Instructor sheds light on BGSU

Carrie Whitaker and Carrie Whitaker

Pat Francis believes strongly that as an instructor at this University he is required to give students every possible tool they could need to find success.

In accordance to this personal mandate, he has invested a lot of time and money to create a unique new Web site for the use of his students and others at universities nation-wide.

Francis, who works in the Geology department, chose to mix his knowledge of meteorology and technology to create, as a resource for his classes.

The main source of information on the site is from the National Science Foundation, but data is compiled from many other sources.

The information is available because Francis helped BGSU become a member of a database community called Unidata.

Since 1980, information has been available through Unidata as part of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, run by the National Corporation of Atmospheric Research and funded by the National Science Foundation.

Other member schools include University of Arizona, Indiana University, Ohio State, Florida State and Iowa State, Francis said.

“As you can see there are a lot of larger schools, larger programs out there that are becoming visible because of the use of this data,” Francis said. “As a member of this department (at BGSU), a department’s job is to expand the vision and the viability of the program and the university.”

And despite the most important reason behind the site — making this information available to students — it has also turned a spotlight on BGSU, Francis said.

For example, Francis said, maybe someone wanted to know what hurricane Frances was doing. “What if instead of saying, ‘let’s check’, they say, ‘let’s check out Bowling Green?'” Francis said with a smile.

His main goal, however, is to give his Weather and Climate students the chance to understand meteorology in a new way.

“There are many ways to educate a person,” Francis said. “You can educate with pieces of paper, or you can educate by watching the weather and most importantly by having the students utilize the top of the line, most common software used in this science.”

The site makes local weather data available, including diagrams, links to other Web sites as well as satellite images from all over the world and much more.

It has also generated over 1 million hits in the last year, Francis said.

The site is useful for other students as well, Francis said. “Anyone can use the Unidata information, that is why it is a resource community.”

Jeff Weber, software engineer and climatologist from Boulder, Colo., works for Unidata. He said the community has now grown internationally, reaching Australia Vietnam, Russia, the United Kingdom, Antarctica, Barbados, Costa Rica and Hong Kong.

“Today — with the technology and high-speed opportunities we have — really the only restriction is the speed of light,” Weber said. “Which makes for a better community on the Internet.”

Francis has taken the chance to link BGSU to this community and if you ask him, is nowhere near completion.

“This isn’t elaborate yet, what you are looking at is only the beginning,” Francis said. In the near future he wants to have every single radar on the planet available at students’ fingertips.