teachers, and produces instructional resource materials,
  3. preparing teachers to be peer trainers,
  4. empowering teachers as change agents in local, state, and national curriculum reform, and
  5. facilitating AMS Educational Partnerships
Ms Mills went on to say that the AMS educational initiatives are based on partnerships -- governmental, academic, and private sector partners work together in teacher training and educational materials development. Teachers and scientists act as colleagues, beginning in workshops held at the National Weather Service Training Center and at the US Naval Academy. Project ATMOSPHERE, the DataStreme Project, the Maury Project, and the Water in the Earth System Project are the current major pre-college educational initiatives of the AMS. Additionally, an introductory college course, Online Weather Studies, based on the use of current meteorological data, has been implemented nationwide. Project ATMOSPHERE promotes studies in the atmospheric sciences at elementary and secondary . The DataStreme Project is a major precollege teacher enhancement initiative. Its main goal is the training of resource teachers who will promote the teaching of weather across the K-12 curriculum in their home school districts. The Maury Project is a pre-college teacher enhancement program that focuses on the physical foundations of oceanography. Water in the Earth System Online is a distance-learning course that incorporates inquiry-based instructional strategies and a holistic concept of Earth from oceanic, atmospheric and terrestrial water and problem-focused perspectives. Online Weather Studies is an innovative, 12-to-15-week introductory college-level, online distance-learning course on the fundamentals of atmospheric science. Current weather data are delivered via Internet, coordinated with learning activities keyed to the day's weather. The AMS, with support from the NSF, has designed and services this course. For further information see the following web sites:

The final presenter for the evening was Jayne Koester, a local AERA. She stated that over 100 teachers have received training and instructional resources through this AMS program. The AMS national network of AERAs now has representation in most states. AERAs act as regional points of contact for teachers who are seeking information on atmospheric science topics; act as liaison among teachers, schools, teachers' organizations, and the atmospheric sciences and related professional communities; represent the Society, as appropriate, at teacher workshops, professional meetings, and educational conferences; serve, from time to time, on advisory panels for the Society's precollege educational initiatives; work with Society staff and members to develop and implement instructional resource materials. AERAs are, or have been, master precollege teachers, and they have been carefully chosen for AERA participation. Selection is based on: their demonstrated leadership in teaching; curriculum development, and in-service training of fellow teachers; their special training and interest in the atmospheric environment. Ms Koester advised members to visit for more information on the AERA Program. She also mentioned that there is going to be a Natural Hazards Conference for Teachers and that people could contact her for more information. Ken Carey indicated the DC AMS chapter would actively support and be involved with the great outreach opportunity.---Lauraileen O'Connor.


The first meeting of the year was a special event. The officers planned a panel discussion on the latest meteorological event to impact the Houston area, Tropical Storm Allison. The invited panelists included: Dave Schwertz, Hydrologist at the Houston/Galveston National Weather Service Forecast Office, Randy Burow, Safety Professional and Team Leader for Emergency Response at Shell Oil Refinery at Deer Park-Ship Channel, Frank Gutierrez, Operations Manager at Harris County Office of Emergency Management, Mike Isocovitz, Fox26 Meteorologist, and David Tillman, Channel 13 Meteorologist.

Dave Schwertz focused on the hydrological impact of Tropical Storm Allison. This included a brief rundown of the track of the storm as it moved back and forth across southeast Texas from June 5-9, 2001.

The event begain with minor to moderate flooding as it moved onshore and north across the Houston area. Minor flooding also occured the next day when the storm was to the north of the metropolitan area. When the storm drifted southward, additional minor to moderate flooding resulted from another 3-5 inches of rain over southwest Harris County.

Friday June 8th and the early morning of Saturday June 9th would prove to be the worst of the event. The storm moved north and then south again on Friday, affecting mostly eastern Montgomery and northern Harris Counties. More than 10 inches of rain was reported along the Caney Creek watershed that evening. Nine and a half inches fell in a period of less than 6 hours. By the early morning hours on Saturday, the most intense rainfall was occuring over the already saturated areas of Harris County. At sunrise, all but the extreme eastern and western portions of Harris County were flooded. An average of 9.72 inches fell over the county in the 48 hour period ending on the evening of June 9. Radar estimates from the NWS (National Weather Service) were very close, 9.15 inches. The volume of water we are talking about is 608 billion cubic feet or about 81 billion gallons. To a Houstonian, this is like completely filling up the Astrodome more than 15,000 times.

The main impacts were on downtown Houston, the Texas Medical Center, in the Arts District and two major waterways. Downtown was completely shutdown for over 12 hours due to the flooding of all major roadways and both major airports. In the Medical Center, several hospitals were completely shutdown with a severe loss of important research data. Flooding in the Arts District caused a large amount of financial loss. Buffalo Bayou, a major waterway through Houston, flooded many businesses including the lobby of KHOU Channel 11. Farther to the south, Clear Creek had seen the worst flooding since Hurricane Chantal in 1989.

