March 16, 2015
When it comes to the weather at Hampden-Sydney, Dr. Stan Cheyne, Professor of Physics and Astronomy, is considered the campus expert.
Cheyne came to Hampden-Sydney in 1990 and has been teaching meteorology since inheriting the course, from a departing professor, in the spring of 1992. He explains that meteorology is a type of applied, atmospheric physics and that his course has recently been renamed "Meteorology and Climatology" to reflect more of what is covered.
When asked what interests him most about this field he says that, "As Mark Twain said, 'Everyone talks about the weather, but no one ever does anything about it'. I don't set out to do anything about the weather, but I do try to help students gain a better understanding of the physical processes that take place. In addition, I spend significant time covering the scientific basis of climate change. This is a hot topic that always draws interesting discussions with the students."
Cheyne is known as the residential "weather man" because of his e-mail updates on upcoming weather. He says, "I really don't know how I got started sending out weather alerts. The National Weather Service (NWS) does an excellent job in forecasting the weather. However, I always found myself wanting to know more details and what was possible. So, I started analyzing the same computer models that all meteorologists use to see if I could predict inclement weather." In fact, he views these reports as a great way to analyze the final results. He comments that, "I usually include the results of 3 or 4 computer models to show what could happen. The models begin to merge as the weather event gets closer. Once the models agree, you usually end up with a fairly reliable forecast. For me, it's an experiment waiting to happen. The weather event occurs and you look back to analyze the final results; sometimes you're right and sometimes you're not."
He recalls a previous, severe storm that appeared on radar, approaching the area, capable of 60+ mph winds. He immediately sent a message to the faculty and staff, and when the storm hit campus, it took down several trees; one of which hit his house.
Cheyne received his B.A. from Hendrix College in 1984 and went on to receive his M.A. and Ph.D., from the University of Mississippi.
His advice to students interested in science and meteorology is, "Follow your heart and take every course we have to offer, and get involved in research. In addition, I tell them to take as many math and computer science courses that they can fit in their schedule."