2020-21 GIRLS DISCOVER STEM
Ryan Shoptaugh, KIIITV Channel 3 Broadcast Meteorologist
On November 13, 2020, the STEM committee of AAUW Corpus Christi hosted Ryan Shoptaugh, broadcast meteorologist at KIIITV Channel 3, as a guest speaker for the West Oso Junior High School STEM class. Ryan Shoptaugh earned a BS degree in Operational Meteorology with a minor in Mathematics from the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas, in 2017. He started his broadcasting career in Harlingen, Texas, and moved to Corpus Christi in 2018.
Ryan said that his passion for weather started early when his father was in the U.S. Air Force. He explained that operational meteorologists, like those at the National Weather Service, do a lot of technical work behind the scenes. They are responsible for sending out watches, warnings, and advisories about weather events such as tornadoes and hurricanes. In contrast, broadcast meteorologists work closely with operational meteorologists, but with an emphasis on communicating weather events to the public. Ryan talked about how much he enjoys his job and how it involves meeting many people at public events. He stated that if you like science and like to talk and interact with people, broadcast meteorology is a great field to consider. He also mentioned that a major part of his job is creating his own graphics for the broadcast, and he enjoys that creative side of the job.
Ryan shared slides about the 2020 hurricane season, stating that this year has become the most active hurricane season ever, with 29 named storms so far. He reminded us that the hurricane season is not over until November 30 and that it is not uncommon to see storms form after that date. In a typical year, we generally see about 12 named storms. Of the 29 storms so far this year, 12 became hurricanes, and five were classified as major hurricanes (category 3 or above). The previous record was set in 2005 when we had 28 named storms. However, scientists examine that information from different angles, and the 2005 season actually saw more energy produced from that year’s storms than those of 2020. In 2005, category 5 hurricanes Emily, Katrina, Rita, and Wilma formed, with hurricanes Katrina and Rita hitting the gulf coast region.
Ryan shared information on websites that the public can access to get in-depth information on weather, and he encouraged the students to examine these sites. They included:
- National Hurricane Center, from NOAA
- Monthly Tropical Cyclone Summary, from NOAA
- Tropical Definitions, from NOAA
- nullschool.net, an interactive website
- Tropical Tidbits, which includes videos and other information about current storms
After his presentation, Dr. Diana Cardenas thanked Ryan for his broadcasting work and complimented him on providing weather information using accurate technical terminology. Janet Blanke, chair of the STEM committee, thanked Ryan for his presentation to the class. Ryan also provided a homework assignment as a follow-up to his presentation.
Story by Dr. Vickie Natale and photo by Janet Blanke
Meteorologists from NOAA
On October 30, 2020, the STEM Committee of AAUW Corpus Christi hosted an event with guest speakers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) presenting to the West Oso Junior High School STEM class. Janet Blanke, chair of the STEM Committee, introduced two female meteorologists who work at the National Weather Service’s weather forecast office in Corpus Christi, Texas:
- Melissa Huffman, Warning Coordination Meteorologist at the NWS. Melissa earned her BS in Meteorology-Climatology from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, followed by a Master’s of Public Administration degree with a specialization in Emergency Management from the University of North Texas. She worked at National Weather Service offices in Austin/San Antonio, TX, Houston/Galveston, TX, and Midland/Odessa, TX, before arriving at Corpus Christi.
- Hayley Adams, Meteorologist at the NWS. Hayley is from Georgia where she earned a BA in Physics at the University of North Georgia, and then she earned a master’s degree in Meteorology from the University of Mississippi. She joined the NWS at Corpus Christi in May.
Melissa explained that the National Weather Service office at Corpus Christi, Texas, provides current and forecast weather information for South Texas, including decision support information for cyclone activity. The Corpus Christi office is one of 122 NWS weather forecast offices nationwide that operate under NOAA as the parent agency.
We have had such an active hurricane season this year, with 28 named storms so far, and we still have a month of hurricane season left. Melissa explained that when sea surface temperatures are warmer, there is more energy to help tropical storms and hurricanes develop. In addition, certain climate patterns, like El Niño and La Niña, affect how much the wind changes above the sea surface across tropical oceans, and hurricane formations require areas with very little change in wind, which occurs during a La Niña weather pattern. Melissa encouraged the girls, with their families, to always stay prepared for hurricane season.
Both Melissa and Hayley talked about how they became interested in meteorology as a career. Those interested in getting a job at NOAA can apply at USAjobs.gov. Melissa emphasized that there are degree requirements and coursework requirements for a meteorologist job. The field requires coursework in mathematics and physics, including a full calculus sequence. Melissa called Algebra a gateway course, and encouraged the students to take Algebra in 8th grade. She also mentioned that degrees offered at universities are sometimes called Atmospheric Science, in addition to Meteorology.
Once social restrictions are lifted and we are able to convene in person again, Janet stated that we can take the class to the NWS office to release a weather balloon. Hayley explained that the weather balloons are released twice a day, at 6:00 am and 6:00 pm. The balloons have sensors attached to record data necessary for gathering weather information and forecasting.
Janet thanked Melissa and Hayley for their informative presentation. We look forward to seeing them again at the NWS Corpus Christi office.
Story by Dr. Vickie Natale and photos by Christina Campos