The Archives


Photo of our entry for 2011's Parade of Trees

Parade of Trees at SDSM&T

The Department of Atmospheric Sciences once again entered the Parade of Trees contest at the School of Mines. The theme of this year's contest was about Engineering, but as future scientists and not to be outdone by this, our team of undergrads and graduate students still received an award (by virtue of a tie with Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration) for their unique "tree."

Affectionately named "Winston", our weather station was highly decked out in lights and whatever weather instruments were available. The yellow tags read: "This is what happens when you let a meteorologist engineer a Christmas tree!".

Congratulations, students!

 (Posted 12/5/2011)

New Students Join Atmospheric Sciences

Seven new students began the MS program in Atmospheric Sciences this fall semester. We wish to welcome Alana Ballweber, Aaron Carmichael, Rebecka Hastings, Ryan Lueck, Kenny Miller, Erin Walter, and Aaron Ward to campus! They will be joining returning students Kurt Chowanski, Chris Hammrich, Kathy Haselhorst, John Hamilton, Chip Redmond, and Christine Sandvik.

As of registration, we have 20 students in the BSIS-ATM track, and 5 in the AES PhD program.

(Posted Sept. 2012)


Photo of winners Students dressed like Waldo
First Snow of the Season Contest Winners announced

Dr. Andrew Detwiler, Atmospheric Sciences Department Chair, presented checks for $25 and certificates to the winners of this year's First Snow of the Season Contest. Mr. Todd Menkhaus, associate professor in the Chemical and Biological Engineering Dept., won in the adult division with a guess of 5:45 a.m. on Friday, November 18. He is holding the winner of the "under-18" category, Hayden Zuhlsdorf, of Box Elder, with a guess of 9:55 p.m. on November 13.

The first official inch of snow fell on Friday evening, November 18 at 5:30 p.m. We had 112 adult entries and 15 in the under-18 category.

The Department wishes to thank everyone who participated in this year's contest.


Where's Waldo?

Even scientist-types enjoy some good Halloween fun, and the atmospheric science students (and a staff member, too) proved it to be so as they dressed up in typical Waldo fashion for Halloween 2011. The students are a close-knit group who enjoy participating in many activities, and Halloween was no exception.

(Posted 11/14/2011)


Fire and smoke from Custer Park prescribed burn
Smoke and fire

Prescribed burns have been in the news recently. Just what is a prescribed (or controlled) burn?

A prescribed burn uses controlled conditions to accomplish several things in a heavily-forested area, or even in an area such as the Badlands, where ample moisture has created heavy grass growth. Deliberate burning of certain areas will help to remove accumulated fuels that can cause intense fires that start by human error or natural causes such as lightning. The habitat for wildlife is also improved with the new growth of tender plants. It is also a means of controlling pest problems and cleaning up debris from fallen dead trees, allowing for new growth and natural regeneration.

See the following link for more photos of the prescribed burn process.

Prescribed burns

(Posted 10/5/2011)

Homecoming 2011

The graduate and undergraduate students in the Atmospheric Sciences Department participated in the M-Day parade, September 24, 2011. Dan McKemy portrayed Dan Dan the Weatherman, as several students marched alongside the pickup all decked out in weather forecasting equipment.

(Posted 9/30/2011)


Smoke Plume from Coal Canyon Fire

Coal Canyon Fire

Darren Clabo, state wildfire meteorologist, was on duty in mid-August at the Coal Canyon Fire. The fire resulted in the loss of one firefighter and injuries to four others. It consumed over 5000 acres of forest and grassland before being fully contained on August 17.

More photos

(Posted 8/23/2011)




Fran Sewell taking measurements from burn area Fran Sewell takes measurements in Custer Park Burned area in Custer State Park Bison in Custer State Park

Pleasurable work

On a recent July afternoon, Darren Clabo, state fire meteorologist, and Fran Sewell, M.S. student in Atmospheric Sciences, drove through Custer State Park to identify areas for Fran’s research on the effects of fire on soil greenhouse gas flux. They flagged areas along a fireline where carbon dioxide and methane measurements will be taken. The brown areas are not caused by insect damage, but by surface fire that scorched the trees. And, while in the park, they just happened to catch site of a buffalo or two grazing in the grass.

Students who are enrolled in the Atmospheric Sciences program have opportunities to conduct research in various areas of atmospheric and earth systems studies, under the guidance of the expert faculty of the department. For more information on our department, please visit the website at: (All photos © Darren Clabo)

(Posted 7/13/2011)

Slurry plane dropping fire retardant Darren Clabo using handheld Kestrel instrument Helicopter used to drop water Tent camp
Left: Slurry plane dropping fire retardant; Right: Darren Clabo uses a handheld Kestrel, an instrument that measures wind speed, temperature, and relative humidity. Left: Helicopter used to drop thousands of gallons of water on the fire; Right: Firefighter tent city
WhoopUp Fire Photos

Darren Clabo, state fire meteorologist for South Dakota, was on-scene last week at the WhoopUp (named for a nearby creek) and Barrel fires and took several photos of the fires and their aftermath. The conflagrations started from lightning strikes on July 17 and were fully contained by July 23, burning approximately 10,000 acres of forest and grass. For more photos, follow this link: More-WhoopUp photos ( Fire/More_whoopup_fire_photos.htm).

