HAYS, KS. -- Wherever three or more mobile Doppler radars are gathered together, the locals will wonder if they should be concerned about the weather.
That is one of the lessons reinforced by participation in the Plains Elevated Convection At Night (PECAN) weather research campaign based at Fort Hays State University, but spreading across large portions of western Kansas into Oklahoma and Nebraska.
The UAH contingent, which includes the Mobile Alabama X-band Doppler radar and two Mobile Integrated Profiling Systems, catches the eyes of local residents as it passes by on the highway or when it is parked awaiting instructions (or interesting weather).
Many of these people aren't shy about stopping to ask questions, with the first frequently being, "Expecting bad weather?" or "Expecting tornadoes?"
The UAH team of students and faculty looks at these questions as an opportunity to talk about the university's weather research program, as well as a chance to allay any fears that so many weather instruments in one place must mean tornadoes are on their way. ("No, we're not from the Weather Channel.")
Other outreach efforts are more formal: When a summer energy camp at FHSU looked for someone to explain why there were a couple of dozen instrument-laden trucks and vans on campus to its campers (high schoolers from across Kansas), the UAH team volunteered. The campers got a walkthrough of the UAH vehicles with an explanation of what the instruments measure and why that matters.