Valuable severe weather dataset collected by students

SHAVE and NWS reports for a storm in Lac qui Parle County, MN on 27 July 2006

Over the past five summers, students have been making thousands of phone calls to collect reports of severe weather from the public as part of the Severe Hazards Analysis and Verification Experiment (SHAVE).  SHAVE reports, when combined with the voluntary reports collected by the National Weather Service, create a comprehensive database of severe and non-severe weather events.

From May through August each year, SHAVE students conduct phone surveys of residents along the path of a target storm.  People who answer the calls are asked about hail size, wind damage and flash flooding that occurred during the past 60 minutes.  The phone data is blended with radar information on Google Maps to create a database on the storm for research.

“The process of verification through SHAVE’s calls is much more comprehensive and the potential applications of the high-resolution datasets are nearly endless, “ said Keith Sherburn, a student working with SHAVE as part of a NOAA Hollings undergraduate internship.

SHAVE data collected during the past several years is being used by a number of NSSL researchers to evaluate severe weather detection algorithms and techniques.  Several students are evaluating how well specific signals in the radar data indicate hail at the ground.  Other students are using SHAVE hail reports to test the reliability of different warning decision support products.  SHAVE wind reports are being studied to determine what radar signatures are most and least efficient for identifying areas of severe wind in thunderstorms. SHAVE flood reports are being used to evaluate the skill of legacy flash flood guidance and new gridded flash flood guidance being developed at River Forecast Centers.

SHAVE students also collected hail data on any storm that VORTEX2, the Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes Experiment targeted during its field campaigns.  The data will be combined with data collected by mobile radars and probes on the same storm to increase our knowledge and understanding of severe weather.

Between 2006 and 2010, 24 students have worked for SHAVE. Largely student lead and run, SHAVE provides rich opportunities for professional development and leadership and has opened doors leading to year-round undergraduate research assistantships and research projects for more than half of the participants.

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