Student weathermen and meteorology evangelists

Senior Keillor Mose, center, stands with juniors Jacob Feldman and Owen Isley in a Ridgefield High School science lab. The trio has launched the Ridgefield High School Weather Service this year on Facebook and hopes to have an app developed sometime this year.

Senior Keillor Mose, center, stands with juniors Jacob Feldman and Owen Isley in a Ridgefield High School science lab. The trio has launched the Ridgefield High School Weather Service this year on Facebook and hopes to have an app developed sometime this year.

Will there be school tomorrow? 

It’s a question senior Keillor Mose has gotten familiar answering from his peers this winter, but it’s far from why he started the Ridgefield High School Weather Service.

“Meteorology is a skill everyone should have,” said Mr. Mose, who started to post his weather predictions online around the time Hurricane Sandy hit the northeast in late October 2012. “Once you familiarize yourself with the language, you have this full arsenal of knowledge that can help you understand the science behind the weather — it’s a pretty pertinent topic for everyone, not just predicting whether or not were going to have school.”

“As we’ve transitioned into a more modern age, people have become lazy,” said Jacob Feldman, a junior, who helps Mr. Mose “behind the scenes” and runs the service’s Facebook page that has almost 1,400 followers, ranging from students to teachers to some members the Board of Education.

“Most people go online, type in weather, click on the first thing they see, look at the number and say, ‘I’ve got the weather, I’m good for the day,’” Mr. Feldman added.  “We want to make sure people still care about it, but we also want them to understand what’s happening and what tools they can use to predict what will happen next.”

The duo met last year through a meteorology class at the high school and teamed up with Owen Isley, who’s taking the course this semester, to help expand the service and its audience.

“There has been an increase in public interest that can be traced back to Sandy,” Mr. Mose said. “We were tracking that storm in class and watching it come off the coast of Africa and thought, ‘this could get ugly,’ and, of course, it did.

“Having that edge was a neat feeling,” he added. “We felt the need to tell it to the public because there was such a high demand of precautionary questions — ‘how should we prepare?’ ‘how long is it going to last?’ — that weren’t being answered and we had the inside scoop of what was going on.”

“Nobody was doing anything formal and I think that’s where we stepped in,” said Mr. Feldman, who sometimes writes posts about astronomy. “We try to have fun with the predictions, and that’s what draws interest to them, but we do try to present it in a formal, educated way — one that explains the science behind it.”

The approach has drawn the attention of educators all over town; however, Mr. Mose and Mr. Feldman are still seeking to attract one specific individual into their weather discussion.

“We’d love to have Deb Low reach out,” said Mr. Feldman of the district’s superintendent. “I think we can add some real, valuable information that she could use in making her school closing decision.

“We know the title of the page is Ridgefield High School Weather Service, but we’d love it if the town got involved and the discussion extended beyond just the students and teachers at the high school,” he added. “We would like some sort of collaboration where we can add input to the situation.”

The group is working on creating an app that’s currently “in development” and could feature a variety of content, ranging from blogs to podcasts to live video forecasts.

Mr. Feldman doesn’t want to create any additional pressure on the group, offering a tentative date “at the end of the summer” for the app’s launch.

“We’re all students, it’s hard to invest any more time right now,” he said. “We don’t want to get locked into a time frame, but we will have more time in the summer and hopefully will have something ready to go later in the year.”

“We won’t put something out there until we’re all satisfied with it,” Mr. Mose adds. “The three of us are a critical bunch and we want to make sure it’s a complete experience before it’s released.”

All three students have packed schedules that include playing sports, working multiple jobs and participating in school musicals and plays  — not to mention, finishing homework and applying to college, which Mr. Mose has already done and Mr. Feldman will begin to do in the fall.

In addition to the school closing question, Mr. Mose has gotten used to his peers asking about what he sees from the different maps and weather databases he cross-references when making his predictions.

“I think that shows some level of interest,” he said. “A lot of these weather sites post numbers — 30% chance of snow, 60% of humidity, but there’s no real science behind it.

“People memorize that number or the graphic and that’s what they use to base their plans off of,” he added. “I want to tell people more than that information, as well as tie in an informative element that describes what’s really going on — how the systems are changing and why they’re changing.”

One of the biggest challenges the service has faced is people scrolling down past the scientific explanation to what Mr. Feldman calls the “bottom line.”

He remembers criticizing Mr. Mose’s earlier posts for being “too long and tedious” for readers to get through.

Mr. Mose accepted the criticism and used it to adapt his forecasts.

He switched from making individual posts on his personal Facebook page to creating the group page, which has an interactive comments section that users can access.

The results have been staggering.

Mr. Mose went from having around 200 personal “likes” on a given post to having a 1,400-member audience that keeps growing.

“I still get dozens and dozens of personal messages on the night of storms requesting a prediction, but I just direct them to the group page,” he said. “We’ve seen a lot of growth this year — there’s an officiality that comes from the page and we’ve benefited from it.

“People are really starting to talk about the weather and use the language and terms, which is awesome to see.”

Accuracy has propelled the group’s reputation around school.

“Not to be boastful, but the only times we’ve been allegedly wrong is when we predicted there won’t be a delay and then there is a delay, but that’s being wrong in a good way,” Mr. Mose said. “We’ve never given a false report and told students not to do their homework for three days — that’s not what we’re trying to do.”

One of his most proud predictions was a three-hour delay on Jan. 22.

“That one was pretty controversial and I just happened to mention it in my post the day before, because we had one last year and I thought the situation called for it,” Mr. Mose said. “In that instance, it wasn’t even a weather thing but an administration thing so I had to use what we knew about the school closings we’ve experienced in the past and compare them to that situation.

“We thought it was a bit silly, but people were arguing about it and really seemed to care.”

Because of the page’s growth, Mr. Mose has paid attention to topics such as road conditions and shoveling schedules in his recent posts, which have consumed his snow days.

“An event like the big snow storm over President’s Day weekend allowed us to branch off from making predictions and get interactive and make suggestions to our readers about what to do and when to do it,” he said. “I was telling people when was a good time to shovel and what time wasn’t.”

“RHS is an over-committed crowd,” Mr. Feldman explains. “We draw an interest because a lot of kids who just don’t want to do their homework that night, but that’s not at all what we’re trying to promote.

“It’s something we’re battling,” he concluded. “But we really just want people to like the weather and show that science is used in every day life, and it is easily used every day without anyone noticing.”

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