Classroom Earth - DEAPS Extreme Weather and Climate 2013

Helen Hill
Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Through a hands on exploration of the fluid dynamics underpinning weather and climate, via plumetting watermelons, to the meteorologically marvellous peak of Mount Washington, with geology, ecology and astronomy: DEAPS Extreme Weather and Climate has freshmen diving into EAPS science.

From August 21st to 25th, 17 freshmen, 2 undergraduate and 4 graduate TAs, staff and faculty participated in MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences five-day exploration program DEAPS Extreme Weather and Climate. DEAPS eXW&C covers some of the most interesting and challenging aspects of weather and climate research and provides a compelling introduction to study and research in these areas in our department.

The program, now in its 7th year, combines engaging lectures and demonstrations with rotating fluid laboratory experiments introducing students to rotation’s central role in determining the circulation of the Earth’s atmosphere and oceans. Hands on activities include the ever popular measurement of the height of EAPS' 18 storey home, the Green Building, comparing results based on atmospheric pressure differences between the ground and the roof with the height calculated on the basis of the timed descent of a variety of dropped objects, including water balloons and several taxa of fruit up to the final excitement of the annual DEAPS watermelon drop!

Students learn about the challenges of climate research and explore extreme meteorological phenomena, such as hurricanes and tornadoes as well as having the chance to meet some of EAPS’ planetary scientists during an evening trip to the department’s Wallace Observatory in Westford MA. Throughout the program students have the opportunity to work in small groups discussing their results with faculty, graduate students and peers - a genuine taste of life in EAPS.

The last two days of the program are spent on a trip to the Mt Washington Observatory in New Hampshire. The 6288 ft mountain peak is known as the place where "extreme weather" is the norm. Here the students are exposed to the challenges of observational meteorology with a visit to Mt Washington Observatory, together with direct experience of the mountain environment and geology, again, led by department experts in each. Far removed from the lights of the city, students also have further opportunities, for guided astronomical observing.

For more information about DEAPS Extreme Weather and Climate visit or contact the coordinator Lodovica Illari (illari [at] mit [dot] edu)

Photo credits: Vince Agard, Amanda Bosh, Helen Hill, Heather Queyrouze, and Allison Wing