March 2008 Reflection

Since arriving back in Ireland in January, most of my time has been spent trying to develop my summer research thesis topic. Growing up in Southeastern U.S., I have always been fascinated with hurricanes. My family has experienced the brunt of several hurricanes, including category 5 Hurricane Hugo in 1989. This interest encouraged me to select Oceanography as a major at the U.S. Naval Academy, as well as choosing to do a Master’s degree in Meteorology here in Ireland. Naturally, I hoped to concentrate on tropical cyclone development and forecasting for my research this summer. Fortunately, my research adviser here at UCD is also very interested in tropical cyclones, and we will be working scientists at the Royal Meteorological Society in London on a joint project throughout the summer. The project focuses on understanding how climatological factors, namely the solar activity cycle, may influence hurricane frequency in the Atlantic basin. Research has been done showing that the solar cycle may influence tropical storm frequency on a ten-year timescale, but the research is not conclusive and the possible forcing has not, as yet, been included in hurricane forecasting models. If my results show that the solar cycle is a significant forcing mechanism, then additional model input can be developed.

In addition to developing a project, I’ve been busy keeping up with my courses in Numerical Weather Prediction and Climate Dynamics. I am enjoying the content of these courses immensely, and I am eager to apply what I’ve learned this year in the research thesis. This week, I took part in an intensive forecasting seminar at UCD led by prominent meteorologist and RTE television forecaster Gerry Fleming. Learning how to apply practical techniques to weather forecasting was extremely helpful and I can hardly believe how much I have learned in one short week.

On a lighter note, I am becoming ever more embedded in the Irish culture, thanks to a good friend in my course, Andy Ryan, as well as my lovely Irish housemates. We have a daily ritual which includes drinking tea after class while settling down to an episode (or two) of Father Ted. I’ve also taken up the terms “grand,” “slagging,” and “craic”…much to my housemates’ amusement. The cultural interplay goes both ways, however. I’ve caught my housemates using words like “sweet” and “awesome” although they won’t readily admit to it! The laughs over our English speaking differences have been endless.

Last weekend, our UCD Athletics team headed to Galway for the annual intervarsity cross country race. I was told that conditions at the Galway course could be fairly “mucky” but nothing could have prepared me for what I saw as our bus pulled in. The entire course was churned into a sea of foot-thick mud…more like a bog than a cross country course! After the race, I was literally covered in mud from head to toe! A week later, I am still finding remnants of the Galway bog in my room! The experience was incredibly fun and totally unforgettable. I am continuing to train through the spring in hopes of competing in the Belfast Marathon on May 5.

Finding myself over halfway through my year in Ireland, I can already anticipate how much I am going to miss the wonderful friends I’ve made here. I am looking forward to what the next five months have to bring.

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