2008 participant: Matteo Babini
For two weeks in July, 2008, I was given the opportunity to learn about the fascinating
world of American meteorology though an annual American Meteorological Society (AMS) Education
Program workshop titled “Project Atmosphere”. The Program’s new director,
Dr. Jim Brey, welcomed the participants: eighteen secondary school teachers from across North
America. The workshop, sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
and the National Science Foundation (NSF), was held at the National Weather Service Training
Center (NWSTC) in Kansas City, Missouri. I am a grade 12 geography teacher from École
Panorama Ridge Secondary School in Surrey, British Columbia, and the thirteenth Canadian
to be selected by the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society (CMOS) and the Canadian Geographic Education to represent Canada at this event. I was accompanied
by teachers from California, Oregon, Colorado, Kansas, Minnesota, Massachusetts, New York,
Maryland, Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina and Delaware.
|Matteo Babini in front of the National Weather Service building in Topeka, Kansas.|
AMS staff developed and delivered an intense, interactive fourteen-day workshop covering
a variety of subjects. Topics of study included: the atmosphere, oceans, solar radiation,
weather, climate, weather systems, clouds, the coriolis effect, El Niño, La Niña,
hazardous weather conditions, storms, lightening, hurricanes, tornados, automated surface
observation systems, aerosondes, radiosondes, radar, weather satellites, satellite imagery,
general forecasting, and monitoring for aviation purposes.
Presentations on the topics listed above were delivered by professionals in the meteorology
field. Key note speakers included: Dr. Louis Uccellini, Director of the National Center
for Environmental Prediction (NCEP); Dr. Joseph Schaefer, Director of the Storm Prediction
Center in Norman, Oklahoma; and General David L. Johnson, Director of the National Weather
Service (NWS) in Silver Spring, Maryland. Unfortunately, Mr. Max Mayfied, Director of
the Tropical Prediction Center in Miami, Florida could not present at the workshop as
he was detained by Hurricane Fay.
Some Interesting Facts:
- The folk wisdom that a southwest corner of a structure is the safest place for shelter
during a tornado is FALSE (Schaefer, 2008).
- The number one greenhouse gas found in the atmosphere is water vapour (Uccellini,
- The number one export from Canada is nasty weather (Everyone, 2008).
- The average warning lead time for tornados is 16 minutes, but the longer the warning
period the public gets the less likely they are to heed it (Schaefer, 2008).
Into the Field
Educational modules and a summary of classroom application procedures accompanied each
lecture or presentation. Evening sessions allowed for collegial discussion, Royals baseball
games, listening to Blues music, and sharing of ideas. I had the opportunity to share
British Columbia’s curricular expectations for Geography 12 and Earth Science as
well as to answer classmate’s questions regarding our educational and health care
Daily presentations and lessons were further complemented by a field trip to the National
Weather Service (NWS) station in Topeka, Kansas, where we had the opportunity to witness
real time surface chart and satellite imagery analysis, as well as a radiosonde launch.
During our visit the office issued a tornado warning for a few adjacent counties, which
instantly appeared on CNN and the weather radios of the affected counties. A second field
trip took us to the National Aviation Weather Center in Kansas City, Missouri. There we
had the opportunity to observe surface and upper level weather conditions via radar and
satellite imagery. Meteorologists work at this facility twenty-four hours a day, seven
days a week. It was amazing to discover that there is a satellite that provides a live
view of the entire Northern Hemisphere.
What I have brought back
In the end, I learned a great deal about the American education system, I was taught
by some amazing teachers and new appreciation for the complexities of weather forecasting.
|Matteo Babini, holding his breath under the high water mark, in Missouri City, Missouri.|
The information and materials gathered during this two-week experience will be shared
with fellow teachers and students in the Surrey School District. My goal is to increase
their understanding of the science behind meteorology, promote recent technological advances,
and encourage them to further explore and possibly pursue this evolving and influential
I am truly grateful to CMOS and Canadian Geographic Education for supporting my participation in the program.
Hopefully, Canadian interest and participation will continue for years to come.
— Matteo Babini
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