by Margaret Mooney, CIMSS

NOAA’s Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies (CIMSS) in Madison Wisconsin is pleased to announce a virtual science fair for students from grades 6-14 applying GOES-16 or GOES-17 data to investigate weather scenarios and natural hazards.

‘Pleased’ is probably too mild of a word to describe our enthusiasm around this project. Madison is after all, the birthplace of satellite meteorology and CIMSS founder Verner Suomi is widely known as the “Father of Satellite Meteorology.”  Recent launches of the GOES-R, NOAA-20 and GOES-S satellites have made our building a very exciting to place to work! Our goal, and motivation, is to share our passion for GOES-R series data as broadly as possible.

One way to reach students is through the spring 2019 virtual science fair, part of “The GOES-R Education Proving Ground” at CIMSS. A key element of this effort, from the get-go, has been a core group of educators working with CIMSS in close coordination NOAA scientists.

GOES proving ground educators

Above: The original GOES-R Education Proving Ground Team from 2014 – from left to right: John Moore, Tim Schmit (NOAA), Margaret Mooney (CIMSS), Vicky Gorman, Peter Dorofy, Craig Phillips, Brian Whittun, Amy Monahan, and Charlotte Besse.

Most of the original teachers have rotated out of the core group. And sadly, Charlotte Besse, a Florida teacher, has since died of cancer – but not before attending the 2016 GOES-R launch with her family in tow!

A major perk for winners of the GOES-16/17 Virtual Science Fair will be official GOES-T launch invites.   Students will also receive $25 gift cards. Teachers coaching the winning teams will garner launch invites (no travel support) and conference travel support to attend and present at the 2020 American Meteorological Society (AMS) Centennial meeting in Boston.

There will be three winning teams: middle school, high school and grades 13/14 (community college or university). GOES-R Educators from five different states will judge the science fair entries. We will be accepting entries between March 1st through May 3rd, 2019. Guidelines, scoring rubrics and other supporting resources are all on-line at http://cimss.ssec.wisc.edu/education/goesr/vsf.

Please share with your favorite educator!

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Flying the Fastest Skies

February 20, 2019 · 0 comments

How fast can an airliner go? Monday night a Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 reached 801 m.p.h. en route from Los Angeles to London. Matthew Cappucci of the Washington Post reported the jet reached this amazing speed—a record for the Boeing 787-9 and probably the highest speed for a non-supersonic commercial flight—while cruising at 35,000 feet over the central Pennsylvania.

Clearly the plane was hurled along by an intense jet streak; Cappucci showed a sounding at 250 mb—a level nearly as high as the plane—that night over Long Island: the jet stream was moving at 231 m.p.h. This is what pushed the aircraft more than 200 m.p.h. beyond its top airspeed. (The plane’s record speed was relative to the ground, not the swiftly moving air around it.) The Post article states that the sounding “sets the record for the fastest 250-millibar wind speed ever recorded over New York and, probably, the country.”

This raises the other question of speed: just how fast can a jet stream go? It turns out the question is not so easy to answer. To find out, we e-mailed an experienced weather records sleuth, Arizona State University’s Randy Cerveny, who is the World Meteorological Organization’s rapporteur of weather and climate extremes. Cerveny replied,

I had set up a WMO committee this past summer to look into that very question—the strongest tropospheric winds (and so the strongest winds recorded on the planet). As we started to look at the data, we found that by far the strongest tropospheric winds are found east of Japan in the Pacific and normally occur right at this time of the year. They are associated with the normal area when polar and subtropical jets merge. The second area of max tropospheric winds are over New Hampshire and has the same thing happen—polar and subtropical jets merge. BUT unfortunately we ran into serious problems with the quality of extreme tropospheric wind measurements. My experts say that right now the quality of the data for those upper air extreme winds is not good enough to support an investigation for global fastest tropospheric winds. So we are not investigating that record until (and if) NCEI and other groups can establish a viable record for an extreme. We have seen data (again, not good to accept) that has winds in excess of 133 m/s or 297 miles per hour. It is likely that some of those values ARE good but we are still quality-controlling the radiosonde extreme dataset.

