Photo by Dan Andrews.
Pictured left to right at last week’s American Meteorological Society Smoky Mountain Chapter lunch meeting are Jeremy Buckles, Meteorologist and Lead Forecaster of East TN Storm Team; Joanne Logan, President of the Smoky Mountain Chapter and Environmental Climatologist, UTK; Dr. J. Marshall Shepherd, Past President of the American Meteorological Society; Ken Weathers, WATE Meteorologist; Matt Hinkin, Chief Meteorologist, WATE; and Wolf Naegeli, PhD, Senior Research Scientist at UTK’s Institute for a Secure and Sustainable Environment.

By Dan Andrews

Braving the iced roads and snarled traffic from Atlanta, the President of the American Meteorological Society travelled to Knoxville Thursday to speak with members of the local chapter of the American Meteorological Society Smoky Mountain Chapter at the Four Points Sheraton in Knoxville. For the chapter, the timing could not have been more perfect. Twenty-four hours earlier, Dr. Shepherd was being interviewed by multiple national news outlets, including CNN, about the surprise snowfall last week.

The snowstorm which paralyzed Atlanta created an easy possible excuse for Dr. Shepherd to cancel the meeting. However, he did not, and instead turned down widespread national media organizations’ requests for interviews so he could keep his commitment in Knoxville. While the topic of Atlanta was on many people’s minds, it was not a major topic during the meeting.

Instead, in a laid back atmosphere, Dr. Shepherd spoke about a wide range of meteorological topics ranging from advanced mobile radar to new cutting edge technology. Among the more interesting topics included the certification process of meteorologists trying to achieve the prestigious AMS shield. Currently, many Universities are offering online courses that do not satisfy the rigorous requirements of the AMS. However, brick and mortar schools traditionally have no problem. Another topic of interest involved the replacement of The Weather Channel with Weather Nation on Direct TV. The group also discussed ways of getting the community more involved in meteorology.

The Knoxville Focus asked Dr. Shepherd about how the general public can get involved in helping the meteorological community. “There are all kinds of citizen scientists’ efforts one can take,” Shepherd replied. “Like Cocorahs where you can take rain gauge measurements every day. There is an app you can download called ‘Mping’ and report precipitation types to the National Severe Storms Lab. Or you can become a volunteer spotter for the National Weather Service by taking classes.”

For young people interested in weather, Dr. Shepherd advised the following: “One of the things I would advise is to try to get a nice booklet like the AMS weather book which is a really neat book that I read a version of when I was young. Try to find professionals in your area that are doing weather, perhaps like people on TV, or perhaps people from the Department of Energy, or TVA, and see if you can visit or shadow them around for the day.”

For people interested in joining a group, the AMS-SMC is an excellent organization with affordable dues costing individuals twenty dollars a year.  The AMS-SMC is open to anyone in East Tennessee with an interest in meteorology, atmospheric sciences and related fields. The purpose of the organization, according to their website, is “To foster the growth of operational meteorology and the atmospheric sciences in East Tennessee by providing the community with a social and scientific point of contact for meteorological, hydrological, and other related scientific interests; to encourage collaborative research among its members; and to engage in continuing education on the latest developments in the various branches of the hydrometeorological and atmospheric sciences.”

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