Local meteorologist has passion for science

Published 4:47 pm Monday, March 7, 2011

Front L-R: Chase Jones, J-P Dice, Amber Jackson, Omar Lundy; Back L-R: Nick Barton, Ashley Harris. (Contributed)

By MOLLIE BROWN / Community Columnist

Tim Horton, CAHS environmental science teacher, believes his job entails more than teaching about atmospheric layers, air pollution and other environmental issues.

“Teaching is my life,” Horton said. “It’s a calling. I teach the curriculum, but we discuss choices and life lessons too.”

Horton and Terri Prescott, physical science teacher, invited meteorologist James-Paul “J-P” Dice to speak with students about meteorology and careers in that field.

Dice, chief meteorologist for Fox 6 News in Birmingham, enjoys sharing his passion for weather and helping students make career choices. He feels the greatest benefit of his job is getting paid to do something fun.

Reflecting on teachers who influenced him, Dice said, “My eighth grade science teacher, Coach Garrett, in Frostproof (Fla.) was from Vincent. I remember him reading the Reporter every week… strange how I would end up here.”

Using PowerPoint, Dice began his presentation with facts about meteorology. The majority of the work takes places in the troposphere, the lowest portion of the earth’s atmosphere.

Dice defined the difference between a meteorologist and someone who presents the weather forecast.  Students viewed slides of the station’s control room, HD studio and Green Wall.

He asked students where the National Weather Service is located. Amber Jackson had the answer — the airport. Asked which one, Jackson said Shelby County.

The presentation included how Doppler radar (technique using a microwave signal toward an object), can determine distance of approaching storms and how the construction of Storm Tracker is used in severe weather.

VIPIR (Volumetric Imaging Processing Integrated Radar) takes multiple soundings at different elevations to compute a three-dimensional picture of a storm. Initial project cost for the station was $90,000 and monthly maintenance is $5,000.

The week he spoke was Severe Weather Awareness Week. An interesting fact is: lightning kills more people each year than tornadoes. Students questioned Dice about his degree, income and work hours. Several expressed interest in storm chasing. Dice wowed students with his second career choice—flying. He flies a Cessna 172 and flew with the Blue Angels at the Tuscaloosa Airshow.

Principal Richard Bishop encourages teachers  to have at least one outside speaker per quarter to help emphasize real world examples to enhance learning. “This could be the extra motivation that a student needs to become passionate about a career. We’re very excited to have James-Paul Dice speaking to our environmental science students about meteorology — it’s an excellent career choice.”
Mollie Brown can be reached at dmjhb1@bellsouth.net.