Department of Earth Sciences


Each year since 2018, Millersville faculty and students have conducted a series of rawinsonde launches over the course of 2-3 days for the purpose of validating the wind and virtual temperatures measurements obtained by the Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) using a Scintec Acoustic SODAR system with a RASS extension. Typically, three meteorology students from Millersville University assist the ACHD with a research initiative involving Sound Detection and Ranging (SODAR) observations and Radio Acoustic Sounding System (RASS) retrievals with rawinsonde measurements in Clairton, Pennsylvania. Under the direction of faculty members Drs. Greg Blumberg and Richard Clark, as well as Weather Center Director Kyle Elliott, the students launch weather balloons to validate the on-site SODAR measurement - a requirement of the EPA. A radiosonde, or instrument used to transmit pressure, temperature, and relative humidity measurements at various levels of the atmosphere, is attached to each balloon. When a radiosonde is tracked so that wind speed and direction measurements are also provided, it is called a rawinsonde observation. The data is used to better understand the changes in the diurnal transition of the planetary boundary layer in the Monongahela Valley and its impact on the transport of pollutants.

Investigating Microphysics and Precipitation in Atlantic Coast Snowstorms

Millersville University meteorology faculty members, Drs. Richard Clark and Todd Sikora, received a grant to participate in the NASA Investigation of Microphysics and Precipitation for Atlantic Coast-Threatening Snowstorms (IMPACTS) project. For more, see IMPACTS ( Millersville was sought out to obtain atmospheric profiles of temperature, pressure, humidity, and wind velocity from the surface to the stratosphere in locations where there are perceived gaps in the current upper-air profiling network. A team of Millersville meteorology students deployed to select sites close to the Atlantic coast.. one near Brick, NJ, and the other near Stroudsburg, PA.. where they provided support for the scientific objectives of IMPACTS. Millersville was funded to support seven intensive observing periods (IOPs) in 2021-2022, one in which a mobile profile platform was deployed, and five IOPs in 2022-2023. Dr. Greg Blumberg and Weather Information Center Director Kyle Elliott took over as the senior personnel from Millersville on IMPACTS in 2022-2023. Each mission was designed to have up to 12 balloon launches with attached sensors (radiosondes) while Nor'easters tracked up the Atlantic coast. Each year, 20-30 students participated in the project in teams of four students, with the teams deploying on a rotating basis.


Remember the group of Millersville meteorology students who chased the EF-3 tornado in Mullica Hill, NJ, during Hurricane Ida? Under the leadership of Weather Information Center Director Kyle Elliott, they created the Thermodynamic Investigation of LCL Thresholds at Tornadogenesis and its Influence in the Northeast and Great Plains (TILTTING) project. For details on the project and how to support the students, visit TILTTING ( Nearly 20 students are involved in the project, and 7 of them deployed  to the Great Plains for a two-week period during May 2024 to conduct tornado research. Under the guidance of Dr. Greg Blumberg, this "chase team" released balloons to obtain atmospheric profiles of temperature, pressure, humidity, and wind velocity near supercells to assess the storm environment. While in the Plains, the students visited the Storm Prediction Center (SPC) in Norman, OK, and talked with forecasters on the operations floor. They met with two of the senior leads at the SPC - John Hart and Rich Thompson - and toured the vehicle bays at the National Weather Center to see the mobile radars and mesonets. On chase days, the team shared the data collected with SPC and local National Weather Service (NWS) offices. Overall, four Intensive Observation Periods (IOPs) were conducted during the two-week period, and the team is aiming to present their findings at upcoming conferences. The students have also designed their own probes that will eventually be used to penetrate and measure wind velocity and pressure perturbations within the condensation funnel of a tornado. IOPs have and will continue to be conducted in the Northeast, with teams of 6-10 students deploying on a rotating basis. Three IOPs took place in the Northeast during Summer 2022, with another three happening during Summer 2023. Incorporation of this data into numerical weather prediction models will increase accuracy of severe weather forecasts, improve tornado warning lead times and, most importantly, save lives.

Ontario Winter Lake-effect Systems (owles)

Millersville University meteorology faculty members, Drs. Richard Clark and Todd Sikora, received a grant to participate in the NSF Ontario Winter Lake-effect Systems (OWLeS) project. The research took place in December 2013 and January 2014. Along with Drs. Clark and Sikora, a team of 24 Millersville meteorology students was assembled to launch weather balloons, monitor surface conditions, and photograph ice crystals during lake-effect snow events. The formation mechanisms, cloud microphysics, boundary layer processes and dynamics of lake-­effect systems (LeS) using new observational tools capable of detailing characteristics not documented in previous LeS field experiments were the focuses of the OWLeS project. The OWLeS field project focused on Lake Ontario because of its geometry and size, frequency of LeS, nearby orography, and location downwind of the other Great Lakes. Both short-fetch LeS (those oriented at large angles to the long axis of the lake) and long-­fetch LeS (those more aligned with the lake's long axis) were targeted during OWLeS. Facilities included the University of Wyoming King Air aircraft with cloud radar and cloud lidar (WCL) systems, three Doppler on Wheels (DOW) radar systems, and an array of mobile and stationary flux, surface, and sounding systems. Millersville deployed an acoustic sodar, micropulse Lidar, and instrumented tower for measuring surface fluxes, a rawinsonde sounding system for upper air profiles, and a tethered balloon system for measuring conventional meteorological parameters and fluxes in the boundary layer.


** The following document details older research with which MU Meteorology has been involved. **

previous research