Marshall University’s Department of Geography and Center for Environmental, Geotechnical and Applied Science are teaming up with Marshall Athletics to conduct weather research from the roof of Joan C. Edwards Stadium, on the top of the stadium’s press box.
The research is being led by Dr. Tony Szwilski, director of the Center for Environmental, Geotechnical and Applied Science (CEGAS), and Dr. Kevin Law, professor in the geography department and state climatologist of West Virginia. They are collaborating with Athletic Director Mike Hamrick and Scott Morehouse, assistant director of athletics for game operations and facilities, to conduct research from the stadium’s rooftop by setting up a network of automated weather stations. These will monitor the weather and impact of climate change as part of a five-year NSF-EPSCoR funded research project.
“Weather stations that give reliable, continuous real-time weather data are relatively few and sparse throughout West Virginia,” Szwilski said. A meteorological research goal is to establish a Mesonet, which will comprise a network of automated weather and environmental monitoring stations designed to observe mesoscale meteorological phenomena, he said.
“We are very pleased and excited to partner with CEGAS and the geography department on this project,” Hamrick said, adding that it sits on the west rooftop, above the press box. The system even has a console in the press box that shows weather information such as wind speed and direction, which could actually affect the outcome of a kick.
“This will be a great service to our university, community and individuals who attend athletic events,” Hamrick said. “To have this capability and this type of technology to collect accurate weather information is something very unique and will be very beneficial to us here at intercollegiate athletics.”
The project has involved the establishment of weather stations on Marshall’s Huntington campus, in Point Pleasant, and at high schools and other locations across West Virginia.
“Since weather conditions can change dramatically over a small scale, it is extremely important to set up as many weather stations as possible,” Law said. “Particularly in West Virginia, where the elevation changes significantly over a short distance, it is not uncommon for the temperature to modify 5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit.
“Downtown and urban areas can be as much as 5 to 10 degrees warmer than surrounding rural areas in the daytime, due to the increased solar radiation absorption of building materials,” he said. “Likewise, these materials continue to radiate in the nighttime keeping the same urban areas warmer during the overnight hours.”
Data is uploaded to a network and accessed by researchers and meteorologists who monitor the weather conditions and investigate the local climatology that can impact weather conditions. In the past, some data has come from weather stations with data altered by their surroundings, affecting the accuracy of the research.
“The meteorologists’ continuous quest is to improve weather forecasts and better understand severe weather phenomena,” Law said. “Potential climate change patterns — particularly in terms of temperature and precipitation — can be better discerned by having a credible Mesonet in place,” he said.