With that in mind, we dug into the AMS journals archive and found a February 1955 Journal of Meteorology article by Herbert Riehl, F. A. Berry, and H. Maynard detailing research flights into the jet stream over the Mid-Atlantic states. They record one case of a 240-knot jet stream (276 m.p.h.) and another of 210 knots (241 m.p.h.), each representing averages over 28 miles of flight path.

These can’t be counted as definitive—Riehl et al. emphasized the difficulties of their measurement process. And Cerveny emphasizes that, “No measurement that we have seen at extreme values has been judged of sufficient quality to warrant a full evaluation at this time.”

So for now, just sit back and enjoy the flight.

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Hurricanes are classified by the Saffir-Simpson Scale and tornadoes by the Enhanced Fujita Scale, and now atmospheric rivers—those long, transient corridors of water vapor that fuel flooding rain events each winter in the West, especially California—will also be scaled to enhance awareness and bolster prediction.

The new AR scale ranks their intensity and potential impacts from 1 to 5 using the categories “weak,” “moderate,” “strong,” “extreme,” and “exceptional,” based on the amount of water vapor they carry and their duration. It is intended to describe the strength of ARs as beneficial to hazardous, aiding water management and flood response.

AR-Scale“The scale recognizes that weak ARs are often mostly beneficial because they can enhance water supply and snow pack, while stronger ARs can become mostly hazardous, for example if they strike an area with conditions that enhance vulnerability, such as [where there are] burn scars, or already wet conditions,” says Marty Ralph and co-authors in a paper appearing in the February 2019 issue of BAMS and posted online as an early release today. “Extended durations can enhance impacts,” he says.

Ralph is director of the Center for Western Water and Weather Extremes (CW3E) at Scripps Institution of Oceanography and a leading authority on atmospheric rivers, which were officially defined by the AMS in 2017. The new scale was created in collaboration with NWS meteorologists Jonathan Rutz and Chris Smallcomb, and several other experts. It marks two decades of intensive field research that involved establishing a network of dozens and dozens of automated weather stations to observe ARs in real time and flying research planes through them as they crashed ashore and up and over the mountainous terrain of California, Oregon, and Washington.

Atmospheric rivers are the source of most of the West Coast’s heaviest rains and floods—roughly 80 percent of levee breaches in California’s Central Valley are associated with landfalling ARs. Research shows that a combination of intense water vapor transport for a long duration over a given area causes the biggest impact. But ARs also are primary contributors to the region’s water supply.

The newly created scale is designed to capture this combination, accounting for both the amount of available water and the duration it is available. It focuses on a period of 24-48 hours as its standard measurement. When an AR lasts in an area fewer than 24 hours it is demoted by one category, and if it persists more than 48 hours, it is promoted by a category. Unlike the operational hurricane scale, which has been criticized for inadequately representing the increased impacts of slower-moving, lower-end hurricanes, duration is a fundamental factor in the AR scale. It also aims to convey the benefits of ARs, not just the hazards.

“It can serve as a focal point for discussion between water managers, emergency response personnel and the research community as these key water supply and flood inducing storms continue to evolve in a changing climate,” says co-author Michael Anderson of the California Department of Water Resources.

The scale ranks ARs in five categories:

  • AR Cat 1 (Weak):  Primarily beneficial. For example, a February 23, 2017, AR hit California, lasted 24 hours at the coast, and produced modest rainfall.
  • AR Cat 2 (Moderate): Mostly beneficial, but also somewhat hazardous. An AR on November 19-20, 2016, hit Northern California, lasted 42 hours at the coast, and produced several inches of rain that helped replenish low reservoirs after a drought.
  • AR Cat 3 (Strong): Balance of beneficial and hazardous. An AR on October 14-15, 2016, lasted 36 hours at the coast, produced 5-10 inches of rain that helped refill reservoirs after a drought, but also caused some rivers to rise to just below flood stage.
  • AR Cat 4 (Extreme): Mostly hazardous, but also beneficial. For example, an AR on January, 8-9, 2017, that persisted for 36 hours produced up to 14 inches of rain in the Sierra Nevada and caused at least a dozen rivers to reach flood stage.
  • AR Cat 5 (Exceptional): Primarily hazardous. For example, a December 29, 1996, to January 2, 1997, AR lasted over 100 hours at the Central California coast. The associated heavy precipitation and runoff caused more than $1 billion in damages.