Mr. Schwertz concluded by taking a look at each of the major watersheds that were affected by the storm. Greens Bayou's watershed had an average of 15.75 inches of rainfall in its watershed. For the area south of 59, the average was 25.5 inches. The bayou rose above its banks in a period less than 3 hours. Hunting Bayou's watershed averaged 14.16 inches of rain with the most intense rainfall also producing a quick rise in the water level over a few short hours. The Clear Creek watershed saw an average of 17.1 inches. The most intense rainfall allowed the water level to rise from 3 to 15 feet in about 3-4 hours. The areas along Buffalo Bayou, south of the Barker and Addicks Resevoir, averaged 7.82 inches with significant flooding occuring near its intersection with Shepard Avenue. Finally, the White Oak watershed recieved an average of 11.12 inches of rain with the most significant flooding occuring near its intersection with Heights Boulevard.

This one event broke over 40 percent of the records at the 53 USGS (U.S. Geological Survey) rain gauges in the San Jancinto River Basin (includes 13 primary watersheds in Houston/Harris County). Twenty two new records were created, with 7 near records.

Randy Burow was on hand to discuss the impact of Tropical Storm Allison on one of Houston's major industries. One of the main concerns for Shell along the Ship Channel were various oil storage tanks situated along the waterway. The open floater design can allow rain water to collect on the roof. When the weight of the collected water is too much for the system's design, leaks can occur. Shell found three incidents of leaks but all were contained by the protective dikes around the storage tanks. In addition to the tanks, Shell is responsible for making sure all storm water leaving their facilities is treated. Allison put the treating facilities to the test. With so much rainfall over a short period of time, it is expected that there was no way for any current treatment program to handle this amount of water. Overall, Shell estimates damage costs to range from $500,000 to $1,000,000 due to flooded equipment and halted operations.

Randy also discussed the concern of being prepared. Shell, like many companies along the Gulf coast, has contingency plans for emergencies like tropical storms. Due to the lengthy process of completing a shut-down (sometimes 36-72 hours) these plans often begin in the spring with tie downs, review of procedures and a hurricane drill. Allison was a surprise to many since Randy's Emergency Response team was in the process of planning a drill for the next day (Tuesday). In addition, no one was ready for the storm to back track and revisit the area again on Friday and Saturday.

Tropical Storm Allison's rains affected such a large area of Southeast Texas and that is of major concern to companies like Shell for future emergency planning. Many employees, including members of the emergency response team, were not able to get in or out of the facility.

The scale of the storm's affects was also a factor in clean up. Shell's location along the Ship Channel allowed them to help with clean up. Their equipment was used to collect some of the trash that the flood waters had picked up and pushed into the waterways. This was just a small part of the overall federalized clean up plan.

Frank Gutierrez described the events as they occured from the Harris County Office of Emergency Management. During the Tropical Storm Allison event, the OEM (Office of Emergecy Management) recieved over 1 and 1/2 million hits on their website to view live rainfall data from the rain gauges they have across Harris County. It was good that people knew where to go to find such information but the amount of people slowed the servers. As a result, the OEM will be getting new servers for the general public and retain the current servers, reserving them for media and emergency management personnel.

On a large scale, there were many things to focus on during this event for OEM. After Allison, there were questions as to why the freeways were not closed. The Houston Police Department had two concerns, could they get to and away from the affected areas and the safety of personnel in transit to and stationed near flooded waters. Also, first responders were unable to respond to many incidents. There were stations that were surrounded by water or there was high water in between the station and the incident. There was some help from volunteer departments from around the region.

Another large problem was the number of people that came out after the flooding, just to see what had happened. In many cases, people gathered along what were now the banks of flooded highways to see the flooded tractor-trailors. Should anything have occured, would emergency response been available?

The OEM and County Government were well prepared at their location at Houston Transtar. Most of the computer equipment is already located on the third floor. This allowed the agencies to operate smoothly through out the the weeks of flooding and clean up.

On the Monday following the event, the OEM and various other relief agencies had 51 shelters open for nearly 30,000 people.

Damage Estimates*
Homes: 44,845
Estimated Loss: $1,760,000,000
Businesses: 1,656
Estimated Loss: $1,080,000
Other Structural Losses (Medical Center, Water Districts, Colleges/Universities, School districts): $2,040,000
Total Estimated Damage: $4,880,000,000
Total Confirmed Fatalities: 22
*as of July 5, 2001
Mr. Isocovitz offered his opinion on relating information to the pulic through the sequence of the events in early June. On Friday and Saturday, the 1st and 2nd of June, Mr. Isocovitz mentioned the thunderstorms in the western Gulf of Mexico to his viewers based on the information from the National Hurricane Center (NHC). The NHC's statements discussed an upper-level feature that was causing the convection. The first in depth message to his viewers came on Sunday evening where he noted that the forecast models were moving the system northward toward Louisiana. By midday Monday, the system was encountering strong westerly shear and wasn't in a very favorable area for development. Twenty-four hours later on Tuesday, Mike reported that a NHC plane was scheduled to investigate the area later that day despite its close proximity to land. All the information that was being distributed by the NHC was in Mike's opinion not a definate situation of development. He continued to carefully weigh what impact his broadcasts would have on the public. Television meteorologists are suppose to inform their viewers, not scare them.

