The Blue Ridge Chapter of the American Meteorological Society/National Weather Association, also known as the Virginia Tech Meteorology Club, was named as the American Meteorological Society’s Outstanding Chapter of the Year for 2013-14.

The society noted the chapter’s outreach in raising community awareness about severe weather and its excellence in career building through a diverse speaker series with networking opportunities for members. 

The Blue Ridge Chapter, composed primarily of Virginia Tech meteorology students, is one of approximately 140 chapters of the American Meteorological Society.

“I am extremely proud of this group of dedicated students,” said Bill Carstensen, head of the Department of Geography in the College of Natural Resources and Environment in which the meteorology program is based. “Our meteorology students are well-known for their outreach activities in the region and their passion for weather. A new program could not ask for better ambassadors.”

In its three years of existence, the club has grown from eight to 56 members. The chapter hosts speakers at most meetings, giving members plenty of opportunities for networking. Guests have included National Weather Service forecasters, Virginia Emergency Management staffers, meteorologists from television stations WDBJ and WSET, a Weather Geeks host, and a weather producer from The Weather Channel.

“We also focus on networking within the meteorological community by attending national weather conferences around the country,” said Ashley Athey of Danville, Virginia, a meteorology master’s degree student in the College of Natural Resources and Environment and the club’s graduate student representative.

The club’s outreach work reflects its strong commitment to raising awareness about severe weather events. The chapter has hosted EPIC Storm Week, a weeklong community event at the Blacksburg Library that included talks by meteorologists, Hokie Storm Chasers, and forecasters, as well as weather-related entertainment. The chapter later used the library as a venue for a children’s craft workshop designed to teach about wind, rain, snow, and storms.

The club also made presentations at the Virginia Science Festival and judged meteorological entries at the Blue Ridge Regional Science Fair. In addition to speaking at schools and Boy Scout meetings, the group has participated in a community weather balloon launch at Virginia Tech.

“Public awareness is crucial when dealing with significant weather events, so any role that we can play in increasing awareness and educating the general public is a positive thing,” said David Carroll, senior instructor of geography and the chapter’s advisor.

“The culture surrounding the Blue Ridge Chapter of the American Meteorological Society is an extension of the culture in the Department of Geography and the College of Natural Resources and Environment in general,” Carroll continued. “Outreach has always played an important role in what we do, and any time we can interact with the general public or students of all ages through schools, we want to take advantage of that opportunity.”

In addition to service outreach, student members have the opportunity to participate in daily weather forecasts for WUVT, the campus radio station, and the Collegiate Times through the Hokie Weather Watch Blog. The chapter brings Skywarn weather-spotting training sessions to campus so members and others can become Skywarn certified. More than half of the chapter’s members participate in the WxChallenge, an annual North American collegiate weather forecasting competition held over 10 weeks.

Founded in fall 2011, the Virginia Tech Meteorology Club was originally organized to spread the word about the new meteorology degree, which was first offered in 2012, and to assist students in career building. The club became a chapter of the National Weather Association and the American Meteorological Society later that year.

The American Meteorological Society promotes the development and dissemination of information and education on the atmospheric and related oceanic and hydrologic sciences and the advancement of their professional applications. Founded in 1919, the society has a membership of more than 14,000 professionals, students, and weather enthusiasts.

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