Rutgers meteorology club follows Winter Storm Jonas
New Brunswick was gripped by the icy claws of Winter Storm Jonas on Jan. 23. More than 1 foot of snow had fallen by 7 p.m., and heavy winds kept visibility low throughout the day.
Members of the Rutgers University Meteorology Club tracked the storm as it occurred.
Matthew Peters, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences senior and treasurer of the club, said he first noticed the storm on Jan. 17. Within two days, it was clear that the storm would impact the New Brunswick area.
“We thought that (Washington), D.C. and places west of D.C. were going to be the bullseye, and for the most part they were,” he said. “But we got a lot more snow than what we initially thought there was going to be.”
The National Weather Service reported 16 inches of snow in New Brunswick.
East Brunswick reported 24 inches as of 8 p.m. on Jan. 23, according to NJ.com.
The recent weather provided an opportunity to clear up some common misconceptions about storms.
Blizzards are defined by wind and visibility conditions, not by the total amount of snowfall, said Alex Calamia, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences senior and meteorology club president.
It does not have to be snowing for a blizzard to occur. If there is already snow on the ground, blowing snow picked up by heavy winds can cause blizzard conditions, he said.
“When winds are excess of 35 miles per hour, or visibilities are less than a quarter of a mile for a very extended period of time, which is usually defined as three hours, that is a blizzard,” he said.
The Rutgers University Meteorology Club is a place where weather enthusiasts can gather and discuss their common interest in the weather, Calamia said.
The club, which welcomes all majors, is dedicated to spreading knowledge about weather, and hosts an educational outreach program targeted at grade-school students.
“It’s sort of our responsibility to apply some of the knowledge that we know about the weather … and spread that throughout the community,” he said. “We'll have a lot of grade school level, elementary school level students come and tour our weather station.”
Student observers at the weather station are responsible for taking weather observations each day on a rotating basis, he said.
In addition to its outreach programs, Calamia said the club holds biannual trips. For its fall trip last semester, the club went to Boston to tour the NBC weather studios.
“Chris Lambert, who's the meteorologist there, was nice enough to give us a tour of the entire studio. That definitely was very interesting to people who have broadcast meteorology interests, he said. “We also have guest speakers who are broadcast meteorologists who come into the club from time to time.”
Previous guest lecturers include Dylan Dreyer, weather anchor for The Today Show and a Rutgers Class of 2003 alumna, and David Curren of News12 New Jersey.
Camalia hopes to have another broadcast meteorologist visit the club soon.
While the club does not provide broadcasting opportunities, it has close ties with the WeatherWatchers program, said Ali Burgos, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences senior and the club's vice president.
“WeatherWatchers does daily forecasts three times a day. If a student is interested in being in front of a camera, that's the program for them,” she said in an email. “The majority of our club members are a part of the WeatherWatchers program.”
The WeatherWatchers studio, located in the Perry residence hall on Cook campus, provides aspiring meteorologists opportunities to practice their forecasting and broadcasting skills, Peters said.
“(The studio) has everything that you would expect for ... any position as a broadcast meteorologist,” Camalia said. “It’s exactly what (professionals) use, and the only difference there is that you have all of that to yourself, so you have a lot of freedom to use the equipment to your advantage."
In addition to being broadcast on RU-tv, the forecasts are made available on the program’s Facebook page.
Passion about weather is the common bond that holds the club together.
“People in this (club) seem to be very passionate about what they do and about the weather, Peters said. “The school’s pretty big so it’s ... hard to find your niche and find your group … The meteorology club is a way to get 50 people or so together to talk about weather.”