By the time Allison formed and criss-crossed over Houston, their were even more things to consider. The main thing was other station employees couldn't make it to work. Like Mike, many people were stuck at the station because the flooding restricted their co-workers from safely travelling to work to provide some relief.

The events of Allison proved a couple of things. First of all, there can always be improvement in the communications between the National Hurricane Center or the local National Weather Service Forecast Office and television meteorologists. Second, there is always more than one "worse case scenario." Allison's classification as a tropical storm didn't limit the amount of destruction the storm caused.

David Tillman was a last minute addition to the panel. He showed a portion of a video entitled "Flood of a Lifetime," produced by Channel 13. The video included excerpts of the news as it occured during the event and stories from the people who were working through the event at the station.

The discussion was followed by a question and answer session for the attendees.

In October, Dr. Marc Levitan, Director of the LSU Hurricane Center, was the guest of the Houston chapter. He spoke of the effects a major hurricane would have on a city like New Orleans. He discussed what could happen, why the city is so vulnerable and what could be done to save the city. As a note of reference, there is a related article in the October issue of Scientific American.

If a major hurricane, category 3 or higher on the Saffir-Simpson scale, were to make landfall anywhere along the southeast coast of Louisiana the city could see complete flooding of their current levee system. At this time, the Mississippi River levees reach 25 feet above sea level and the hurricane levee system is at 15 feet. All protecting a city that is below sea level.

The city of New Orleans had 5 major evacuation routes. All of which have had problems due to flooding and high winds. There are over 1.3 million people that need to be moved to safer locations and in a best case scenario, it is estimated that only 60-65% would be successfully evacuated. That would leave nearly 250,000 people in the city and in danger. The latest evacuation with Hurricane Georges in 1998 had an evacuation success rate of close to 60%.

One of the worst case scenarios would bring a hurricane in a southwest to northeast direction across this city. This would cause flooding from all directions as the winds first push water in from the Gulf of Mexico and then into Lake Ponchatrain. The Mississippi River levee would be the highest and driest point left in the area. Eventually, the surrounding levees make the New Orleans metro area into a "bowl" that will fill quickly without allowing waters to recede easily. Should the city flood due to a major hurricane, the current city flood pumps would also be underwater and unable to drain the area.

Many people know that New Orleans is below sea level. In fact, the city and all its protective levees are still sinking. Part of this is due to the building of canals and levees that have stopped the natural flooding that occurs along the Mississippi River. Natural flooding from the river system actually deposits more sediment into the area. In addition, many scientists have noted a rise in sea level that results in direct loss of coastal land. Finally, the increased activity of shipping has caused more re-routing of the area's natural waterflows. All of this has also allowed for increased saltwater intrusion and the dying off of marshlands.

In additions to basic scientific research and education, the LSU Hurricane Center's mission includes real-time support to the Louisiana Office of Emergency Preparedness, conductin training with state, providing research expertise and aiding in the development of better hurricane evacuation plans. The Center has pulled together more than the scientific aspects of hurricane damage but also the effects it will have on the community. This includes working with the Red Cross and emergency preparedness to find suitable shelters, working with the public health community to ensure safe conditions for the population and supporting research in hurricane engineering.

With funding from the National Science Foundation, the Hurricane Center is developing the new field of hurricane engineering. LSU is already offering courses on the subject, and hopes to implement a minor in the near future. Hurricane engineering looks at all aspects of hurricanes, not just the meteorology but also the impact the storm will have on the land, people and structures it crosses.

Louisiana is researching several ideas to improve New Orleans chances in surviving a major hurricane. Physically, an enhanced levee system could be created to provide additional protection; there are investigations into storm surge barriers, similar to those in northern Europe; the institution of CARA, a coastal restoration program would help rebuild the coast; the extension of I-49 from Lafayette into New Orleans would provide an additional evacuation route should it be completed; the creation of a community haven, a specified area of the city that is protected from flooding; and as the SuperDome ages, the replacement dome could be built to have better capability for use during emergency situations.---Dorri Breher.


General Business Meeting: November 15, 2001

Start: 7:30 pm

Ed Argenta talks about the Sixth Person Award. He said the executive board nominated three people to be this month's Sixth Person Award. They nominated Heather Vieira, Vicky Cooksey and Amy Lawton. The club voted Amy Lawton as the Sixth Person Award.

End: 8:05 pm.---Cegeon J. Chan.


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