UGA student in Dr. Knox’s weather forecasting class providing coverage of Hurricane Michael. (Photo/Courtesy Lance Blocker)

Atmospheric science students at the University of Georgia can take a weather forecasting seminar to gain real time forecasting experience while also benefiting the public in Athens.

"Atlanta-based networks tend to focus on the metro-Atlanta area and rarely dedicate much coverage on Athens," said Lance Blocker, a junior atmospheric science major from Kennesaw.

He said the torch was essentially passed to current UGA students to report on Athens-specific weather, from winter to severe weather events.

In the Weather Forecasting Seminar classroom, offered through the Department of Geography, students make predictions about the future weather, while also commenting and learning from their past predicted forecasts. With the help of websites such as Next Generation Weather Lab and Tropical Tidbits, students examined possible drizzles and thunderstorms in the near future.

“Today’s TV meteorologists aren’t just on TV,” said John Knox, undergraduate coordinator for the atmospheric sciences program. “They’re also on Twitter and all sorts of platforms, so we’re giving our students that experience ... everything from broadcast experience with a green screen to posting social media forecasts and doing all the different steps from the behind the scenes to in front of the camera.”

AthensGaWeather.com was a website created eight years ago by then undergraduate Matt Daniel, who now works at WBRC Fox 6 in Birmingham. He initially began posting weather updates on Twitter before creating a Facebook page and eventually the website.

“I was an intro student a year ago,” said Richard Garmong, a senior atmospheric science major from Marietta. “There’s literally nothing better that you can do for a future in forecasting than this. I interned at the National Weather Service, but the fundamentals [here] are exactly the same as [there].”

During their forecast, Professor Knox asked the class about the percent chance of rain the next day.

“Do we have the guts for 50?” he said to the class. After a short debate, the class pushed the number up to 60.

Devin Black, junior atmospheric science major, said the skills and advantages he gained from this program will help in his future career.

“This class helps me work on my forecasting skills,” said Devin Black, a junior atmospheric science major from Conyers. “This will help because I want to be a forecaster at one of the national weather offices.”

Anna Sims, a junior atmospheric science and geography major from Pine Mountain, said she was excited to be part of such a unique program at the university.  

“We’ve never really had a class like this in this program,” Sims said. “I’m interning with [WTVM in Columbus] this semester, so I think this will really help me.”

With more than 16,000 followers on their Facebook page, this innovative class continues to do most of its reporting over social media, but they plan to expand in the future.

“This is a state-of-the-art class,” Blocker said. “Nobody else is doing this, and we’re leading the way.”

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