Science and Technology

2013 wind storm part of study by JMU professor, students

by Eric Gorton


stock lightning photo - several lightning streaks light up the night sky

Many Harrisonburg residents remember a sudden and severe windstorm that blew through the city during the summer of 2013, knocking out power and wreaking havoc on trees and roofs.

That storm, on June 29, 2013, was part of a 10-hour event that moved from the Midwest through the Mid-Atlantic region. And while building-shaking wind might be what people remember most, that storm also produced more than 65,000 lightning strikes, according to research by Dr. Mace Bentley, professor of integrated science and technology, and three students.

An article they wrote about the research, "Lightning Characteristics of Derecho Producing Mesoscale Convective Systems," has been published by the international journal, Meteorology and Atmospheric Physics. The June 2013 storm was one of 20 derechos in the study that used cloud-to-ground flash data derived from the National Lightning Detection Network. The researchers also used radar imagery from the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research and damaging wind report data from the Storm Prediction Center.

The storms in the study occurred during warm seasons (May through August) between 2003 and 2013. “A major finding in the study was the identification of a unique derecho activity corridor in the Upper Midwest where storms tend to have a much higher percentage of more dangerous positive polarity lightning strikes, the lightning that carries a positive charge to the ground," Bentley said.

The study found that the parent thunderstorms that produce derechos are some of the most prolific lightning producers of all severe weather. On average, derecho systems produce more than 5,500 lightning strikes an hour, with extreme events producing greater than 10,000 lightning strikes per hour.

Bentley said people should be aware of derechos because of the dangers they present, especially in urban and suburban areas. The June 2013 derecho was one of the most destructive and deadly severe thunderstorm complexes in North American history. The storm claimed 24 lives and caused millions of dollars of damage. Some people went without power for weeks.

In addition to Bentley, the study was conducted by senior geographic science majors John R. Franks and Katelyn Suranovic, and senior computer science major Brent Barbachem.

Check out the list below for more faculty accomplishments.


Dr. Keri S. Bethune (Assistant Professor, Educational Foundations and Exceptionalities) received $59,807 from George Mason University to implement and maintain a statewide program to meet the initial and continuing education needs for teachers of students with severe disabilities in Virginia.

Dr. Dennis B. Blanton (Assistant Professor, Anthropology) received $1,520 from the Fernbank Museum of Natural History to support students’ efforts to process and analyze archaeological samples recovered at the Glass Site in Georgia.

Dr. Dara M. Hall (Coordinator of Field Experiences, Education Support Center), Dr. John T. Almarode (Sarah Miller Luck Endowed Professor of Education; Assistant Professor, Early, Elementary and Reading Education) and Dr. Michelle A. Hughes (Associate Professor, Early, Elementary and Reading Education) received $54,682 from the Virginia Department of Education to increase the number of highly effective teachers and mentors available to prepare pre-service and new teachers in order to impact retention rates.

Dr. Kimberlee Hartzler-Weakley (Director of Children and Youth, Institute for Innovation in Health and Human Services) received $480,303 from the Virginia Department of Health to provide specialized medical, psychological, psychosocial, educational and speech/language/audiology services to children and young adults.

Dr. John T. Haynes (Associate Professor, Geology and Environmental Science) received $10,827 from the Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy to support geologic mapping projects along the Interstate 81 Corridor in western Virginia.

Dr. Justin J. Henriques (Assistant Professor, Engineering) and Dr. S. Keith Holland (Associate Professor, Engineering) received $14,961 from the Environmental Protection Agency to develop a wearable air quality sensor for understanding community air quality.

Dr. S. Keith Holland (Associate Professor, Engineering), Dr. Kyle G. Gipson (Assistant Professor, Engineering), Dr. Justin J. Henriques (Assistant Professor, Engineering) and Dr. Robert L. Nagel (Assistant Professor, Engineering) received $400 from the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance to train students to be drivers of change through the implementation of a new Innovation Leadership minor.

