SUNY Oswego meteorology student spends summer researching climate

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Senior Major in Meteorology and Minor in Mathematics and Astronomy Shaun Laurenite spent his summer taking advantage of SUNY Oswego’s many internship opportunities, including as a summer fellow for the Cooperative Great Lakes Research Institute (CIGLR) under the direction of Jia Wang of the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Encouraged to apply for the scholarship by SUNY Oswego Meteorology Faculty Member Scott Steiger, Laurenite eagerly awaited his acceptance.

“Both projects seemed interesting” Laurenite said. “One was about ice cover and the other was about lake effect storms which I’m both interested in, so I applied.”

Laurenite comes with a wealth of experience from his years on campus, including serving as a member of the SUNY Oswego Chapter of the American Meteorological Society, as well as a forecaster for SUNY Oswego’s Lake Effect Storm Prediction and Research Center (LESPaRC) over the last two years. In this position, Laurenite creates forecasts once a week for local school districts as well as the local Department of Transportation to keep them informed of the weather during the winter season.

At the end of the day, Laurenite focused his research on the decadal and interannual variability of ice cover in two areas of Lake Superior.

A summer of experiences

Beginning his summer, Laurenite had the opportunity to travel to Boulder, Colorado to participate in an undergraduate leadership workshop with the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). Along with 18 other undergraduate students, also majoring in meteorology, they took a week to cover leadership development topics such as diversity and inclusion, ethics, and resume writing workshops.

“We were also able to hike to a mountain research station,” Laurenite said. “We actually saw snow in June, which was cool, and we were also able to visit the Research Aviation Facility.”

Back from Colorado, Laurenite spent his summer researching for CIGLR, hoping to gain more experience with the Python programming language, which he believes will help him in his future career.

“This internship also exposed me a bit more to research projects like the ones I did in class and for an internship I did last year that was also about climate, so I was able to continue .” Laurenite said. “This type of research I did on climate – I got to see how important climate research is as opposed to the broader research that we are exposed to in courses.”

Laurenite and others have focused on Lake Superior ice melt data and trends over 50 years, using Python to plot those trends.

“In my two areas, which were in Lake Superior, we noticed a negative trend in the average ice cover over the 50-year period we were looking at as well as the length of days with ice cover as well,” Laurenite said.

Laurenite also noted that because the dataset dates back to the 1970s, there were times when the data was not recorded. Using Python, Laurenite and his team would fill in the missing datasets with average climatological data and found that they may be underestimating the true negative trends that were occurring.

But following trends wasn’t the only part of Laurenite‘: He was also tasked with learning what it would be like to do communications and outreach, including filming B-rolls and screenwriting, to complement his experience as a professional.

Presentation GLASS

Laurinaitis will present its summer experience at the 12th Annual Great Lakes Atmospheric Science Symposium (GLASS) November 5, 2022.

This year’s guest speaker is Tom Niziol ’77, Distinguished Meteorologist and National Winter Weather Expert on The Weather Channel from 2012-2019.

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