Climatology Opportunities at Rutgers as an Undergrad

April 19, 2014 - 2:32pm -- Colleen McHugh

New Brunswick Weather Station Photo

There are many weather- and climate-related opportunities for undergraduate meteorology majors at Rutgers. One opportunity available to undergraduates is to become a student observer at the Cooperative observing station at the Rutgers Gardens. Each morning, one student heads to the gardens at 7 or 8 AM, a rather ridiculous hour for college students, and takes measurements at the station. These measurements include the high and low temperatures over the past 24 hours, soil temperature at different depths, evaporation rate, precipitation, and snowfall and snow depth, if applicable. After recording these measurements, they are sent in to the National Weather Service and stored by the National Climatic Data Center as a part of the climatological database for New Brunswick. Taking observations is not only important from a meteorological perspective, but also from a climatological one to create averages over a long period of time.

This being said, it is important to take observations every day, so some students have had to take observations in very interesting weather, including winter storms and heavy thunderstorms. I personally have lucked out in terms of taking observations in bad weather; the worst weather event that I have encountered in the past year has been light snow following a major winter storm. However, with the active winter we had, several students have had to drive in very heavy snow, sometimes before the plows had made it to the gardens. Another student taking observations over the summer had to brave a severe thunderstorm in the early morning hours. There has also been a fair share of animal visits around the station ranging from deer to fox to groundhogs, which puts an interesting twist on reading thermometers. Adjacent to the mainly student-run Cooperative station is an automated station, part of the NJ Weather and Climate Network.

Another way to get involved with climatology is by working with or interning for the Office of the New Jersey State Climatologist or the Rutgers Climate Institute. The Rutgers Climate Institute is a university-wide program that addresses climate change through education, research, and outreach through different departments at Rutgers. The ONJSC does everything New Jersey climate, including gathering and archiving climate data for New Jersey, conducting research as well as outreach in the form of social media, and maintaining websites such as this one. Both programs are a great way to get experience outside of the classroom and to get involved in climatology at Rutgers as an undergrad.