When AR storms are predicted for the West Coast, the scale rankings will be updated and communicated on the CW3E website and its Twitter handle.

“The launch of the AR Scale marks a significant step in the development of the concept and its application,” Ralph commented in an e-mail to the AMS, “and caused me to reflect back a bit on where it came from. All the people and organizations who’ve contributed. The scientific debate around the subject. The creation of a formal definition for the Glossary of Meteorology. The creation of a 100-station mesonet to monitor them in California. The AR Recon effort underway in a partnership between Scripps and NCEP [now NCEI], and in collaboration with the Navy, NCAR, and ECMWF, as well as others.  A number of papers are already in the works using the scale, and we are hopeful that it will prove useful for the public and for officials who must deal with storms in a large area where scales for hurricanes, tornadoes and nor’easters are not very applicable.”

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Planetary, synoptic, meso-alpha, meso-beta, local, and more—there are atmospheric scales aplenty discussed at AMS meetings. Enter microtopography, a once-rare word increasingly appearing in the mix in research (for example, here and here).

The word is also coming up as researchers are getting new tools to examine the interaction of tornadoes with their immediate surroundings. Microtopography looks like a potential factor in tornadic damage and in the tornadoes themselves, according to an AMS Annual Meeting presentation by Melissa Wagner (Arizona State Univ.) and Robert Doe (Univ. of Liverpool), who are working on this research with Aaron Johnson (National Weather Service) and Randy Cerveny (Arizona State Univ). Their findings relate tornado damage imagery to small changes in local topography thanks to the use of unmanned aerial systems (UASs).

Microtopographic interactions of tornadic winds were captured in their UAS imagery. Here’s the 5-meter resolution RapidEye satellite imaging of a 30 April 2017 Canton, Texas, tornado path (panel a) versus higher-resolution UAS imaging:

UAS damage figure 1

 

The UAS surveys show that tornadic winds interact with sunken gullies, which appear as unscarred, green breaks (circled in red) in the track of browned damaged vegetation:

UAS damage fig. 3

Erosion and scour are limited within the depressed surfaces of the gullies compared to either side. In another section of the track, track width increases with an elevation gain of approximately 74 feet, as shown in a digital elevation model and 2.5 cm resolution UAS imagery:

UAS damage 3+

The advent of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) has opened new windows on tornado damage tracks. Decades ago, damage surveys took a big leap forward with airplane-based photography that provided a perspective difficult to achieve on the ground. Satellites also can provide a rapid overview but in relatively low resolution. UASs fly at 400 feet—and are still limited to line-of-sight control and the logistics of coordinating with local emergency and relief efforts, regulatory and legal limitations, not to mention still-improving battery technology.

However, UASs provide a stable, reliable aerial platform that benefits from high-resolution imaging and can discern features on the order of centimeters across. Wagner and colleagues were using three vehicles with a combined multispectral imaging capability that is especially useful in detecting changes in the health of vegetation. As a result their methods are being tested primarily in rural, often inaccessible areas of damage.

UAS technologies thus can capture evidence of multi-vortex tornadoes in undeveloped or otherwise remote, vegetated land. The image below shows a swath with enhanced surface scour over two hills (marked X). The arrow on the right identifies speckled white surface erosion, part of the main tornado wedge. Such imagery explains why, among other research purposes, Wagner and Doe are developing the use of UASs in defining tracks and refining intensity-scale estimates.

UAS damage Figure 4

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Today’s poster sessions starting at 4 p.m. will full of mysterious images. This is your opportunity to ask the researchers what the pictures are all about.

In the case of Morristown-Beard School sophomore Kim Magnotta’s poster (103) today, the question may be simply, what are pictures of sand doing at a meteorology conference?

There’s a good reason, of course, so go ahead and ask.

