Chapter News
July 2002


“Dr. Lightning Strikes Again”

It happens in two-millionths of a second, yet so much can be learned from one lightning strike…if it is strategically placed.

The North Florida Weather Association traveled to a secluded 100 acre section of Camp Blanding near Starke, Florida home to the University of Florida’s International Center for Lightning Research and Testing (ICLRT). The only facility of its kind in North America, the ICLRT is home to the research of Dr. Martin Uman, Professor and Chairman of UF’s Electrical and Computer Engineering Department in Gainesville, Florida.

ICLRT Facility, Starke, Florida Dr. Martin Uman explains the rocket launches from 12 tubes

Each summer at the ICLRT, an average of 80 rockets, trailing Kevlar covered copper wire, are sent into the atmosphere with the hope of triggering a lightning strike. “We have to convince the cloud it wants to connect,” says Dr. Uman. Nearly 60% of the time, it does. Winters in Dr. Uman’s Gainesville office are spent pouring over the data.

Here in “Lightning Alley”, research is being done to find more on the physics of lightning, as well as test its behavior and effects on power lines, airport runway lighting systems, and homes. Funding for the projects comes from Florida Power and Light, the Federal Aviation Administration, and the National Science Foundation. The site has even been used to test the possibility of lightning strike detonations of highly explosive materials. The ICLRT is also home of the world record 17-foot fulgurite, a glassy root-like tube formed when a lightning stoke terminates in dry, sandy soil.[i]

Tops of launch tubes where lightning has struck Strike and 5 return strokes at ICLRT

When asked about his most significant findings, Dr. Uman proudly remembers his research in the early and mid 1970s, which led to the National Lightning Detection Network, developed at the ICLRT with the help of researchers from the University of Arizona.

In the next few months, Dr. Uman will be published in the BAMS with an article on the consistency of surge protection devices in homes.

[i] Definition from, Glossary of Meteorology, American Meteorological Society, Sixth Printing,1995.

---Betsy Kling


Seth Binau, of NOAA, gave a presentation on the new Weather Event Simulator (WES) recently installed at WFO MPX and other NWS Field Offices around the country. The WES is a Linux based PC which has the ability to play back archived cases of weather data in Displaced Real Time (DRT). The DRT function allows NWS forecasters to emulate real-time warning environments, with the ability to work events not just locally, but also events from around the country. This broadens the training scope of all NWS forecasters, exposing them to rare events, so they may be better prepared when dangerous and extreme weather events hit close to home. Either via one on one training, or training on their own, the ability to pause simulations and discuss radar signatures or storm evolution allows a level of training never experienced by NWS forecasters.

Seth demonstrated this technology by showing the archived case from April 10, 2001, which was a large severe weather and tornado outbreak in southern and central Iowa. Binau showed the capabilities of the playback system, while discussing the case and showing some of the more interesting and subtle structures which made this case so valuable for training. The AMS group saw firsthand how NWS forecasters use AWIPS and its capabilities in a warning environment.---Joan C. Haley.


Banquet, June 2002

We were honored to have Dr. Arlene Laing, assistant professor of meteorology at the University of South Florida as the speaker for our annual banquet. The banquet was held at the Tampa Yacht and Country Club. The topic was her role in the Convection and Moisture Experiment 4 (CAMEX 4). She presented a journal of her experiences (see below link) in the summer of 2001. She summarized one of the highlights of the experiment as: The ER-2 pilot nailed a drop through the eye of Hurricane Erin, generating the first ever thermodynamic profile of the eye of a hurricane from the stratosphere. His comment on the historic drop, "A triumph of coordination, technology, and communication". This was on September 10, 2001. The CAMEX participants were dedicating their life to the betterment of humanity through increased understanding of our world. Ironically, the next day the world witnessed the total opposite as men hijacked the use of coordination, technology and communication for their evil purposes.

Banquet speaker: Dr. Arlene Laing and President Andy Johnson. Group shot at Tampa Yacht and Country Club.

We recognized the achievements of our members with a record 4 (yes, 4) scholarships awarded this year. Amanda Ramella won the Bert Wappler Memorial Scholarhip of $1500.00. For the first year, we honored our long time member Dr. Dewey Stowers, retired Professor of Geography at the University of South Florida. He has contributed greatly to our chapter and also to many students studying meteorology. A merit scholarship program has been established to honor Dr. Stowers in perpetuity. He consented to presenting the awards of merit himself. Three students were recipients of the award, Chris Woodsen, Carolyn Cheatham and David Knops. Each student received a check for $400.00.

Dr. Dewey Stower's Merit Scholarship.
Left to right: Carolyn Cheatham, Chris Woodsen, David Knops, Dr. Dewey Stowers.
Recipient Amanda Ramella and President Andy Johnson

Officer for the 2002-2003 year were announced, also. The president is Andy Johnson, the vice-president is Charlie Paxton, the secretary is Laura Monk, the treasurer is Nancy Knight and the Web Administrator is Mark Mantz.

The following is the abstract provided by Dr. Laing concerning her presentation at the banquet.---Andy Johnson.

by Arlene Laing, Ph.D.

to the West Central Florida Chapter of the AMS

During August and September 2001, the 4th Convection and Moisture Experiment (CAMEX-4) was conducted by scientists from NASA, several universities and research institutions. As a member of the Dropsonde team, Dr. Arlene Laing, University of South Florida, was in an opportune position to offer a deeper insight into field observations of hurricanes. She described the dropsonde operations (including a movie of the dropsonde journey from aircraft through the eye of a hurricane), how the dropsonde measurements compared with radiosondes, and its impact on hurricane science. Dropsonde history was made with the first drop through the eye of Hurricane Erin from the stratosphere and the first real-time transmission of dropsonde data for assimilation into prediction models.

In addition, Dr. Laing presented brief overviews of the storms observed during CAMEX including photos and video clips from inside the storm. Among the most exciting phenomenon captured on video was not a hurricane but a tornado that formed close to the CAMEX base in Jacksonville.

USF meteorology students were able to share those experiences virtually through the Internet. Armed with a digital camera and laptop, the instructor posted daily bulletins to the project website,, which served as the stimulus for class discussions and laboratory exercises. Students learned about the science objectives and instruments operations from the scientists on their "adopted" instrument team to whom they submitted questions by email. Students were able to relate the observation, research, and theoretical components of hurricane science to their immediate environment in Florida.

Arlene Laing, Ph.D.
Dept. of Geography, U of S. Florida
4202 E. Fowler Ave, SOC 107
Tampa, FL 33620
Tel: (813)-974-4939
Fax: (813)-974-4808

The following is the daily log kept by Dr. Laing during the CAMEX-4 experiment.

Daily Bulletins: Linking CAMEX-4 with USF students


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