Random Profile

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Sampling snow and tornadoes

Scott Landolt (RAL)

In Random Profile, we interview a stochastically selected staff member about his or her life at the office—and outside of it.

Scott started working in RAL as a student assistant in 1996, while he was studying meteorology as an undergrad at Metropolitan State College of Denver. He’s now an associate scientist who wears many hats in RAL, working on everything from winter weather to cloud seeding to managing the Marshall Field Site, while still finding time to chase storms each spring. And he’s about to get even busier—this fall, Scott will return to CU, where he got his master’s degree, for a Ph.D. in meteorology. His focus is on instrumentation.

Staff Notes: Tell me about some of the projects you work on. 

Scott: Most of what I do is winter weather–related. We have a big project going on with the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] regarding ground deicing. We’re developing new methods to help pilots determine holdover times for the deicing fluids applied to their aircraft. Right now they look it up on a chart. We’re going to automate the process for them and are testing the algorithm at the Denver, Chicago, and Cleveland airports.

Scott Landolt at Marshall Field Site

I also work on the Wyoming weather modification project. My main job on that project is to oversee all of the precipitation gauge sites in the mountains. It usually requires snowmobiling to service them in the winter, which can be a lot of fun as long as you don’t get stuck, or hit a rock, and then it’s not so fun. I’m heading up there in the next few weeks with our technicians to service the gauges and get everything ready for this upcoming winter.

I’m also RAL’s site manager for the Marshall Field Site. I oversee all of our equipment and technicians as well as manage the activities for the various RAL projects at the site.

Staff Notes: You were spotted on the VORTEX2 field project this spring.

Scott: In the wintertime I get my fix doing winter weather projects, and then in the summer I go out storm chasing. I’ve been chasing storms for about 15 years. Usually I go on my own, but this year CU was looking for some people to help them deploy their instruments during VORTEX2. I volunteered to help them since I’m going back to CU this fall for my Ph.D. and have a bunch of instrumentation experience. Our main duty was to deploy tornado pods and disdrometers [instruments used to measure raindrop size distribution and velocity]. We didn’t see any twisters since we usually ended up behind the storms when they were producing tornadoes. Even though we missed seeing the tornadoes, two of our pods were nearly hit and we had the closest tornado intercepts with the pods of any of the other teams. We probably drove almost 8,000 miles in three weeks.

Staff Notes: What do you like best about your job?

Scott: The people I work with—we have a really great team—and being able to work in the office and also go out in the field to do hands-on stuff. You never know what to expect.

Scott and his intern outdoors looking at instrumentation.Scott is a mentor in the NCAR High School Internship Program. Here, he and Andy Sun, who graduated from Monarch High School last spring and heads to Stanford University this fall, examine frost detection instrumentation at Marshall Field Site.

Staff Notes: What are your hobbies outside work?

Scott: In the spring, there’s storm chasing. I get together with some National Weather Service friends and we go out for a week or two, but I’m not an extreme storm chaser like you see on TV. I would rather stay a little ways ahead of the storm and see the full storm structure than be up close and personal with a tornado. I used to be a tour guide for a storm chasing tour group and had my fill of getting up close and personal with tornadoes, which was why I quit doing it. Speeding away from a storm with soiled drawers is never a pleasant experience.

Photography is another hobby, which goes along with the storm chasing. I also like outdoors stuff—hiking, camping, rafting. One of my friends is a huge NASCAR fan and has gotten me into it. We’ve made it our goal in life to attend a NASCAR race at every track around the country. There are 22 in all. So far, we’ve hit three—Bristol, Richmond, and Phoenix. Our next one is Daytona. 

Staff Notes: You’re a native Coloradan, right?

Scott: I grew up in Longmont and currently live in Arvada. Since I also teach at Metro State in the meteorology program—an intro class and the instrumentation class—Arvada is a nice halfway point between Boulder and Denver. I can work here in Boulder and teach down there.

Staff Notes: This wouldn’t be a Staff Notes Random Profile if I didn’t ask you if you have any pets.

Scott: I have two dogs, Yorkies named Nimbus and Spartacus. Nimbus weighs five pounds and Spartacus weighs nine. Even though they are little, their personalities match that of a Great Dane. They are lots of fun and entertaining and certainly keep me on my toes around the house.