The primarily quartz and feldspar sample from Sandy Hook, NJ, was unique because several grains in the sample were larger in size.

Magnotta jumped into microphotography hoping to capture images of snowflakes falling on Northern New Jersey.  Starting her work during summer vacation, finding snow was difficult.  Collecting samples from the Jersey Shore, she started photographing sand.  It was also much easier perfecting her technique using subjects that did not melt. The first example shown above is primarily quartz and feldspar from Sandy Hook, NJ, including several uniquely large grains.

The glassy sand from Rings Beach, New Zealand, was yellow, purple, and pink.

Focusing on individual sand grains, Kim was fascinated by the variety that exists in this world.  She began to send out requests for sand from around the world.  Added to her personal samples from Sandy Hook, NJ, were sand from Florida, New Zealand, the Dominican Republic, and other exotic locations.  Kim was greatly encouraged by the support she received.

The variety of sand was instructive: New Zealand sand, for example, the second sample above, was from Rings Beach. It was notably glassy, with yellows, purples, and pinks. The next sample below, from Venice, Florida’s prime location on the Gulf Coast, is quartz mingled with fragments of fossils and crushed shells.

Venice’s prime location on Florida’s Gulf Coast means the quartz is mingled with fragments of small fossils and crushed shells.

Throughout this process, Kim has been creatively reactive to her changing situation.  As she presents in the poster session of the Symposium on Education, this has ultimately been an exercise in experimental design and development.  Kim has learned how to adapt when the original plans did not work out and begun to network with a larger community.

She says,

At beginning of the sand and snowflake study, I hoped to obtain a few clear pictures of individual sand grains and snowflakes. Shortly after the study began, I became interested in learning about the different minerals that compose sand.

Currently, I have taken over 200 pictures of sand grains from over 35 different locations.  This project has blossomed from a hobby into a passion.

Continuing her work, Kim would love for people to come see her at her poster to share ideas about how best to analyze the sand she has collected and to consult about techniques to catch and photograph snowflakes.

Another good reason to spend time wondering at the pictures in the poster conference. One final incentive, a biogenic sand sample from the Dominican Republic, where pink hues set it apart from U.S. East Coast sand.

Sand collected in the Dominican Republic contained fragments of coral and small organisms. This biogenic sand came in a range of pink hues that sets it apart from sand along the U.S. East Coast.

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“One of you is likely to be standing here someday replacing me, “ AMS President Roger Wakimoto told the assembled 600+ attendees of the 18th AMS Student Conference Saturday morning in Phoenix.

The students looked at each other in the North Ballroom, but nobody could figure out who he was talking about. And neither could Dr. Wakimoto.

“Everyone is capable of being a leader,” he explained. “It’s whether or not you want to grasp the opportunity.”

For Wakimoto, who now serves as Vice-Chancellor for Research at the UCLA, this is wisdom grasped from life experience.

“As a student I was never chosen to lead anything,” the famed severe storm researcher told the students. “When they selected basketball teams, I was always the last person they would have selected.”

But at key moments in his life, enough people recognized Wakimoto’s capabilities even when he did not. Wakimoto didn’t plan to go to graduate school, but a professor “yanked me aside and told me it would be an incredible waste if I didn’t.”

Then, while comfortable in the academic enclave of his research at UCLA, people pushed him to try a leadership role, first at NCAR and then the National Science Foundation.

Wakimoto, who had to step suddenly into a now-finished two-year tenure as AMS President with the death of Matthew Parker, expressed the lessons of leadership in three simple words: transparency, integrity, and engagement.

The rest is unpredictable. “Forecasting the weather is easy; forecasting your future is impossible.”

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At its meeting this morning in Phoenix, the AMS Council has released the following statement on the Federal government’s ongoing shutdown:

Those of us who study and predict the atmosphere are familiar with the impacts of uncertainty. Americans rely on weather forecasts, and they trust them to be reliable. Lives and livelihoods are saved or lost based on the timeliness and accuracy of a single weather warning.

