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Students to Keep Tabs on Weather for BAA During Boston Marathon

Patriots’ Day Race Is Largest Sporting Event in New England

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From left, meteorology sophomore Michaella Farese, senior Eli Policape and sophomore Corinne Clifford take weather measurements with their handheld instrument in preparation for the 117th Boston Marathon.

By Edwin L. Aguirre

A team of 16 meteorology undergraduate and graduate students will participate at this year’s Boston Marathon by providing live weather reports along the route of the 26.2-mile race.

This is the second time that the Boston Athletic Association (BAA), which organizes the event, has asked the University to monitor the weather on behalf of the club. Last year, the students were positioned at five locations — at the starting line in Hopkinton, the 10K (6.21-mile) mark in Framingham, the halfway (13.04-mile) mark in Wellesley, the 30K (18.64-mile) mark near “Heartbreak Hill” in Newton and the finish line in Boston.

“They will be gathering real-time data — temperature, relative humidity, wind speed and direction as well as local sky and road conditions — and relay them by phone or text message to their fellow team members at the BAA media center at Boston’s Fairmont Copley Plaza,” says Prof. Frank Colby of the Environmental, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences (EEAS) Department, who is heading the team. “The members will then record the readings and make them available immediately to the press.”

Begun in 1897, the Boston Marathon is the world’s most prestigious and oldest annual race, attracting nearly 30,000 amateur and professional runners from around the world each year. It is viewed by up to half a million spectators annually, making it the most widely watched sporting event in New England. The telecast airs in more than 100 countries.

“Our students will be able to gain an appreciation for the art and science of taking good observations,” notes Colby. “Participating in this activity is a way for them to support a high-profile event in our own region, and is an opportunity for all of us to demonstrate the quality of UMass Lowell and its students.”

A Unique Learning Experience 

The Boston Marathon has had its share of wide-ranging New England weather throughout its history, from torrential rains in 2007 to near-record heat in 2004, plus snow, sleet and even snow squalls in earlier decades.  So it’s important to keep a constant, vigilant eye on the sky. 

“I’m very excited,” says sophomore Michaella Farese, who is participating for the first time. “I’ve watched the race before, but now I’ll have a chance to apply what I’ve learned in the classroom to the field.”

“It’s an amazing, awesome experience,” says senior Ryan Green, who hails from Everett, Wash. “This will be my second marathon.”

Green, a student veteran studying under the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill, plans to continue with his military career after he graduates in May.

“I intend to become a C-130 pilot with the Alaska Air National Guard, so it’s important for me to know the weather,” he says. “The education I’ve received here at UMass Lowell has been top-notch!”

A Great Springboard 

Established in 1967 by Prof. Robert Curtis as the Department of Meteorology at the then Lowell Technological Institute, the EEAS Department has proven to be a great springboard for launching careers as researchers and TV weather forecasters.

Many of the big-city TV stations across the country have UMass Lowell graduates on their weather teams. They include Danielle Niles ’06, the weekday morning forecaster for the New England Cable News (NECN); Sarah Wroblewski ’05 and Shiri Spear ’07, the weekend and morning news meteorologists, respectively, for Fox 25 News Boston and Barry Burbank ’72, the veteran meteorologist at WBZ-TV News.

Editor's Note: Fortunately, none of our students were harmed as a result of the bombings at the Marathon.