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April 14, 2008

ULM atmospheric science student earns national honor

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita inspired Matthew Clay to study storms at the University of Louisiana at Monroe. Clay, now a sophomore atmospheric science major at ULM, recently earned a national award in a weather forecasting contest sponsored by the University of Oklahoma.

Clay, who graduated from Destrehan High School in New Orleans, earned "Best Overall Forecaster" in the Wx (Weather) Challenge, where he competed in the freshmen-sophomore division and beat 318 freshmen and sophomores from MIT, Penn State, Georgia Tech, Texas A&M and more.

More than 1,200 students and faculty from across the country forecasted weather for specific cities over the course of eight days and submitted that data online during the fall 2007 and spring 2008 semesters. Clay, a member of ULM's student chapter of the American Meteorological Society, forecasted weather for Memphis, Tenn.

The hurricanes in 2005 motivated the Clay to attend ULM where he now studies the behaviors of major storms. Also a computer science major, Clay wants to create computerized forecast models.

"I've always been interested in weather, but after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, I knew I had to study storms. If I can figure out how those storms develop and understand the threats, maybe I can help people out and give them better warnings. I'm from New Orleans, and those storms were a real eye opener."

Boniface Mills, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Atmospheric Science, is proud of Clay. "Matt did an excellent job applying the forecasting skills he learned in our Atmospheric Science Program, which strives to provide the best tools and subject information to the students who wish to work in meteorology and weather forecasting."

Several other ULM atmospheric science students and one professor, Mills, placed in the top 100 in the contest, which included more than 1,200 participants from 68 universities. ULM's cumulative team score surpassed Texas A&M, University of Utah, Kent State and University of North Carolina at Asheville. Nelson Perez, a Lake Charles senior, earned the local title "Overall Winner."

Top 100 include:

The ULM participants who earned "best overall" (fewest forecast errors) include:

ULM participants who earned top honors in forecasting their cities include:

ULM's Atmospheric Science program contains the only set of definitive data on the landfall of Hurricane Katrina. Using a weather station they deployedin Buras, ULM faculty and students obtained the definitive surface data for Hurricane Katrina when it made landfall.

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