Steamboat Weather Summit 2014 Part IIIl

Don Day, mission meteorologist for Red Bull Stratos Space Jump (2012)
If you are at all familiar with the recent success of the Red Bull Stratos Space Jump, you would have been fully engaged and holding your breath during Don's presentation. Don was in charge of the tropospheric and stratospheric weather forecasts determining the optimal balloon launch time, and ultimate landing time/location of the balloon and the jumper, Felix Baumgartner. I could go on and on and on about the weather requirements for this jump, but the fine folks at Red Bull put together a documentary to talk about the entire project. You can find that here: http://www.redbullstratos.com/.

On Mountain Sessions: Ski Patrol Avalanche Control, Ski Patrol behind the scenes training, The Storm Peak Laboratory
The day was...well, interesting. Mostly because I missed everything. I did make it to the Ski Patrol hut with the group and we skied our way to Chute number 2 for avalanche training. I was distracted by a foreign couple having some issues with directions/altitude and the depth of powder, after helping them I discovered the group was gone and down into a chute I could no longer access. So, I carried on together with the couple I had just met. At least I have new friends to visit in Germany now!

Steamboat Weather Summit

In some consolation, I was able to visit the Storm Peak Laboratory. An atmospheric research station sitting at 10,568' atop the Steamboat Resort. If you've skied at Steamboat, then you've seen this building. It started as an old camper trailer, but over the years has been built into a solid structure for year round weather research. The gizmos attached to the building are a weather nerds dream. To me, this place was like a giant jungle gym and I wanted to stay all day and play. Yes, I did throw a fit of stomping feet and a few tears when asked to leave!

A variety of government and education agencies utilize the location of this lab. NASA has equipment measuring the size of cloud particles. A variety of universities use the site for snow data, including snowfall, snowdepth and new snow weight. An actual snow weight study had just started the day of my visit. By knowing the atomic weight of the water molecules that created the initial rime and subsequent snowflake you can know the type of environment, namely temperature, that the snowflake was grown in. This will have implications in climate research. If you take an ice core from a glacier you can dissect the sample into a time record and then apply this research to discover what temperatures that time period was experiencing.

Keynote Speaker: Owen Daniels, Meteorologist and Tight End for the Houston Texans
Yes, I am a life-long Bronco fan, but I may lend a bit more support toward Owen now that we've met. A meteorologist in education and in heart, but a football player through and through. Owen's post football career will definitely be weather related. His wife later told me that when she met him, his DVR was filled with "Storm Stories", a series from the Weather Channel.

Perhaps the most dramatic weather related factoid about him is that training in Houston's heat and humidity takes quite a toll on him. He can lose 10lbs per day just from water-loss, so IVs are an important part of keeping himself and the team hydrated following each practice -- seemingly extreme, but I can see how just drinking water/gatorade is not enough to keep up.

It was also interesting to hear how simple things, like what gloves to wear, will depend on the weather and through his experience, Owen knows how well certain gloves will work in certain conditions. Plus, several of his games were dramatic off the field, with flooding rains during a college game in Arizona for example, and apparently OD is the go to weather forecaster for his team.

As I said in the first post, a conference motivates you to learn more, to become better, to engage with those new people you built connections with, and in the end you come away with a better knowledge of your craft. Certainly true following this year's Summit.

Matt Makens

Matt Makens has won 5 Emmys for his weather coverage. He has the seal of approval from the NWA and is a certified Broadcast Meteorologist as designated by the AMS. He works for Colorado's Own Ch 2.

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