Unfortunately, the current U.S. government shutdown—and the associated uncertainty—is now beginning to seriously set back efforts to better understand and forecast our environment and protect the nation’s health and prosperity. National Weather Service forecasters who work without pay during a shutdown, like their peers in other essential government services, experience mounting financial and emotional stress. Years of research are jeopardized when federal scientists cannot collect uninterrupted data. When government researchers no longer maintain collaborations with their peers in academia and industry, our nation, and each and every citizen, loses out.

The uncertain length of a shutdown adds to its costly and corrosive effects. Like a chain reaction, the impacts of a government shutdown ripple far beyond those who are furloughed and can impede development of new scientific technologies that are vital to our nation. Many non-government contract employees are already on forced time off without pay, and experiencing severe financial and personal hardship; we may lose the benefit of their knowledge and capabilities as a result.

Within days, the current shutdown may become the nation’s longest on record. Virtually all other nations have mechanisms to keep partisan disagreements from closing major segments of their governments for days or weeks. Without such a backstop, every shutdown means that the U.S. loses more ground to overseas competitors, as other nations take the lead in scientific leadership.

Our nation cannot afford to undermine its scientific enterprise for the sake of policy disagreement. The AMS urges our elected officials to come together and restore normal federal government operations as soon as possible, and we strongly suggest that partisan differences of opinion be given the time and attention they deserve without the unintended consequences of holding scientific research and related activities hostage.

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You’ve been here before. Those previous AMS Annual Meetings, for example, right here in Phoenix. You probably have some good memories of those. But this is not the sense of déjà vu we’re talking about.

Meteorologists, and indeed scientists of many disciplines, bridge the road from societal impacts to societal progress. As a result, you’ve been in this place before: “place” in the sense of what you study, what you say, and what you accomplish. It is all predicated on the premise that the most important people in the room are the people who are not, actually, in the room. The people who flee hurricanes and tsunamis, who dig out from snow and put out wildfires, whose coral reefs are blanching—they are notably absent from conference rooms and auditoriums as well as from laboratories, classrooms, and forecast offices. Yet in the places the work of these atmospheric and related sciences goes on, these unheard voices are the pleas that are being answered.

Science is a process of voices participating in discussions across many divides. Published papers in AMS journals spread ideas from many corners of the globe, just as our Annual Meeting brings together people and their findings from across borders.

As with international borders, so too with generational borders. Discussions in Phoenix this year originate from people who were once among us, but whose voices are now silenced. You can be sure that, as much as it hurts to lose a pioneering scientist such as, say, Doug Lilly, who died this past year, his voice is still very much in the room here due to all his students and all the people influenced by his work. In fact, anyone who takes advantage of opportunities to mentor other scientists is ensuring her voice will be in many rooms she’s never entered. This is the power of a collective enterprise such as AMS.

While answering the unheard is a specialty for this community, now we are about to get even better at it. First, we greatly miss our colleagues and friends from the Federal government who unfortunately must miss this AMS Annual Meeting. The opportunities of the week are reserved for the vast majority who made it to Phoenix as planned. But remember that we are used to speaking as best we can for voices of the missing. The voice we raise, and the waves we make, will undoubtedly be all the stronger if those who aren’t here are not forgotten.

But second, and ultimately more significantly, we will get better at including the voice of the unheard–by including them in the room. One of the great strengths of AMS president Roger Wakimoto’s theme this week is directly related to this chronic condition of sciences so intimately tied to societal need: “Understanding and Building Resilience to Extreme Events by Being Interdisciplinary, International, and Inclusive.”

That last of three “I’s” is telling. Inclusiveness promotes many voices by giving people a seat at the table. No longer can AMS represent every voice by assuming that the few can speak for the many. Inclusiveness is a theme of this meeting, of this year in AMS initiatives, and a pillar of AMS Centennial activities moving forward. For example, this year’s Inez Fung Symposium includes a panel on Tuesday on “Fostering Diverse Perspectives in Climate Science.”

This year’s meeting will be a success, all the more because you’re accustomed to acting like a typical meteorologist, listening to the people who can’t be, or haven’t typically been, in the room.

