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Friday, November 28, 2014

Students develop unique local campus weather service

Campus weather service provides a completely student-run forecasting service for MU students.

This past spring, graduate students in MU’s Atmospheric Science Department started their own campus weather service for students and locals to check weather updates. The service is run entirely by graduate and undergraduate students, with little help or guidance from advisors.

Graduate Peter Speck, the creator of the weather service, said the service is a way to get students involved in forecasting.

“At full operation we have seven students who each forecast for a different day of the week,” Speck said. “Each student is responsible for their own forecast, and how they prepare it is completely up to them.”

Each student has the freedom to choose how his or her forecasts appear to the public, but they are operating under a deadline, Speck said.

“I do require (each student) to post (their forecasts) usually between 7-8 p.m. during the evening before they’re forecasting,” he said. “They usually post what the weather conditions will be during the morning, midday and evening and also write up a discussion of what will be going on.”

When a forecast is posted, Speck and Anthony Lupo, chair of Soils, Environment and Atmospheric Science, both review it for accuracy.

While the weather service is completely run by students, Lupo said he does help and give advice to the students from time to time.

“My role is to look at what comes out (on the weather forecasting page), and comment when I can,” Lupo said.

With several other weather services that accommodate the city of Columbia, the campus weather service has to compete with AccuWeather, WeatherUnderground and WeatherBug. Forecaster and graduate student Joshua Kastman said the campus weather service isn’t necessarily better than any of the other weather forecasting services, but it is unique.

“Our weather service provides accurate and timely forecasts to the best of the forecaster's ability,” Kastman said. “The campus weather service is unique because it is entirely Mizzou-centric and provides timely updates about impact weather events approaching campus.”

Speck said one of the biggest points he likes to promote is that the campus weather service is run by reliable future forecasters.

“As students, many of us are going on to become forecasters and researchers after we graduate with our respective degrees, so you're getting your information from those who are the future faces of meteorology,” Speck said.

The service is being used by Columbia residents, but the target audience is mainly MU students. The service picked Twitter and Facebook as their outlets to display weather forecasts, Speck said, because they feel social media is the best way to reach out to students.

“You can't go around campus without seeing people looking at their Facebook or Twitter, so this is why I chose to start (there),” Speck said.

Even though their service is just starting up and is limited to social media, the weather service team already has some goals in mind.

They want to get people to follow them on their social media sites, but the service’s long-term goal is to eventually expand past Twitter and Facebook.

“I would like to expand the page out some more and make up a website,” Speck said.

With the potential of a website in mind, and maybe even a smartphone application for the service, Lupo said, overall, the goal of the weather service is outreach and expansion.

“The key to growth is simple,” Lupo said. “Put out forecasts and information on a regular basis, and be as accurate as the state of the art is today.”

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