Grad students earn CNN air time, launch balloon in Colorado

1/18/2007 8:00:00 AM

The intersection between the beauty of science and the beauty of launching a balloon was too much for a group of University of Nevada and Desert Research Institute (DRI) students to pass up.

The five graduate students, part of the cooperative degree program in atmospheric sciences between the two Nevada institutions, were at DRI's Storm Peak Laboratory, located near Steamboat Springs, Colo., when a CNN film crew visited the site for a story on the impact of global warming on snow. The story, which included an interview with Gannet Hallar, director of Storm Peak, is slated to air on CNN at 6 a.m. through 9 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 19.

Footage of Nevada's students launching their weather balloon as part of a National Science Foundation (NSF) study of the potential reduction in snowfall caused by airborne particulate interactions with winter cloud and snow growth processes, was also shown.

The students were visiting the 10,500-foot laboratory, set atop Mount Werner, as part of their ATMS 792 Mountain Meteorology course taught by teams of faculty from the University and DRI.

According to associate research professor Melanie Wetzel, who teaches the course along with Hallar, students couldn't ask for a better hands-on experience.

"Students in the course benefit from their development of individual research projects and their involvement in large research initiatives that include use of atmospheric radar and acoustic sounding technologies along with in-cloud microphysical measurements," she said.

The principal investigators on the NSF project are Randolph Borys and Douglas Lowenthal of the Desert Research Institute's Division of Atmospheric Sciences. The Storm Peak lab was developed as a DRI mountain meteorology research site in the early 1990s by Borys.

Although students visit the lab for two weeks as part of their graduate-level course, the hope is to add undergraduate level research opportunities at the facility as well, said Hallar. "We're trying to develop an undergraduate atmospheric science course," Hallar said. "The laboratory is ideal for teaching earth science at every level."


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