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FALL 2015 Semester
SPRING 2015 Semester
Student meteorologist tackles challenge of predicting Philadelphia’s ozone pollution
If you think predicting the weather is hard, try predicting ozone pollution levels.
Lexie Herdt presented her research at the 2015 AMS conference, where she received a second place prize for undergraduate student research poster. (Image courtesy of Herdt)
It's a complex interplay of emissions and meteorology that's difficult to get right. But one Penn State undergrad has stepped up to help make Philadelphia's forecasts more accurate.
Ozone forms when other pollutants — expelled from cars or power plants, for example — react in sunlight. It's hazardous to breathe in, so forecasters try to figure out when levels will be high so they can issue an orange or red code, and warn people to stay inside.
"Since about the early 2000s, nitrogen oxides and other pollutants have been steadily decreasing in our part of the country," said Amy Huff, an air quality meteorologist at Penn State University.
That's good news, of course. But it's also meant that the statistical models developed to predict ozone no longer work. The team completely abandoned them in 2011 because they failed so miserably.
A partnership between Meteorology and Journalism provides students with hands-on experience broadcasting their weather forecasts through the "Centre County Report."
Weather on the Air: For Meteorology students, Ryan Breton and Meredith Fish, with broadcast ambitions, a partnership with the Department of Journalism provides real-world experience in front of the camera.
It's still a solid hour before sunrise with sub-zero wind chills, but nothing slows Penn State Meteorology student Ryan Breton on his way to work in Walking Building on the west side of the University Park campus, where a partnership with the Department of Journalism has him receiving hands-on experience in broadcasting.
On the building's sixth floor—home of the Joel N. Myers Weather Center—Breton starts reviewing weather information from a variety of sources. He's on deadline, working with industry standard computer software to produce on-screen graphics and maps, getting ready to compile a daily video forecast to be used by the "Centre County Report."