Meghann N. McCoy (Business Manager, WMRA) received $152,603 from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to provide a community service grant for public radio.

Dr. M. Ioana Niculescu (Professor, Physics and Astronomy), Dr. Gabriel Niculescu (Associate Professor, Physics and Astronomy) and Dr. Kevin L. Giovanetti (Professor, Physics and Astronomy) received $17,091 from the National Science Foundation to support a recent JMU graduate to work on the Forward Tagger detector package.

Dr. Kenneth R. Rutherford (Director, Center for International Stabilization and Recovery; Professor, Political Science) received $1,327 from Fenix Insight Ltd. to provide research and database assistance as directed by Fenix staff.

Nick D. Swayne (Coordinator, 4VA; Instructor, Learning, Technology and Leadership Education) received $30,000 from the FIRST LEGO League for the sponsorship of Virginia/DC FIRST LEGO League teams. Swayne received $10,000 from Booz-Allen & Hamilton Inc. for the FIRST LEGO League.


Dr. Robert J. Harmison (Kibler Professor of Sport Psychology, Graduate Psychology) was named a Fellow of the Association for Applied Sport Psychology at their annual conference last month in Indianapolis. AASP is an international professional organization dedicated to promoting the development of science and ethical practice in the field of sport psychology.


Dr. Erica J. Lewis (Assistant Professor, Nursing), Dr. Patrice M. Ludwig (Assistant Professor, Biology) and Dr. Jacquelyn K. Nagel (Assistant Professor, Engineering) contributed to a poster presentation, “Using MakerSpace Technology to Promote Innovation and Creativity” at the Association of American Colleges and Universities Network for Academic Renewal Conference, Crossing Boundaries: Transforming STEM Education in Seattle.

Kristen L. Smith (Ph.D. candidate, Assessment and Measurement) completed an internship with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Collaborating with her professional mentor, Dr. Alexei Mateev, Smith conducted a qualitative assessment of the Quality Enhancement Plan Impact Reports of several institutions, which she presented at the Association of American Colleges and Universities conference.


Dr. Mace L. Bentley (Professor, Integrated Science and Technology) published the article “Lightning Characteristics of Derecho Producing Mesoscale Convective Systems” in the international journal Meteorology & Atmospheric Physics. His co-authors are JMU alumni Katelyn R. Suranovic (’14), Brent Barbachem (’14) and John R. Franks (’15).

Dr. Kristina J. Doubet (Associate Professor, Middle, Secondary and Mathematics Education) and Dr. Eric M. Carbaugh (Associate Professor, Middle, Secondary and Mathematics Education) co-authored the book “The Differentiated Flipped Classroom: Practical Strategies for Digital Learning,” which covers how teachers can integrate digital learning and technology into the classroom.

Dr. Alex C. Parrish (Assistant Professor, Writing, Rhetoric and Technical Communication) published the book “Adaptive Rhetoric: Evolution, Culture and the Art of Persuasion” as a part of Routledge’s Series in Rhetoric and Communication.

Dr. Giovanna Scarel (Assistant Professor, Physics and Astronomy) published the article “Decoupling the Electrical and Entropic Contributions to Energy Transfer from Infrared Radiation to a Power Generator” in the World Journal of Condensed Matter Physics, Vol. 5, No. 4, 2015.

Dr. Stanley L. Ulanski (Professor, Geology and Environmental Science) published the book “The California Current: A Pacific Ecosystem and Its Fliers, Divers, and Swimmers” through the University of North Carolina Press. The book focuses on the diverse flora and fauna of the Pacific ecosystem and how humans have impacted these organisms.

Dr. Adam J. Vanhove (Assistant Professor, Strategic Leadership Studies) published the article “The abbreviated character strengths test (ACST): A preliminary assessment of test validity” in the Journal of Personality Assessment. His co-authors are from University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, and University of Nebraska at Lincoln.

Back to Top

Published: Thursday, December 10, 2015

Last Updated: Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Related Articles