(Posted 7/26/2011)

Kelvin-Helmholtz cloud over campus Two colors of smoke plumes
What Are Those Strange Looking Clouds?

Darren Clabo, state wildfire meteorologist, recently snapped this shot of a Kelvin-Helmholtz Cloud. Sometimes called shear-gravity clouds, or Kelvin-Helmholtz billows, they can be indicators of atmospheric instability. An upper layer of air moving at higher speed will pick up the top of the cloud layer and form the wave-like rolling peaks you see. The formation is named after Lord Kelvin, a British physicist, and Hermann von Helmholtz, a German physicist.

(Posted 8/6/2011)


Prescribed Burns Near Spearfish, SD

Darren Clabo, state wildfire meteorologist, took some photos during a prescribed, or controlled burn, near Spearfish, SD in early May, 2011. Fire crews were conducting the burn to return fire (natural process) to the grassland ecosystem.

Different vegetation types can cause varying smoke colors due to their differing chemical compositions or moisture content. Phragmite and cattails tend to burn with a deep black smoke, while cheatgrass, brome, and grama varieties tend to burn with white smoke.

Photo ©Darren Clabo, IAS

For more photos, check this link: Prescribed burns


photo showing joined areas photo of a gustnado Theresa giving presentation Theresa Aguilar

From gustnado to tornado...

Shawn Honomichl, MS-ATM 2011 graduate, went storm chasing near O'Neill, Nebraska on Memorial Day. He snapped the following photos, which show how a "gustnado" can turn into a "tornado". There is a distinct division between the wall cloud and the turbulence on the ground in the photo at left. On the right we see the two areas joining to form a funnel.

All photos © Shawn Honomichl.

(Posted 6/3/2011)

SDSM&T Atmospheric Sciences Student presents at AMS Annual Meeting

Theresa Aguilar, ATM-MS student, presented "An Investigation into the Spatiotemporal Scale of Two Wind Ramp Events in Northeastern Colorado" at the 91st Annual Meeting of the American Meteorological Society, January 23-27, 2011 in Seattle, Washington. Also attending the meeting were Dr. Andy Detwiler and Dr. Paul Smith. Dr. Smith's presentation was on hail damage reduction activities.
Students at Mines Open House Picture of marshland
Go To Mines Open House - April 2011

Frances Sewell, Dan D'Amico, Heather Caye, Patrick Ealy, and Ciara Breen represented the Atmospheric Sciences department at the annual open house event held on campus, Saturday, April 16, 2011. They are students of Atmospheric Sciences in either the BSIS or MS degree programs at the School of Mines and are also members of the newly-formed Weather Association.

Duke University professor to speak about environmental genocide in Iraq

Dr. Curtis Richardson, professor of resource ecology at Duke University, will speak about environmental genocide that has taken place in Iraq’s Mesopotamian marshes, considered by many to be the cradle of Western civilization. This special seminar, sponsored by the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at SDSM&T, will be held on September 15 at 5:00 p.m. in Room 204 of the Classroom Building on the School of Mines campus. Richardson will provide historical background, review the ecological devastation that has resulted from a systematic plan by Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi government to drain the marshes, and discuss the future of the marshes and the remaining population of indigenous Marsh Arabs known as the “Madan,” a 5,000 year-old culture that formerly numbered in the hundreds of thousands.

(Posted 9/2/2011)

Atmospheric Sciences students receive fellowships

Three graduate students in atmospheric sciences and one undergraduate student in the BSIS-ATM program have received scholarship awards this fall semester.

Picture of Dan D'AMico

Mr. Dan D'Amico, from Twinsburg, Ohio, was awarded a Nelson Fellowship. This fellowship was established at SDSM&T by Joseph F. Nelson, and is awarded in recognition of academic achievement by a student in either chemistry, chemical engineering, physics, geology, geological engineering, math, or atmospheric sciences. Dan, in his second year of study, is conducting his thesis research work under the direction of Dr. Bill Capehart.

Picture of Fran SewellMs. Frances Sewell, a second-year MS student from Monticello, Maine, was awarded the Harry and Laura Orville Scholarship for 2011-2012. This award was established to provide support for entering or current graduate students in atmospheric sciences or an environmental field. Frannie is completing her research work under the direction of Mr. Darren Clabo.

