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Atmospheric science program on the rise

MU’s atmospheric science program is among top in the Midwest.

April 2, 2014

Many people know MU for its schools of Journalism, Law or Nursing, but there is a new program quickly gaining attention: atmospheric science.

MU is home to the No. 1 program in the Midwest and No. 6 in the nation, according to Weather-Schools.com. Part of the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, atmospheric science includes three main areas of study, two clubs and a Freshman Interest Group that calls the Hudson Hall seventh floor lobby home.

Tony Lupo, the chairman for the Department of Soils, Environmental and Atmospheric Sciences, attributes the recent increase in the field to pop culture and growing interest from women.

“During the 1990s, movies like ‘Twister,’ and concern about climate change and environmental issues drove part of our growth,” Lupo said in an email. “Demographics also contributed. More female students are now interested in meteorology than 30 years ago when I began.”

Atmospheric science has been a field of study at MU since 1948, when it was originally under the Department of Agronomy, which allowed it to be closer to the people of Missouri and its agricultural community, Lupo said.

In 1991, the field was moved under the umbrella of the School of Natural Resources, then combined with the field of soil science in 1992 to create the Department of Soil, Environmental and Atmospheric Sciences. Historically, the field has had low enrollment numbers, averaging between 15 and 40 undergraduate students and 5 to 15 graduate students until the late ’90s.

But over the past 10 years, the program has been on the rise.

“From 1999-2009, we grew from about 40 undergraduates to around 100,” Lupo said. “Our graduate program grew from two to about 17 during that same time.”

Freshman Alex Countee picked MU’s atmospheric science program over a handful of others.

“I was looking at (the University of Oklahoma) and some others, but I chose Mizzou because the program is not too big but not too small either,” Countee said. “And being from Kansas City, the closeness to home really helped too.”

The Meteorology Club is an outlet for atmospheric science students like Countee. The club meets once a month to discuss current weather patterns, what to expect in the near future and anything else of relevant interest.

The club’s motto is “If we carry an umbrella, expect rain; if we carry a camera, take shelter!” The club includes smaller interest groups like Mizzou Storm Chase Team, an honor society for upperclass meteorologists and the Campus Weather Service, which works with KCOU/88.1 FM to give the weather during newscasts such as the Pulse.

Freshman Brandon Fredman became involved with the club at the start of the school year, and he said he has enjoyed his time as a member.

“(I enjoy) hanging with other atmospheric science students, networking with professionals and seeing what’s next in the program from upperclassmen,” Fredman said.

With the addition of groups like meteorology club, as well as increasing enrollment, Lupo said he believes the sky's the limit for the atmospheric sciences program.

“I’m looking forward to a more successful future,” Lupo said.

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