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by Sarah Benish and Rafael Loureiro

Academic institutions are often highly regarded in terms of ground-breaking research, but less commonly for their science-related political engagement. As two scientists in academia, we feel that it is not only our duty to be engaged in scientific political matters but also feel compelled to share our enthusiasm about science policy with our students and peers. We should all have a common goal to communicate science to policymakers, allowing better, science-informed decisions.

Through the Voices for Science program at AGU, we gathered at a two-day workshop in April 2018 with ~25 other scientists to focus on a common goal—how to be influencers in our fields about better communication of science to the general public and policy makers. We were given the opportunity to learn about the latest science policy initiatives and build on our own communication skills, such as practicing requesting that our representatives do something specific, like supporting or opposing a bill or joining  a certain caucus (also known as “the ask”). The next day, we actively put these skills in use by meeting with congressional representatives on the Hill.

Since so many of us in the sciences are gathered this week at the AGU conference in Washington, D.C., we hope, by sharing our individual experiences in participating in this year-long program, you may be inspired to engage science policy in your own way, at your own institutions.

Sarah:

I am a fourth-year Ph.D. student in atmospheric and oceanic science at the University of Maryland. I study air pollution production and transport in the North China Plain and have interests in science policy, communication, and research. Originally from Oshkosh, Wisconsin, the home of the Experimental Aircraft Association, I became interested in becoming a scientist after earning my private pilot’s license.

Before Voices for Science, I had never interacted with my elected representatives before. My first experience was when I met with six legislators on the Hill with AGU. I enjoyed telling my story, explaining my research, and discussing the importance of consistent science funding in the congressional budget. Meeting with decision makers as a group was particularly useful at the beginning, especially when bringing up the “ask,” but by the end of the day, I felt confident enough to help lead the conversation to issues that were important to me.

Since meeting with my representatives, I have been regularly communicating with them. For example, when a new study linking air quality and diabetes was released in July, I forwarded the article to my representative who expressed concern about air quality legislation hurting the economy. Additionally, I sent my blog posts about my life as an #actuallivingscientist to my legislators to tell my story in how I became interested in science. I thanked my senator for supporting the Hidden Figures Congressional Gold Medal Act and asked my other senator to co-sponsor the act. However, one of my favorite interactions so far was when my senator’s office called to thank me for sending an op-ed I published in my local newspaper about air quality and health.

AGU and the Voices for Science program has provided me with support throughout this remarkable experience. I realized that many students, like me, had never contacted their congresspeople before and wanted to fill that need. So in September, I hosted a congressional letter writing breakfast at the student union at the University of Maryland. Over free breakfast, students wrote letters about science funding in FY19 to their elected representatives and were given resources and letter writing templates. In total, 40 letters to 8 different states were written including Texas, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Maryland.

I was really excited to see University of Maryland undergraduate and graduate students participate in this event since many had never written their representative before. Students wrote about how basic science impacts their daily lives as well as about important data sources influential in their research. Since the event, participants have told me their representatives contacted them to further discuss science funding. That these letters have started such a conversation is a success to me.

Rafael:

I am a space botanist and currently hold two positions, one as a scientist at Blue Marble Space Institute of Science and an assistant professor at Winston-Salem State University. Quite honestly, I never knew what I wanted to do with my life but I knew that I wanted to make a difference and liked dinosaurs, so biology was the most obvious route. I never knew that dinosaurs would become a distant hobby and that the “making a difference” part would be such a pivotal part of my daily activities.

Through my teaching and research I am able to not only touch lives but also mold minds: minds avidly in search for new, exciting information about life here on Earth and possibly elsewhere in the universe. Minds that are constantly seeking to share knowledge with anyone willing to listen (and let me tell you – they are out there by the buckets full).

Voices for Science allowed me to get better at communicating my science, to tailor my speech to different audiences, from K-12 students to politicians. I have learned that they all want to listen, but it is up to you to take the first step.

Many of my initiatives involved students and my departmental peers. The greatest challenge was to show them that sharing your science with any audience willing listen to you involves adaptation and dialog. Adaptation means tailoring our speech and not try to bury people with data, charts, and super cool statistics that are completely irrelevant to them. Instead, we tell them how our science impacts they daily or future lives. Dialog means learning how to listen to what they have to say, to what it is important to them, and how can we make it important to us.

