Earth System Science Center and Department of Atmospheric Science at The University of Alabama in Huntsville

Longoria does the research sprint

When you have only three months to complete a research project, it can feel like a 12-week sprint — especially if the project includes building hardware.

“You have to work quickly, and half the time I was building equipment,” said Julian Longoria, a senior ESS student working this summer with Dr. Leiqiu Hu through UAH’s Research and Creative Experiences for Undergraduates (RCEU) program on a study of the impact both urban geometry and land use have on outdoor thermal comfort.

The hardware in question is a pair of low-cost (“relatively low cost, depending on how many boards I fried”) portable weather stations. Combined with an similar existing station, they gave Longoria the tools needed to do a quick study of micro-climates in and near UAH.

One station is set up beyond the outfields of the UAH baseball and softball fields. Another is in the yard of the house where Longoria lives not far from campus, while the third is near the Bridge Street shopping center.

“I want to learn how different urban layouts effect meteorological variables, especially how they influence the outdoor thermal comfort index,” Longoria said. “That’s a measure of how heat is perceived by a person outdoors.”

The project is a spinoff of Hu’s work studying heat stress and related topics using data collected by satellite instruments. While satellites provide useful data, that information has relatively low resolution: each pixel is about one square kilometer and data for each location is collected only four times a day.

The portable ground stations provide higher resolution data with measurements taken every 15 seconds, which could capture diurnal temperature and humidity changes not found in the satellite data.

While the summer research project might provide insight into possible future work, Hu said the primary purpose is for Longoria to gain hands-on experience in real-world research.

“My goal is to let him see what graduate level research looks like,” said Hu, an assistant professor in ESS. “It’s a good start, learning the process, collecting data and doing a literature review. The student should learn how to ask the proper questions.”

While Longoria is analyzing data collected in late June and early July, he understands the program’s focus.

“This is my first research project, and it’s been a huge learning process,” he said. “And I’ve learned so much. It means a lot to me.”

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