The dramatic shifts in weather in northern Wisconsin and around Lake Superior have inspired more than one career at Northland College.
Wayne Feltz ’91 studied earth science at Northland College then went onto earn an MS in atmospheric science in 1994 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he worked as a scientist ever since. In 2013, he became the executive director for Science at the Space Science and Engineering Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, directing a group of researchers/scientists toward the goal of using current derived satellite-based meteorological products to improve forecasting of aviation weather hazards.
Mikayla Duarte ’17 got interested in weather when she was in elementary school. A storm system went through southwestern Wisconsin, producing tornados. She remained glued to the TV, watching the local meteorologists report on the storm. When the tornado sirens went off, she wanted to rush outside, rather than go to the basement. She got to experiences some serious weather at Northland College the summer of 2016. “I was an intern at KBJR News in Duluth when the July flooding happened in northern Wisconsin and getting to experience this kind of extreme weather event while on the job helped me learn so much.
A week later, a straight line wind event ripped through Ashland overnight. “Surveying the damage walking through campus the next day, was something I’ll never forget,” she said.
Duarte planned on going into broadcast meteorology but her career took a different direction. Instead, she is a software engineer for the Air Force Weather Agency. She says her meteorology background has been critical to the team’s success in creating diagnostics for weather maps.
Jonathan Wolfe ’04 remembers keeping track of daily snowfall totals at his childhood home in Two Harbors, Minnesota, during the winter of 1996, which ended up breaking snowfall records. He now gets paid to track weather at the National Weather Service in Duluth, along with colleagues and fellow Northland alums Kevin Huyck ’03 and William Mokry ’12.
Wolfe is responsible for developing a piece of software called the Enhanced Data Display, or EDD, which is being used in the National Severe Storms Laboratory Hazardous Weather Testbed as a key component of advancing tornado and severe thunderstorm warning forecasting. “This software integrates a wealth of data into ‘storm objects’ that provide much better timing and threat communication of storm risk and their statistical probabilities of impacting geographical areas,” he said.
Nathan Lynum ’16 graduated in May 2018 from the School of Mines and Technology in South Dakota with a master of science degree in atmospheric and environmental sciences. His thesis research has been focused on the influences and different physical processes within a large single supercell interacting with extreme wind events that are created as part of severe storms. The goal is to enhance the warning of straight line winds.