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WIU's Geography Department Presents Mobile Radar Vehicle

September 11, 2013

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MACOMB, IL - The Doppler-on-Wheels (DOW) mobile radar system is coming to Western Illinois University from Monday, Sept. 16-Friday, Oct. 4

This is the same vehicle that was featured on Discovery Channel's "Storm Chasers" and used in the VORTEX I and II tornado research projects. The DOW is primarily used during tornado and hurricane seasons, but during down times the National Science Foundation (NSF) allows universities to use the DOW for education and outreach.

The DOW is coming to Western thanks to an NSF Lower Atmosphere Observing Facilities Instrument Request grant for education and outreach. The instrument request proposal was submitted by Associate Professor Redina Herman in the WIU Department of Geography. The Principles of Meteorological Instrumentations class, taught by Herman, will use the DOW to conduct student research projects.

During the first few weeks of the semester, students learned about the DOW and the kinds of data it can collect. Students then came up with research project ideas.

In order to make sure students get a chance to conduct research using the DOW, each student came up with a research project for inclement weather and one for clear skies. Some of the inclement weather ideas include examining the structure of frontal rain events, thunderstorms and tornadoes. Some of the clear sky ideas include the influence of the Mississippi River on the atmospheric boundary layer, the spread of aerosols during corn harvest, the evolution of lake-induced fog, turbulence created by wind farms and the downwind spread of smokestack emissions from power plants.

Students are working in groups of two or three, and each student will examine a different aspect of the larger project topic. Every student in the instrumentation class will operate the DOW to conduct their own project. The data will then be analyzed using the SOLO3 radar analysis software package. Herman anticipates that several of these projects will be continued as the students' senior thesis projects during their senior years.

In addition to conducting research projects, students will also be involved with several outreach events in west central Illinois. Students will accompany the DOW to a variety of events, including to Macomb Junior/Senior High School, McDonough County's fifth grade Conservation Day and Warren-Henderson County Progressive Farm Safety Day. The DOW will also be visited by several classes at WIU.

Karen Kosiba, a leading scientist working with the DOW, will be on campus to give a public presentation on Monday, Sept. 30 at 6 p.m. in the University Union Capitol Room. Kosiba will talk about how the DOW has been used to study thunderstorms, tornadoes and hurricanes.

After the presentation, the DOW will be on display. Kosiba and DOW technician Rachel Humphrey will be available for questions.

The Severe Weather Club and other campus clubs will also have displays at the event.

For more information, contact the Department of Geography at 309-298-1648 or

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