Senior Meteorology Student Receives Undergraduate Research Award

Ty Dickinson, a senior meteorology student in the School of Meteorology, received the James Bruce Morehead award for undergraduate research in weather and climate.

Dickinson received the award during his spring semester before participating in an internship opportunity through the NOAA Ernest F. Hollings Scholarship in the summer.

“I was nervous but excited… I was excited to take my experiences from the summer and continue to use them right away,” Dickinson said. “This summer I was a research intern at the National Weather Service (NWS) Weather Forecast Office Austin/San Antonio, located in New Braunfels.”

Living in Texas was a new experience for Dickinson. Before his research experience, he spent his past summers in his hometown of Port Huron, Michigan.  “I laughed pretty hard when I heard one of the forecasters say that the high for the next day was going to be ‘anomalously low’ at 90 degrees Fahrenheit. For some context, these two locations are separated by 14 degrees latitude and over 1500 miles so I would say the climate is much different! It was hot every day but luckily the office was well air-conditioned.”

Dickinson’s research involves creating an objective process to make and verify impact-based seasonal outlooks and utilizes nonparametric statistics. “In Texas, we did this for severe weather, river and flash flooding, and fire weather,” Dickinson said. “The main goal of the project is to expand the region of focus to the Southern Plains, which I have dubbed as Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas, and focus on severe weather. I will apply the same process as I did this summer in creating a seasonal outlook verification index for severe weather and look for correlations between severe weather impacts and the El Niño Southern Oscillation.”

There are other possible climatic mechanisms that may impact weather such as the dipole between Caribbean Sea surface temperatures (SSTs) and the Gulf of Mexico SSTs that have an effect on the strength of the low-level jet, which Dickinson hopes to investigate further. If time allows, Dickinson also hopes to collaborate with several NWS offices and forestry services to improve the fire weather index.

This research is a nice blend of weather and climate according to Dickinson, which is very enjoyable for him and the area of research he is most interested in. “I am focusing on severe weather and its impacts while also examining it from a climatology perspective. To me, it is the best of both worlds!” Dickinson said. “I see myself working to improve our prediction of weather based on the impacts of various climate modes. I believe it is one of the integral next steps in improving atmospheric predictability”.

Dickinson has collaborated with forecasters from NWS Austin/San Antonio and is working directly with Dr. Cameron Homeyer and a few others. “I have collaborated with so many people to get their thoughts and inputs on since these types of outlooks have never been done before.” Dickinson says. “I owe huge thank you to my mentor, Dr. Larry Hopper, the best mentor I could have asked for and he has helped me grow as a person and scientist. So many more people and experiences, made my time in Texas something I will never forget.”

For as long as Dickinson can remember, meteorology has always been an interest. He was drawn in by the applications to science and how it affects everyone daily. “My grandma used to joke that the only reason she kept cable at her house was so I could watch the Weather Channel. It really is a dream come true to study meteorology and help further our understanding.”

Dickinson plans to attend graduate school when he graduates from OU this upcoming spring. From there, he hopes to continue research in utilizing statistical analyses in improving sub-seasonal and seasonal forecasting. He eventually wants to become a professor at an established atmospheric sciences/meteorology program and continue his research.

The award was left to the college by retired USAF Col. James B. Morehead, a former Sooner and one of the most highly decorated Ace fighter pilots of World War II. Colonel Morehead was born and raised in Oklahoma and had a distinguished military career, followed by a successful work in real estate. He dedicated a portion of his estate to support the research endeavors of the OU College of Atmospheric and Geographic Sciences, and his legacy allows young researchers such as Ty to study and solve complex problems. We thank the Morehead family for their support of the study of atmospheric sciences at the University of Oklahoma.