Campus Weather Service president transitions club to remote forecasting

David Kubarek
April 06, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Christopher Tate’s first word may well have been “weather.”

For as long as he can remember the senior majoring in meteorology and atmospheric science was fascinated with the weather. As he watched televised weather forecasts as a child, his parents assumed he was intrigued by the maps, but they later found out it was the meteorology.

When Tate surveyed schools, a few stood out. But he said only one had the world-class program coupled with the ability to hit the ground running on forecasting and communications as soon as setting foot on campus.

So, he chose Penn State and did just that, getting heavily involved in Weather World and Campus Weather Service, the oldest and largest student-run forecasting organization in the nation.

“I wanted to get as much hands-on experience presenting, producing and directing as I could from the start,” Tate said. “Penn State was really the only school that would have allowed me to do that. And, sure enough, I dove headlong into Campus Weather Service and “Weather World” from my very first year here.”

The ability to get involved immediately with a field he loved appealed to Tate. So, naturally, when COVID-19 shut down the club’s operations in the spring of 2020, he knew he had to do something about it for the next generation of Penn State students.

“In March 2020, when everything was closing due to the pandemic, Campus Weather Service effectively had to suspend operations for the remainder of the semester because we didn’t have the resources to do anything remotely. And that was admittedly very unfortunate,” Tate said. “But we were able to work with the department over the summer to change that.”

As head of information and technology for the club, Tate worked with University faculty and staff in the Department of Meteorology and Atmospheric Science to gain remote access to the club’s core suite of motion graphics, updated every half hour on a server. This allowed a few dozen students to begin creating forecasts for C-NET and Penn State News. The club’s roughly 80 members who were creating forecasts for YouTube could access still yet up-to-date graphics for their videos. During that time, Tate became club president.

Tate credits the department and fellow club members with helping to troubleshoot the technology. There’s a big difference, he said, between getting real-time graphics to work, and to work on dozens of computers equipped with various operating systems and hardware. He also met with the team at Weather World, Penn State’s Emmy-winning statewide television show, to employ some of the same solutions that quickly got that show up and running.

The visual asset pack he helped create included various graphics and also access to the Beaver Stadium Skycam, local radar, models and other tools. A dedicated server was tasked with continuously publishing this content.

Tate envisions the club will slowly transition to normalcy, where students can hop into the studio to record segments for their clientele. Until then, he’ll continue to work to help students who are counting on the experience.

One reason for that, he said, is that students didn’t give up on the club, despite the obstacles. Their membership, and dedication to producing content, remained strong.

“Campus Weather Service has traditionally been a very strong club for the department,” Tate said. “I’m thrilled to see that our engagement has not dropped off significantly over this past year.”

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated April 08, 2021