Fascinating Course at WTAMU Takes Campus by Storm

Jan 07, 2019

CONTACT: Dave Oliver, 806-651-3872,

COPY BY: Brittany Castillo, 806-651-2682,


CANYON, Texas—Between the arts and sciences, many stick to one for their degree requirements. But whether a student demonstrates aptitude in either is not exclusive to the deep appreciation students have for one of the most favored courses at West Texas A&M University – meteorology.

The percentage of students majoring in environmental science is modest, but the buzz around taking an elective focused on understanding the weather is keeping classes full and growing for meteorologist instructor Dave Oliver. Currently, a general meteorology course is available for spring and fall semesters, but increased demand may open up options to specialties in severe weather and climate change.

“I’ve had a number of people tell me ‘this is my favorite course at the whole university’ and I think it’s because everything they learn they’re going to go out and live and see. It’s fascinating the things you never knew about weather,” Oliver said. “It’s not easy, we don’t look at cloud pictures during the whole class. It’s detailed, deep and hard, but it’s rewarding. We have a diverse group of students from all degree programs, so it’s fun.”

Oliver, also known as “Doppler Dave,” is not only a popular instructor at WTAMU, he, too, is a well-known meteorologist for KFDA-TV in Amarillo. He began his career as a storm chaser and became chief meteorologist before making his way to television in 1983. Now, he splits his time between newscasts and the classroom, where he gives an enthusiastic weather briefing each class and debunks a few weather misconceptions over the semester.

“For instance, people have been taught since kindergarten that tornados form because hot air and cold air meet, but this is not true. How come every time we have a cold front there isn’t a line of tornados where the warm and cold air meet?” Oliver asked. “There’s so much more to it. Another thing people find interesting is that rain drops aren’t teardrop shaped. They come down like parachutes and look like hamburger buns.”

Full of knowledge and experience, Oliver livens the class with outdoor excursions and presenting examples of actual severe weather instances for applicable discussion. The engaging class even indirectly recruited one of Oliver’s former students to the KFDA weather team, Shelden Breshears ’18.

“After I took the class, Dave was able to help me get an internship at News Channel 10, and ever since I've been working my way onto the weather team. Now that I work in the meteorology field with Dave, who's a great teacher by the way, it's cool to see what I learned in that class be applied to my career,” Breshears said. “His class was packed with information, and I think one of my favorite parts of it was the real world application of the content, weather fanatic or not, it's really cool to learn what makes the weather do the things it does.”

For more information about meteorology at WTAMU or similar courses in environmental sciences, call or email Dr. Naruki Hiranuma at 806-651-3872 or