WKU weather students report on the Hill

Elisabeth Moore

Although outsiders may be unaware of WKU’s wide range of weather conditions, students have seen everything from rainwater turning the Hill into an endless Slip N’ Slide, to snowfall causing classes to be cancelled for up to a week.

Due to this weather variety, WKU’s meteorology program is creating a new way for WKU and its surrounding areas to get state-of-the-art weather forecasts in one simple program, called White Squirrel Weather.

Joshua Durkee, assistant head of the department of geography and geology and associate professor of meteorology and climate science research, said White Squirrel Weather (WSWX) is a real-time weather and climate monitoring system. It currently includes two weather stations and a high-quality camera that constantly collects weather data.

Students and faculty will be able to utilize the data collected from this equipment, along with other professional software systems to create campus focused forecasts and conditions.

WSWX is a product of the College Heights Atmospheric Observatory for Students, otherwise known as CHAOS, which provides students with opportunities to practice meteorology outside of the classroom in areas including forecasting, map analysis and research.

Durkee, White Squirrel Weather Director, said WSWX will provide specific weather information to students, faculty and staff who live, travel to and otherwise spend much of their time at WKU.

“It has come to my attention,” Durkee said, “that there is a lot of interest in focused, custom weather needs on campus ranging from hazardous weather outlooks, transportation, athletic activities, among others. The website will update constantly, so the most up-to-date information will be found there.”

The WSWX team includes many different positions, such as forecasting, real-time spotting and broadcasting which helps provide quick and accurate weather information on campus. The weather team is currently made up of students in the meteorology program.

Pierce Larkin, a junior majoring in meteorology and minoring in geographic information science and floodplain management, is a student leader at WSWX and works with forecasting.

Larkin said WSWX will utilize WKU’s Storm Team to gain real-time weather information, which WSWX will be able to analyze to continuously forecast weather and its evolution, broadcasted through their website and on Twitter.

The WSWX website is currently being beta tested, but Durkee said the Twitter account is working and will be used to highlight weather conditions throughout each day as it is happening.

According to Larkin, all students who join WSWX have the chance to decide where they want to be during weather events, whether in broadcasting or in the field observing the weather.

“White Squirrel Weather is an opportunity for current students, but also builds the program even higher than it already has been,” Larkin said. “This sets the program up to give future students more opportunities and is just another reason for future students to come to WKU!”

Reporter Elisabeth Moore can be reached at 270-745-6288 and [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @emoore98.