Enhancing Weather-Awareness and Safety: How One Baron Intern Is Improving Weather Communication
“Getting people to pay attention and understand the weather can be difficult, but it’s what I have a passion for,” says Baron’s Meteorological Research Intern Rebecca Kollmeyer. “I want to help people understand what’s going on and why.”
Driven by her passion to improve weather communication, Rebecca has made the most of her time interning at Baron by gaining industry experience, networking with professionals and conducting complex research projects. In June 2015, Rebecca presented her findings to attendees of the AMS Broadcast 43rd Conference on Broadcast Meteorology, and the 3rd Conference on Weather Warnings and Communication in Raleigh, NC. Her presentation explained the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in measuring the effectiveness of severe weather alerting through mobile apps— specifically Baron Safety Net, a geo-specific notification system that alerts users who are in the path of severe weather.
This was Rebecca’s first time speaking at AMS, but not her first time to attend. She has spent many years working toward a career in weather, and has many goals for improving the process of weather communication in the future.
Working With Industry Partners
Rebecca, a second year master student at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, is part of the Earth Systems Science Program in the Department of Atmospheric Science. Her internship at Baron started this year in January as part of a UAH initiative to encourage students to work with industry partners in Huntsville. Rebecca was eager to begin her internship when she heard the news. “Baron is a common name in the Atmospheric Science Department at UAH—everyone knows what the company does. This is a really great group of people who are passionate about finding solutions for its partners and the public. I was excited to be a part of it.”
Improving Weather Communication
During her time at Baron, Rebecca has dedicated her focus to the GIS computer software program ArcMap for the purpose of analyzing Safety Net data. She has compiled both scientific and societal research to determine how the public receives weather information and how it is interpreted.
Her presentation at AMS Broadcast helped demonstrate how GIS can integrate data from Safety Net users, the U.S. National Weather Service, and Census Bureau, and emergency managers in the state of Alabama. By combining geostatistical data along with social vulnerability data, which locates areas more prone to negative impacts during severe weather events, Rebecca has spatially identified areas of Alabama that are under-represented based on use of a statewide implementation of Safety Net technology.
“This is all still a work in progress,” said Rebecca. “But, we were able to determine areas where the app was performing well and where people were using it to get the majority of their weather information.” Her preliminary results determined locations where people would be better served and become more weather-aware with information provided through a weather app.
Her results highlighted Safety Net’s success in northeast Madison County, which has a history of severe storms. In an area where many users are outside the range of county tornado sirens, the Baron app may be the first form of actionable intelligence that they receive to help make a decision. By understanding where weather apps are performing well and where they could be better utilized, weather communication can be improved before, during and after severe weather, helping save lives and property.
Rebecca’s Greatest Takeaway
Rebecca typically spends 20 hours a week a Baron, but admits to putting in extra hours to make sure her AMS presentation was ready for delivery. And if her schedule wasn’t already busy enough, her afternoons are spent going to class, working on additional research and preparing her master’s thesis.
In the future, Rebecca hopes to find a job where she can bring her GIS knowledge to research groups. When asked what the greatest takeaway from her time at Baron was, she responded “…Baron’s view is that whatever needs to be done will get done. Everyone here goes the extra mile to find traditional and creative solutions for problems. No one ever says, ‘this is too difficult’. The people here work together to make sure they deliver on their promise.”