WT Student to Study Cloud Formation During Internship at National Lab

Chip Chandler Jun 11, 2024
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WT Student to Study Cloud Formation During Internship at National Lab

Copy by Chip Chandler, 806-651-2124,


CANYON, Texas — A West Texas A&M University student will spend the summer at a renowned national laboratory to study how the climate impacts the formation of clouds.

Ava Sealy, a senior environmental science major from Lovington, New Mexico, is one of about 180 other students from around the country selected to intern at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Washington.

Sealy—who spent several weeks this spring at Gruvebadet Atmospheric Laboratory and Dirigible Italia Arctic Station in Ny-Ålesund in Svalbard, Norway—will work on a project examining how ice in the atmosphere forms different types of clouds.

Ice-nucleating particles are the microscopic material in the air that water vapor condenses around to form ice crystals that make up clouds. Sealy will specifically focus on soil dust particles.

“Atmospheric ice nucleation directly affects the climate system and hydrological cycle of our planet by impacting cloud properties, precipitation and the amount of solar energy reaching the Earth,” Sealy said.

The ice-nucleation process plays an important role in the formation of both mixed-phase clouds, which contain both supercooled liquid droplets and ice crystals, and cirrus clouds, which contain only ice crystals.

“There is a lack of knowledge in atmospheric ice formation of both types of clouds,” Sealy said. “In this study, we will investigate ice formation potential by atmospheric particles from a variety of soils collected from across the nation, using an automated ice-nucleation measurement system, similar to one at WT, to simulate different cloud types.”

This is a significant opportunity for Sealy, said Dr. Naruki Hiranuma, associate professor of environmental sciences in WT’s Paul Engler College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences.

“I am very proud that Ava earned this internship with nationally recognized scientists and will have the opportunity to use their cutting-edge technologies,” Hiranuma said. “This will only positively impact her career options. She has developed and demonstrated her all-round scientific skills at WT, and I am very sure that Ava will be a wonderful asset to the lab.”

A focus on regionally impactful research is a key component of the University’s long-range plan, WT 125: From the Panhandle to the World.

That plan is fueled by the historic One West comprehensive fundraising campaign, which reached its initial $125 million goal 18 months after publicly launching in September 2021. The campaign’s new goal is to reach $175 million by 2025; currently, it has raised nearly $160 million.



About West Texas A&M University

WT is located in Canyon, Texas, on a 342-acre residential campus. Established in 1910, the University has been part of The Texas A&M University System since 1990. WT, a Hispanic Serving Institution since 2016, boasts an enrollment of about 10,000 and offers 59 undergraduate degree programs and more than 40 graduate degrees, including two doctoral degrees. The University is also home to the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, the largest history museum in the state and the home of one of the Southwest’s finest art collections. The Buffaloes are a member of the NCAA Division II Lone Star Conference and offers 14 men’s and women’s athletics programs.