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Atmospheric Sciences Professor’s Work Helps to Predict Ice Storm Power Outages

Atmospheric Sciences Professor Jay Shafer is leading the effort to predict ice storm power outages in Vermont. A co-author of the paper A Comparison of Low-Cost Collector Configurations for Quantifying Ice Accretion, published in the September 2020 issue of the Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology, the research involved testing simple methods that can be used by citizen-science weather observers to improve ice storm measurements. These observations will ultimately improve the forecasting of ice storms, Shafer said.

Shafer’s contributions included ice measurement research in Vermont gleaned through his role as the statewide CoCoRaHS (Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network) coordinator, along with providing weather forecast support. Shafer has involved NVU-Lyndon students in his research that’s been ongoing for seven years, with students helping to analyze meteorological characteristics unique to ice storms. Results from this research have been used by Vermont electric power companies to be more prepared ahead of winter storms.

There are about 40 citizen-science weather observers across Vermont who volunteer with CoCoRaHS to cover an average of 4-5 storms each year. “Ice is hard to measure, as it varies a lot over a short distance,” Shafer said. The goal is to get better observations from major storms, as the data is helpful to test power outage prediction models, he said.