SUNY Oswego Meteorology Student Spends Summer Studying Climate – Oswego County Today

OSWEGO – SUNY Oswego Senior Meteorology Major and Mathematics and Astronomy Minor Shaun Laurinaitis spent his summer taking advantage of SUNY Oswego’s extensive internship opportunities, including being a summer fellow at the Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research (CIGLR) under mentor Jia Wang of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Encouraged by Scott Steiger, a member of the SUNY Oswego Faculty of Meteorology, to apply for the fellowship, Laurinaitis eagerly awaited his acceptance.

“The two projects looked interesting,” said Laurinaitis. “One related to ice cover and one to sea effect storms, both of which are interesting to me, so I applied.”

Laurinaitis brings a wealth of experience from his years on campus, including serving as a member of the SUNY Oswego chapter of the American Meteorological Society, as well as being a forecaster for SUNY Oswego’s Lake Effect Storm Prediction and Research Center (LESPaRC) for the past two years. In this position, Laurinaitis provides weekly forecasts for local school districts as well as for the local Department of Transportation to keep them updated on the weather throughout the winter season.

Ultimately, Laurinaitis focused his research on the decadal and interannual variability of ice cover in two areas of Lake Superior.

A summer full of experiences:

Earlier in his summer, Laurinaitis had the opportunity to travel to Boulder, Colorado to attend an undergraduate leadership workshop with NCAR (National Center for Atmospheric Research). Along with 18 other undergraduate students, also meteorology majors, they took a week to cover leadership development topics such as diversity and inclusion, ethics and resume building workshops.

“We also had to hike to a mountain research station,” Laurinaitis said. “We actually saw snow in June, which was cool, and we also got to visit the Research Aviation Facility.”

After returning from Colorado, Laurinaitis spent his summer researching for CIGLR, hoping to gain more experience with the Python programming language, which he believes will help him in his future career.

“This internship also exposed me a bit more to research projects like I did in class and for an internship I did last year that was also related to climate, so I was able to continue with that”, said Laurinaitis said. “This type of research that I’ve been doing on the subject of climate — I’ve been able to see how important climate research is as opposed to the broader research that we’re exposed to in the classroom.”

Laurinaitis and others focused on data and ice melt trends from Lake Superior over 50 years and used Python to plot those trends.

“In both of my two regions that were in Lake Superior, we found a negative trend in the average ice cover over both the 50-year period we were looking at and the length of ice cover days,” Laurinaitis said.

Laurinaitis also noted that there were times when the data was not recorded, as the data set dates back to the 1970s. Using Python, Laurinaitis and his team filled in missing datasets with average climate data and found that they may be underestimating the negative trends that are really occurring.

But following trends wasn’t the only part of Laurinaitis’ experience: He was also responsible for learning what it would be like to do communications and public relations, including filming b-roll and scripts, to round out his experience as a professional.

GLAS presentation:

Laurinaitis will present his summer experience at the 12th Annual Great Lakes Atmospheric Science Symposium (GLASS) on November 5, 2022.

This year’s guest speaker is Tom Niziol, a 1977 SUNY Oswego graduate and distinguished meteorologist and National On-Air Winter Weather Expert for the Weather Channel from 2012-2019.

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