Electronic reference (incl. chat, email, text) currently unavailable

The system that the UAH Library uses for electronic reference questions is currently unavailable.  We are working to address this.

What does this mean for you?  The different electronic reference formats that you use – online chat, email, text messaging, Ask Us Anything! – are all currently unavailable.  We are working to address this as soon as possible.  In the interim, you can reach the UAH Library reference desk in person or via phone (824.6529) during our normal business hours (9-5 Mon-Fri, and 1-9 Sun).

We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

So, Just What IS a Roving Reference?

Next week, and for three more weeks planned so far for the Fall semester, some of the reference librarians will be out in other buildings, sitting behind a-table-made-into-a-desk, and calling it the “Roving Reference Desk”. What’s that about?

Well, it is pretty simple. We are the librarians for the campus as a whole. Our resources, ranging from old classic books to cutting edge pre-print research papers, are for the entire UAH community. While our base of operations is the Salmon Library, off slightly to the North side of the campus, our function is serve each and every student, faculty, staff, and guest at UAH by answering questions, helping with research, helping with resources, and generally trying to connect whoever asks us for it with the information they need. And while you are always more than welcome to visit us, we appreciate that classes and meetings and clubs and homework and jobs all take time and sometimes there isn’t enough of it in the day to have more destinations. For a few weeks in the Fall, we’ll do the best we can to help, by being in some of the buildings where you go to class or grab lunch, and hopefully in the Spring we can be in even more places.

You can stop by and talk to us in person. Ask us about library resources. Ask about finding information about [you name it]. Talk to us about what you think of the library. As we say, ask us anything.

This is on top of the various ways you can talk with us via digital and more traditional reference: we have chat, email, phone (256.824.6529), or you can catch us on Twitter or Facebook. Any of those ways. OR, you can visit us at the library. OR, you can stop by on the dates below and talk to us at the Roving Reference Desk. Whichever works best for you.

The first two weeks will be
September 15 through 18 and
September 29 through October 2

We will be in Morton Hall on Mondays,
in the Business Building on Tuesdays,
in the Shelby Center on Wednesdays,
and in the Charger Union on Thursdays.

These will be 11am to 1pm. More specific details, and further sessions, to be announced.

Engaging Reference: How Now, Snow Cloud? Or, researching weather data for Alabama (and beyond!)

Well, today is kind of mucky, but the two days before that were sunny and bright and warm and it’s weird to picture that just a few weeks ago, the local weather looked this:

Snowy Field in Alabama

Snow is not unheard of around here, though it can be quite uncommon. But maybe you are researching how uncommon, or how often it rains, or what the average daily temperature around here might have been in the mid-20th century. How do you do that? Well, there are a number of ways, some of which have close ties to UAH, and I figured I’d share a few of these with you.

Let’s start with the resource most local to us. You have The Alabama Climatologist, which is a kept by State Climatologist and UAH Professor, Dr. John Christy. It has links to lots of other data and keeps up regular reports on climate data. For instance, right now in the link list you have such reference sources as Climate Normals and Extremes for 1971-2000 at 141 Alabama stations (which is a pdf). It also links to several of the standard resources that I’m about to discuss more in a bit.

Keeping local, the NSSTC has an extensive collection of local climate data. Using that, you can click on, say, the monthly data only tab, and then select Huntsville [or another city from Alabama from a drop-down box], and then look at Huntsville’s data back in 1975, which looks like this (after clicking the “more” arrow):

1975 Huntsville Climate Data

The mother of all weather data sites, at least for the US, would be the National Climatic Data Center. From there, you can view monthly climate reports, local data, and other datasets. You have to “order” the data in some cases, but is free. You just have to make your selection of the data you want and then wait for the email. Returning to the Huntsville example, here is a 1995 screen from their Huntsville Airport Substation dataset (you’ll probably have to click on it to see a larger version to actually read it):

Huntsville weather data from the NCDC

There is also the old standby of Weather.gov. While it is my (and probably should be your) go-to source for forecasts and weather alerts, you can also often see weather station data for a region if you click on the city name after searching. For instance, after searching for Huntsville, AL, I get the current conditions, and then a link to see Huntsville’s local forecast office (here’s a quick diagram explaining, also showing the current conditions as I write this post!):

Huntsville conditions

This takes you to http://www.srh.noaa.gov/hun/, which gives lots of data about the current condition, the weather stations, some information useful to the local area, and the history of the stations. Other cities have similar pages, so give that a try.

One of the most interesting sites is the CoCoRaHS – Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network. What it does is take personal observations about the current conditions, include such things as the shape of flakes or size of hail, and collects them. For instance, if you want to see some data from the mid-February storms that inspired this post, you can do a search on the Daily Comments page, and see records like this, useful if you want specific contexts to conditions going on over a wide area:

CoCoRaHS Daily Comments

So how about that original question? The snow around Huntsville. Well, looking through all the various bits, I was noticing it was not exactly easy to find a good table of data about just snow [I was finding plenty about general precipitation] so I contacted Dr. John Christy, the State Climatologist mentioned above, and he graciously shared this PDF of North Alabama Seasonal Snowfall.

And what does it show? Well, take a look for yourself. This post is about the fun of finding data, what you do with it is up to you.

Of course, don’t forget our resources like ScienceDirect, Proquest: Science and Technology, and OneSearch. If you need help with any or all of these resources, feel free to contact us at the reference desk.

Before you go, though, why not look at a couple of more awesome snow pics. They are quite pretty.

Snow in Alabama, (c) Heather Floyd

Snow Covered Tree (c) Heather Floyd

Engaging Reference aims to be a series of posts about the ways you can look up types of data, information, research, files, and so forth. If you have a type of data or information you would like us to go into more depth with, you can email me at doug.bolden@uah.edu and I’ll see what I can do. 

All the images in this post are copyright 2013, Heather Floyd.