Clements at work at a controlled burn.

Mobile Weather Monitoring System Furthers Wildfire Research

Clements at work at a controlled burn.

Clements at work at a controlled burn.

An SJSU researcher’s quest to save lives and property by better understanding weather generated by wildfires has taken a huge step forward.

Assistant Professor of Meteorology Craig Clements and two San Francisco State collaborators have developed a novel mobile atmospheric profiling system (CSU-MAPS).

The system will map weather that unfolds in the lowest few hundred meters of the atmosphere, as the smallest interactions between the Earth and the air above it drive local weather patterns and air quality.

“CSU-MAPS will enable, for the first time, a way to measure complex fire winds that are generated by wildfires,” Clements said. “These measurements will be used to develop and test fire behavior models, ultimately leading to improved wildfire prediction and increased fire fighter and community safety.”

Clements will use the new system to study how the atmosphere surrounding a wildfire influences the behavior of the fire and how the fire affects the local atmosphere. Consisting of a telescopic 100-foot tower mounted on a 20-foot trailer, the system can be driven to monitoring positions in safety zones near large wildfire plumes and can be moved if the fire changes course.

CSU-MAPS was acquired with an $800,000 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant, jointly awarded by the National Science Foundation to SF State and SJSU. The system is believed to be the only mobile meteorological profiling system of its type in the CSU and the state of California.

In more than 20 classes at multiple campuses, CSU-MAPS will be used to teach tomorrow’s weather forecasters and other students studying oceanography, geography and engineering.

Read a Washington Square story on Clement’s work.#

Meteorology Department Tracks Air Trajectories From Japan

Two graphs. Upper graph shows map of Japan area, with lines representing wind flow away from Japan over the Pacific. Lower graph shows height of wind flows.

Weather patterns tracked by the SJSU Department of Meteorology and Climate Science

By Pat Lopes Harris, Media Relations Director

Although all data from government sources show that harmful radiation won’t reach California, the nuclear emergency in Japan raises interesting academic questions about weather patterns.

Alison Bridger, chair of the Department of Meteorology and Climate Science, created the image to the right to answer these questions visually. The diagrams show what will happen to material emitted today.

If your computer has a Shockwave player, you can view a terrific version of nearly the same information on a world map. Click on the image to the right to go directly to Professor Bridger’s website.

Here are her notes on the diagrams, which “show forecast trajectories of air parcels emitted from the location of Fukushima, Japan. The best way to picture a trajectory is to imagine a party balloon released over Fukushima and allowed to drift with the winds. Using forecast winds from weather forecast models, we can predict the path of the balloon and thus create what we call a trajectory.

“For the figures to the right, we pretend a balloon is released over Fukushima every 12 hours, and create a new trajectory every 12 hours. The different trajectories are shown in different colors. The top figure shows the horizontal drift of the balloons, generally eastward and southward. The lower figure shows the vertical motions of the parcels. So for example, a blue line on the lower plot shows the vertical motion of the parcel over the next few days, and the blue line on the upper figure shows the horizontal motion over that same time period.

“Today (March 18), high pressure is dominating the weather over northern Japan. Trajectories show that balloons released now will stay at low levels, and will remain close to the Japanese mainland. Storms predicted to pass on March 20 and March 22 will provide more lift, shooting the balloons higher into the atmosphere (up to 5000 meters, roughly three miles, according to the lower figure). These balloons would also move further eastward over the Pacific (towards the Aleutians, according to the upper figure).” #

Associate Professor of Meteorology and Climate Science Eugene Cordero

Eugene Cordero Named Google Science Communication Fellow

Associate Professor of Meteorology and Climate Science Eugene Cordero

Associate Professor of Meteorology and Climate Science Eugene Cordero.

By Amanda Holst, Public Affairs Assistant

Associate Professor of Meteorology and Climate Science Eugene Cordero has been named a Google Science Communication Fellow.

Google announced the selection of its 21 fellows last week. The fellows all have some history of outreach working with the general public in the climate science field, and were chosen based on their ability to communicate their expertise in ways that the general public can understand. Other considerations included technical and social media skills, and the use of Google products.

“We will together explore technology and ways of interacting with people to come up with new ways to communicate climate science to a broader community,” said Cordero.

Google took interest in Cordero because of his public-education and outreach experience with climate change. In addition to eight years at San Jose State, Cordero spent five years at an Australian research university studying ozone depletion, and has given over 100 public talks on a book he co-authored. “Cool Cuisine: Taking the Bite out of Global Warming” focuses on food choices and the connection they have with the environment. Cordero has also created a climate-action superhero, the Green Ninja, to educate online audiences about climate science.

A three-day workshop at Google, designed to open up scientific dialogue, is set for June.  After the workshop, the Google Science Communication Fellows will be given the opportunity to apply for grants to continue with their projects. The most influential projects will win a Lindblad Expeditions & National Geographic trip to the Arctic, representing the voyage as a science communicator.

“I look forward to interacting with people and making this information mainstream,” says Cordero.

The Department of Meteorology and Climate Science added climate science as a new major last fall. The new concentration focuses on weather climate and using modules to see what affect humans are having on the planet. The main focus is on climate and weather, but other broader topics include the energy of water, agriculture and carbon emissions.#

Spartans Make the Most of Summer 2010

By Teresa Ruiz, Web Content Specialist

The 2010-2011 academic year starts this week. But before fall overcomes you, check out how these Spartans made the most of their summer break.

Seniors and graduate students from the meteorology and climate science department spent part of their summer in Arizona studying the Southwest Monsoon. Department Chair Alison Bridger traveled with 10 students and blogged about the group’s experience making forecasts and hoping for storm activity on the road.

Group photo of SJSU meteorology team.

SJSU meteorology team.

The trip included stopping at a national landmark new to many on the trip. “Having gotten into the park (which took about 20 minutes in a long line), a gasp came from the students when they caught their first sight of the Grand Canyon – nice!” wrote Bridger. “We then drove along the south rim, stopping at every possible turnout and taking pictures.”

Spartan athlete Aalim Moor took a moment to reflect on completing his freshman year at SJSU, while looking ahead to a new basketball season. “I think that the management of my workload was the hardest thing to adjust to,” said Moor in a recent post on Spartan Hoops, a blog about SJSU basketball. “I learned the hard way the first semester by having to stay up late at nights and cramming for tests. Having had those experiences, I think now I’ll be able to handle the road trips and workload with greater focus.”

Associated Students of SJSU President Tomasz Kolodziejak also said he feels prepared to take on a new academic year, after taking part in a week-long seminar at the Panetta Institute. Kolodziejak joined 27 other students from around the state to sharpen their leadership skills and broaden their understanding of public policy. “As a business administration major and the new president of the Associated Students, hearing the speakers was an inspiring and invaluable experience for me,” he said. “It will certainly enhance my term at Associated Students. I came back with a head full of ideas and a paper ream of notes.”

Do you have an interesting summer experience you would like to share? Join the discussion by telling us about it on Facebook, or email