Next generation of broadcast meteorologists have new state-of-the-art equipment to keep an eye on the sky

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Next generation of broadcast meteorologists have new state-of-the-art equipment to keep an eye on the sky

Weather in these parts isn’t just pleasant conversation.

With wild temperature swings, fast-moving storm systems, lethal wind chills and unpredictable floods, prairie citizens need dependable weather forecasts to stay informed and prepare for the worst.

The University of North Dakota John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences is a key player in the state’s forecast game, with an Atmospheric Sciences Department that includes a broadcast weather training program.

“We are preparing the next generation of broadcast meteorologists,” said Fred Remer, an atmospheric sciences faculty member and former TV weatherperson who runs the broadcast program. “I’m happy to report that we just acquired a Baron Omni weather broadcast system, the same kind that is used by the big TV stations in markets such as the Twin Cities, New York and Los Angeles.”

The Baron Omni replaces the previous system, acquired in 2005 and by now thoroughly outdated, according to Remer.

“We applied four years in a row for a student tech fee to fund this $29,000 acquisition,” said Remer, who’s also a pilot and who knows the vital value of a reliable weather forecast.

“We were awarded that grant this year,” Remer said.

“We’re enthusiastic about this new system because it puts our students on track to learn with equipment that’s exactly what’s being used by the professionals,” Remer said. “The equipment is so sophisticated at most TV stations now that we need to emulate that in our education and training program for new meteorologists.”

Basically, Remer explained, it was time to get updated.

“The previous system was 9-years old, sluggish and the software was out of date,” he said. “So much had changed in this field since we acquired (the older system) in 2005.”

Remer works with 15 students per semester in the broadcast meteorology program — the students are organized into daily three-person teams: one team to produce a weather forecast for each day of the week, Monday-Friday. UND’s student-produced weather forecast now is in its 18th season (each semester counts as a “season”).

The teams comprise a director, a producer and an intern that produce a UND Weather Update program for the UND Atmospheric Sciences Department. They play the show with the help of the UND Television Center on Grand Forks local cable channel 3 and the UND residence halls cable channels by 8:30 a.m., Monday-Friday. The show is also posted to the UND Weather Update YouTube site and on Facebook.

“All this is possible through our collaboration with the Aerospace Network, which lets us use their studio and blue screen,” Remer said. A weather team of student reporters and atmospheric science students also use the system for the UND’s TV show, Studio One . The program has had a weather segment since its debut in 1987.

The new weather broadcast computer has a lot of power, able to produce multiple displays on air and also on the Internet.

“It also has a severe weather capability and it has the ability to look at radar imagery in three dimensions; it shows what a storm looks like in 3-D,” Remer said. “You can also see what’s going on at street level, such as ‘it’s raining at your house right now.’”

Helping UND to acquire the system — and facilitate student training with the new computers — was Matthew Saari, a 2011 magna cum laude alumnus of the UND Atmospheric Science program, now a meteorologist and support services technician at Huntsville, Ala.-based Baron.

With the Baron system in place, students keen on becoming broadcast meteorologists have a leg up.

“When students think about going into meteorology, one of the first places they get interested is by watching TV,” Remer said. “We get a lot of people through our program who tell us that they were Weather Channel nerds from grade school on. They watched it all the time. TV is a key area of employment for meteorologists, and we educate meteorologists here. We want to make sure that they have all the skills that they require to be successful when they graduate.”

Juan Miguel PedrazaUniversity & Public Affairs writer

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