White Squirrel Weather named top 100 meteorology twitter accounts

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Emily DeLetter

The WKU student-run White Squirrel Weather was recently included in AtmoLife’s top 100 meteorology Twitter accounts.

AtmoLife, a “meteorology site for meteorology people,” released an unranked list that named WKU as one of three universities included. Pennsylvania State University and North Carolina State University were also named in the list.

White Squirrel Weather launched in August 2017 and provides current weather conditions taken from six White Squirrel stations and forecast information for each of those sites. White Squirrel Weather is affiliated with WKU’s meteorology program and independent from data collected by the Kentucky Mesonet at WKU.

Data collection stations include locations on top of the Environmental Sciences and Technology building, Houchens–Smith Stadium, intramural fields on South Campus, stations at WKU campuses in Glasgow and Owensboro and one station shared with the Early College and Career Center in Elizabethtown.

Josh Durkee, director of White Squirrel Weather and a meteorology professor at WKU, said the idea for the app came along as a way to get students involved with the meteorology program.

“We wanted to create a student-centered, applied-research initiative in a way we could put directly into the hands of the students,” Durkee said.

Durkee said they initially hoped to fund the app by going to WKU athletics, showing that the app could provide “hyperlocal” conditions for the football and baseball fields. Information is available for fans’ health and safety conditions in the stands and real time lightning alerts.

Funding for the app is also supported by partners who buy in. Some of White Squirrel Weather’s largest contributors are the WKU Department of Environmental Health and Safety and the National Weather Service-Louisville.

Durkee said the way the meteorology program handles training and services is unique from other universities. There are currently 25 students actively participating in running the White Squirrel Weather app. They gather data and help with other aspects of the service such as coding the website.

“Everything we’re doing is organic and coming from the bottom,” Durkee said. “We try to not be dramatic with weather information and emphasize accuracy and communication with our community.”

At almost 800 downloads, Durkee said the app is the most requested thing from White Squirrel Weather’s followers on their other forms of social media.

“[Social media] is a tough audience to grab because of the different ways different age groups use different social media, but the app is one unique thing among all the people,” Durkee said.

Looking forward, White Squirrel Weather hopes to stay relevant in the community by updating the app to function better by including notifications. They hope to change the app from something that just provides information to the viewer to a customizable alert and notification system.

Although, he still is not sure who nominated White Squirrel Weather to be put on AtmoLife’s list, Durkee said he was surprised and proud of the accomplishments of the students involved.

“We’re test-driving a lot of things, and knowing we’re on this list was a validation of our efforts,” Durkee said.

News reporter Emily DeLetter can be reached at 270-745-6011 and emil[email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @EmilyDeLetter.