DIFAX as a teaching tool


Don's ranting (see below) supports my comments from last week when I suggested 
that we teachers need to find new ways to teach and students need to find new 
ways to learn.  Teachers should be exploring ways to create exercises that will 
allow students to explore what generated the vorticity to begin with, what 
factors change it, what it all has to do with creating weather, and this can be 
done with apps like GEMPAK/GARP and maybe even more effectively with NMAP 
that's part of the new release.  Or how about a nice vorticity MetApp ?  It was 
always very hard to get these concepts across with DIFAX maps, even though 
students got pretty good at shading areas of PVA and NVA.

I still like the idea of having the surface analysis, the U/A maps and a model 
or two hanging on the wall for students when they come into the lab, want a 
quick look at the patterns, and pretend they can predict the weather from a 30 
second look at the maps :-)  And there are still students who aren't as skilled 
at the computer as others.

So for a quick look at the current weather, DIFAX (or some kind of hardcopy) is 
fine, but as a teaching tool, it's old technology and our students deserve 

<RANT> Additionally, from a pedagogical view, using the tools that Unidata provides to create and print custom displays seems a better alternative to using DIFAX anyway for exploring the atmosphere. We all went through the process of shading in areas of NVA and PVA on the NGM charts. Wouldn't it be better to use GEMPAK to generate maps with quantitative contours of NVA and PVA rather than use the subjective hand analyses? With DIFAX, the views are dictated by the products that the NWS creates. Those views haven't changed in 30 years, but our knowledge of how best to look at features has. The tools we have can generate the "old" views, but also new views (isentropic analyses, ensemble forecasts, etc). Perhaps using them will help advance the knowledge and science.

Anthony A. Rockwood Metropolitan State College of Denver Meteorology Program Dept.of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences 303.556.8399 P.O. Box 173362, Campus Box 22 rockwooa@xxxxxxxx Denver, CO 80217-3362 fax: 303.556.4436 www.mscd.edu/~eas