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SWIFT Internship Recap 2017

  POSTED ON: Tuesday, July 18, 2017 10:45 AM by MIDN 1/C Colin Hackbarth

During Zero Block, from May 12-26, 2017, seven Midshipmen, MIDN 2/C Greg Gruseck, Major Henry, Keely Martin, Shannon Mcallister, Darby Minton and Ally Warnimont, and MIDN 1/C Colin Hackbarth, participated in the U.S. Naval Academy (USNA) Oceanography Department's Severe Weather In-Field Training (SWIFT) internship. This two-week long program, overseen by Associate Professor Brad Barrett and LCDR Matt Burich, allowed students to apply what they have learned in the classroom about severe weather and forecasting in a real-world environment by predicting where severe weather will occur and observing severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. Additionally, the students performed science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) outreach for middle schoolers in Oklahoma and visited the 15th Operational Weather Squadron (OWS) at Scott Air Force Base in O'Fallon, Illinois and the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma.


On the first morning, the group toured the 15th OWS where they were briefed on squadron operations of the squadron and interacted with the forecast teams on the watch floor (see picture above).The next day, the group led a STEM outreach at Owasso 8th Grade Center in Owasso, OK (pictured below). After splitting into three groups, the Midshipmen talked to 8th graders about weather and meteorology, as well as the Naval Academy, and performed several fun experiments with the students. After the school, the team headed for the panhandle of Texas for their first chase day! Outside Borger, Texas they observed a very photogenic supercell thunderstorm and drove through the outer edge of a hail core, luckily emerging with the van unscathed. 

SWIFT at Owasso 8th Grade Center

The following day, the group visited the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center (SPC) in Norman, OK (pictured below). There, they learned about the history of the center, as well as weather prediction and forecasting in the United States. They also saw how small the team of SPC forecasters actually is, and watched them simulate issuing a tornado watch for several counties. After the SPC, the group drove to the nearby Radar Operations Center and got to climb up into a National Weather Service radome, where the technicians explained how the radar works, its limitations, and how they maintain the equipment. After the tour, the team burned rubber out of Norman, en route to McLean, Texas. There, they saw the first tornado of the trip, a short-lived "elephant trunk" tornado. After taking lots of pictures and videos, the group headed north into Oklahoma to chase another storm that ended up producing a rain-wrapped tornado that unfortunately passed through Elk City, OK causing substantial damage. 


The following days' activities included chasing storms up in Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas and New Mexico, as well as hiking in Oklahoma and Texas. The team saw two more tornadoes near Medicine Lodge, Kansas, including one that formed amazingly fast right in front of the van!

Towards the end of the second week, the group began the long drive back towards Annapolis. Along the way, they stopped for some great barbeque in Memphis and drove along the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina. On Friday, May 26, the group arrived back in Annapolis, sad that the trip was over but filled with lots of memories and knowledge about severe storms. As MIDN 1/C Colin Hackbarth put it, "Participating in SWIFT was one of the best experiences I had at the Naval Academy. I had a great time working with the team to predict severe weather, and it was a great feeling to be in the right place at the right time and have the storm you predicted form right where you said it would!" Overall, SWIFT 2017 was a great training experience for all involved and provided relevant knowledge for the Midshipmen that will greatly enhance their naval careers. SWIFT 2017 was funded by the generous support of the USNA STEM Center for Education and Outreach.

Instructor Alexander R. Davies and Associate Professor Bradford S. Barrett of the USNA Oceanography Department contributed to this article. 

Category: General Interest

Press Contact

Alexander R. Davies
Oceanography Department, USNA