Policymakers are no different. They want to hear from you, even when your point of view, your research, or that particular budget point that you are asking for him or her to vote for goes against their agenda. The receptiveness so far has been uncanny, especially when students are involved. Students can be a great outlet for many of your professors in academia to use to communicate your science or the importance of science to your representative, your students. Young, passionate minds are among the best tools I have seen for engaging people in science policy initiatives.

Why not serve as a mentor in a Science Policy club? Organize debates between students on matters of budgeting for science. Invite local representatives to tour your institution and have students show them their passion for the science that they are developing (and most of their work is funded by agencies jeopardized by budget cuts). This is one of those opportunities for a handshake and a picture with students and your representative near that cool, very expensive NSF funded microscope—a picture you can resend when an important vote is about to come up.

With all that being said, the most important lesson I have learned from Voices for Science is that anyone can do science policy engagement. Against facts there is little room for debate, but in order to make those facts available we (scientist/students) need to be out there, sharing our science and asking everybody – how can we change this situation together?

 

If you are passionate about science and thinking about contacting your representatives about it, we encourage you to go for it! Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Have a goal. Before starting, know what you want to communicate to your elected officials. Have a clear message and a well-defined “ask.” For more information, visit AGU and AMS websites.
  2. Know your limits. Stay within your area of expertise or knowledge. Do not be afraid to say, “I don’t know.” If you know someone who does know, offer to connect your representative with that person.
  3. Encourage students. Part of our job as educators and researchers is to challenge each other’s ideas and open the door to new opportunities. Students who are already interested in science policy will partake in opportunities, but others need encouragement (sometimes, just free food) to commit to participating.
  4. Seek support from professional societies, like AMS. Did you know that AMS hosts a summer policy colloquium? How about the involvement AMS has briefing Capitol Hill? There are also events during the 99th Annual AMS meeting, including town halls with Marcia McNutt, the president of the National Academy of Science, Jim Bridenstine, administrator of NASA, and Bob Riddaway, president of the European Meteorological Society.
  5. They want to hear from you. Share your science with your local representative, either by sending him/her your latest research paper with a short commentary in layman language or inviting them to come see your lab. Your representatives need to be aware of the cool science you are doing.

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Eighty years ago today (September 21st), the Great New England Hurricane of 1938 ripped across New York’s Long Island and slammed into the Northeast, killing more than 600 people and clawing its way across New England and the record books. Every hurricane to strike the region since is compared to this behemoth, and none has come close to its devastating intensity.

U.S. Weather Bureau surface weather map for 7:30 a.m. ET Wednesday, September 21, 1938.
U.S. Weather Bureau surface weather map for 7:30 a.m. ET Wednesday, September 21, 1938.

 

Ferocious winds gusting beyond category 5 intensity and an enormous storm surge that wiped out coastal Long Island and flooded into Rhode Island and Connecticut were its hallmarks. Copious rains also brought by the hurricane fell on soils swamped by heavy rain just days before the storm, leading to widespread flooding and thousands of landslides. Eight decades. And its imprint is still being realized.

Recently, new precipitation data on the storm and a precursor heavy rain event—now understood to be ubiquitous before New England hurricanes—were found. This precipitation map (right) newly appears in the 2nd edition of Taken by Storm 1938: a comprehensive social and meteorological history of the Great New England Hurricane, by Lourdes B. Avilés, professor of meteorology at Plymouth State University.

Precipitation observed during the Great New England Hurricane and its predecessor rain event. (U.S. Geological Survey)
Precipitation observed during the Great New England Hurricane and its predecessor rain event.
(U.S. Geological Survey)

 

The map was created by a grad student Avilés was advising—Lauren Carter—who painstakingly digitized thousands of observations from more than 700 daily weather stations Avilés had unearthed, spanning the 6-day event. This unique updated rainfall map is just one of many new and interesting finds detailed in the new edition of her book, which is now available in the AMS Bookstore. The book’s website houses supplemental information, including more color rainfall maps, detailed reports, and photos.

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