By: Patrick Piscitelli, Program Specialist
The National Weather Service (NWS) is considered by many the crown-jewel of the University of Oklahoma and for good reason. Their unyielding dedication to measure and deliver accurate weather is nothing short of amazing. It is a privilege to have the National Weather Service associated with the University of Oklahoma, but even more of a treat to have one of their top meteorologists as an OLLI instructor. Recently, meteorologist Jami Boettcher discussed her experiences teaching with the OLLI program and her parents' long-term involvement with the program.
How long have you been teaching for OLLI?
Jami: My OLLI experience began in the Fall of 2012, offering a Senior Seminar, Research to Operations to Saving Lives at the National Weather Center. Starting in Spring 2014, I switched to offering Mornings with the Professorsessions, as my National Weather Service (NWS) workload became too great. What I've since discovered is the great benefit of designing a single lecture each semester and choosing different topics (while keeping my day job!). The preparation helps me to relearn some weather fundamentals that I once understood well, but no longer use regularly. I have also offered lectures on content that is more familiar, such as interpreting Doppler weather radar.
What motivated you to lead an OLLI course?
Jami: I love teaching, especially to a face to face audience. Since the NWS has offices throughout the United States, my teaching is usually conducted with distance learning tools. All teaching environments have their strengths and limitations, but OLLI provides the best possible classroom experience for me. I love teaching in any format because I never stop learning myself. I have the same passion for learning that draws OLLI members to this wonderful program.
Which class has been your favorite to teach?
Jami: Probably Cloud Spotting. The content seemed daunting to me when I first made the commitment, but I now know that I was listening to an inner voice. While designing that lecture, I was going through the loss of a dear friend and colleague. Cloud spotting helped me to reconnect as an individual with something that I loved and shared with her: the power and beauty of Oklahoma skies. The audience interaction that day was just incredible for me, and I've been cloud spotting with new eyes ever since.
What do you like most about OLLI at OU?
Jami: Everyone involved is there for the joy of learning. It is a core value. Curiosity and a willingness to listen and learn enrich us all.
How did you become involved with OLLI at OU?
Jami: My mother, Nancy Allard, is a well-known OLLI member, and she has been enriched by the program for many years now. She and I were having lunch in the atrium of the National Weather Center on a Wednesday. The day of the week is significant because Indian tacos are served at the Flying Cow Cafe. Indian tacos draw people from main campus, such as Chris Elliott and other OLLI folks. On that day, my mother introduced me to Chris, and we began talking. It was an opportunity that has since turned out to greatly exceed my expectations.
What is it about meteorology that interests you the most?
Jami: My weather expertise at this point in my career is radar meteorology, and it comes from the perspective of an NWS decision maker. Our weather radars can detect everything from bats leaving their caves to massive hail to rotation in thunderstorms to heavy snow bands to smoke from wildfires to....well, you get the point! That's great technology, but it has little value without well trained decision makers interpreting the data. I have the honor of being one of the NWS trainers for our workforce.
Our planet is surrounded by this incredibly thin layer of atmosphere, which both protects us and sometimes, regrettably, harms us. What we experience as weather can be a swirling "low pressure system" over half of the continent all the way down to a swirling tornado. No matter the scale of these circulations, I stand in awe of their power and beauty.
You have played an integral role with the National Weather Service, what are your favorite accomplishments?
Jami: I must first say that I have great pride in being an NWS employee. My NWS "students" provide weather services to the United States population around the clock, and I never forget that. When you check the morning forecast to prepare for your day, every day of the year, NWS meteorologists worked through the night to make that possible. The NWS has exclusive responsibility for hazardous weather warnings throughout the U.S., and our commitment to the protection of life and property is a core value. Also, it is a privilege to be part of the weather community in Norman. There is no place like it in the world.
My most gratifying accomplishment has been contributing to the research, testing, and deployment of Dual Polarization to the NWS radar fleet. Yes, that name is quite a mouthful. Just know that it is a game changer. Dual Pol (as we call it) enables a trained user to see structure that was previously impossible: pinpointing hail, heavy rain, snow bands, the height and depth of the melting layer aloft, debris from tornadoes...again, you get the point! Here's an analogy from medicine: basic radar is like having an x-ray to interpret, while Dual Pol is like also having an MRI.
At this point in my NWS career, I have the pleasure of mentoring some of the next generation of NWS forecasters and leaders. The emerging talent for our agency and their commitment to our mission is so inspiring...very much like the potential that exists among the OU student population. It's very gratifying.
Jami Boettcher is one of OLLI’s most popular speakers. This fall she will be featured in our Mornings with the Professor series where she will present on Cloud Spotting which will be held in Oklahoma City October 27 from 9:30 – 11:00 a.m., as well as The Science, Beauty and Art of Weather Forecasting which will take place in Norman on October 6 at 9:30 – 11:00 a.m.
Contact our office to learn more:
Phone: (405) 325-3488