Researching Severe Weather


State College is one of the most popular cities across Central PA, but it’s also home to one of the area’s best kept secrets. Behind the doors of Penn State’s Walker Building you’ll find the home of one of the world’s leading severe weather research teams. 

Paul Markowski, a Meteorology Professor at Penn State, says, “We’re not known as a school that studies tornadoes, but we have some of the world’s leading experts in the studies of tornadoes here. And radar meteorology. Hail formation. Even the effects of climate on severe weather.”   

Hollywood created an image of tornado research in the 1996 movie twister. In real life getting the data is just the start.  

“You collect it in a field project and then you spend years looking at it and trying to figure out what is it telling me. What are the pieces of the puzzle that we can figure out from the data that we have collected. A little time in the field is spent with a lot of time in analysis after that.” Says Yvette Richardson, a Penn State Meteorology Professor. 

Not only can they study the data, they are teaching future meteorologist to do the same. Like with portable radars. 

Yvette Richardson talks about bringing Mobile Doppler Radars to Penn State, “We were able to bring them to Penn State as an educational deployment so that our students could plan their own deployments and take them out, collect data in a cold front and analyze their own data. So, it was really a great opportunity.” 

It’s not only research, that’s done in the Walker Building at Penn State, it’s teaching future meteorologists that will help future generations 

Matt Kumjian says this about the program at Penn State, “We have a really broad base here we have expertise in a lot of high-impact weather, including severe storms, tornadoes, hail, hurricanes, heavy precipitation and things like that.”  

 The more they learn, the better we will be on issuing warnings and keeping everyone safe. Severe weather research is just getting started at Penn State. 

Paul Markowski explains why he is excited about the future, “I am looking forward to the next 20 years because I think there’s going to be some pretty far-out stuff bordering on science fiction that goes on here in this department.” 

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