COLUMBIA — With a name like John Moon, it might have been the destiny of the MU undergraduate to study meteorology.
Moon, a member of the MU Storm Chase Team, said weather has fascinated him since he was a little kid, but because he grew up in California, he never experienced hail until he came to Missouri.
“The first time I saw hail I thought it was snow,” Moon said. “But when I got hit in the head with it, I learned quickly it wasn’t.”
For now, Moon has embraced hail. He began his research by placing 40 “hail pads” on rooftops throughout MU, and on May 7 he got his first hits.
Hail pads are one foot by one foot Styrofoam pads wrapped in tin foil and anchored to the roof with bricks — a simple design that is cheap and easy to use. Moon uses the pads to measure the impact and damage of hailstones as they fall on the surface. He then compares the data he collects to the data provided by algorithms used by weather radars.
Moon’s hail pad experiment comes shortly after the National Weather Service changed the criteria for issuing a severe thunderstorm warning from three-fourths-inch hail to one-inch hail. According to the National Weather Service, the switch was made because of a fear that frequent severe storm warnings were causing people to become desensitized.
Moon hopes his research will help radar systems more accurately predict hailstorms by bridging the gap between what is predicted and what actually happens.
“I want to be able to provide people with information that will lead to less false warnings,” he said.
There is a good chance the MU junior from San Pablo, Calif., will be able to do just that, as he has contacted both the National Weather Service and the National Severe Storms Laboratory, and both are interested in his research.
“They’re the top dogs in severe weather research,” Moon said.
Anthony Lupo, associate professor of atmospheric science at MU, said Moon’s idea of installing hail pads to conduct research has not been done to this extent before. Lupo has guided and supported Moon throughout the process but insists that he has only been a background figure.
“He’s done all the legwork,” Lupo said. “I just deal with the bureaucratic side of it.”
Moon and Lupo hope to receive a grant from the Cooperative Program for Operational Meteorology Education and Training for their work, as well as add to the already existing literature about severe storm research. Moon said he thinks his work is important, and he will continue his research in the fall.
“Hail is something that affects everyone," he said. "It affects life and property.”