Picture of Emily FrenchMs. Emily French, Torrington, CT, was recently awarded an Ivanhoe Excellence Scholarship. This scholarship was founded by L.F. "Bus" Ivanhoe, a School of Mines graduate and recipient of the Guy E. March Medal for outstanding achievement in his field. Emily is doing her research work under the guidance of Dr. Donna Kliche, and is also in her second year of studies.

Picture of Eric HoutMr. Eric Hout, a BSIS-ATM undergraduate, received three scholarships for this academic year: an American Meteorological Society Undergraduate Scholarship, a NASA Space Grant Consortium Scholarship, and a National Weather Association-Accuweather Undergraduate Meteorology Scholarship.


Congratulations to these students on their achievements and in receiving these scholarships!

(Posted 9/20/2011)

Dr. Harold D. Orville

It is with deep sadness that we announce the death of Dr. Harry Orville, longtime professor and research scientist at IAS. Services were held July 23 at Emmanual Episcopal Church in Rapid City. You may read his obituary and sign the guest book at the Edstrom and Rooks website using this link:  Serenity Springs Funeral Chapel.

(Posted 6/2011)

Dr. Harold Orville - A Tree is Planted in his Memory

On July 31, 2011, a honey locust tree was planted in front of the Mineral Industries building on the campus of SDSM&T in memory of Dr. Harry Orville. Dr. Orville, who passed away in June, was a distinguished professor emeritus of the atmospheric sciences department and was also a generous benefactor to the department and the School of Mines. In addition to being a favorite professor of the students, he also conducted research work, served as department chair, and served as an interim vice president of the university.

Photo of Andy Detwiler with Thunderbird tie

Dr. Andy Detwiler receives Thunderbird Award

Dr. Andrew Detwiler, professor and research scientist in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at SDSM&T, received the Thunderbird Award at the annual meeting of the Weather Modification Association, held in April in Park City, Utah. The annual Thunderbird Award, symbolized by a distinctive bolo tie, is an honored presentation which recognizes an individual who has made fundamental and continuing contributions to the art and science of weather modification. Dr. Detwiler has published numerous articles on weather modification and has been the editor of the association’s Journal of Weather Modification for six years.

Posted 4/28/2011

New Student Organization is formed at SD School of Mines

Atmospheric Sciences students at the School of Mines have formed the SDSM&T Weather Association. The purpose of this organization is to encourage increased knowledge of and interest in atmospheric science and meteorological phenomenon among its members. The organization is committed to community involvement through outreach and education programs aimed at individuals of all ages. Further, the organization is aimed at unifying students with interests in the atmospheric and earth sciences through group activities.

Patrick Ealy was elected the club’s president. Other officers are Daniel D’Amico, Vice President; Franny Sewell, Secretary; and Ciara Breen, Treasurer. Patrick and Ciara are undergrads in the BSIS-ATM program and Franny and Dan are M.S. students in the Atmospheric Sciences program. Staff advisors are Darren Clabo and Pam Cox.

One of the first activities of the newly-formed group was to coordinate with the National Weather Service to present a Skywarn Storm Spotter Training event, held on campus March 30 and open to the public. Attendance was mixed between students with an atmospheric science background and those from outside the program as well as many community members. In total, nearly 50 people were in attendance.

The group has plans for more activities, and you may visit their website by using the following link: SDSM&T Association Club or on Facebook. Membership is free and is open to students and members of the public alike.

(Posted April 2011)

SD Mines Students Receive Trophies in the Weather Challenge Forecasting Contest

The Department of Atmospheric Sciences at the School of Mines has participated in the WxChallenge nationwide forecasting contest since 2006. WxChallenge, developed and managed by the University of Oklahoma, tests the forecasting skills of students and faculty from participating colleges and universities across the nation. During the 2010-2011 academic year, the School of Mines’ forecast team, consisting of 14 graduate and undergraduate students and one faculty member, ranked 19th overall out of 51 participating universities.

 Forecasts were made for five 2-week forecast periods each semester, with each period set in a different city. For each city, the maximum and minimum temperature, maximum wind speed, and cumulative precipitation were forecast for the day. The closer the forecaster came to the actual observations, the lower their score became. Trophies were awarded when a forecaster scored the lowest for a single period or overall for all forecast sites. Our students made forecasts for Seattle, Washington, in this year's contest.

Over 1600 individuals participated in the contest, with four School of Mines graduate student participants ranking in the top 50% in this group. Earning trophies were Dan McKemy (far left in photo), who placed 2nd overall and Shawn Honomichl, who placed 4th overall (second from right in photo); also pictured are Dr. Paul Smith, IAS director and Dr. Bill Capehart, Dept. Chair for Atmospheric Sciences. Other graduate students who placed in the top 50 were Dan D’Amico, who placed 7th and Joshua Brewer, who placed 22nd overall in that same category. 

(Posted 5/3/2011)