There were plenty of entertaining and educational observations made by weather enthusiasts of all ages at WeatherFest on Sunday. Close to 2,00o people visited the Convention Center for an afternoon of weather experiments, exhibits, and festivity. There was even a special appearance by Owllie Skywarn!
Check out a few of the highlights here:

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Every journey begins somewhere—sometimes all you need to do is start heading down a path.

blog_logo_final_all_caps_updateThis year AMS Past-President Fed Carr has given our Annual Meeting a destination: a comprehensive consideration of our observing needs. He’s also given us a place to embark on our journey: the Presidential Forum this morning (9 AM, Ballroom 6ABC) in which moderator Vanda Grubišić and her distinguished panel take us on a guided tour of our community’s capabilities and a glimpse of the multidisciplinary realms just beyond our reach.

He’s given us everything but the actual path. That choice is yours.

One option that beckons right from the Forum is the path of innovative platforms and systems that continually expand the ways we observe. It’s a path that travels across land, through air and water. It requires vehicles of all kinds and sizes, and takes your quest through every byway of modeling, theory, services, products, and yes, even observations, in search of our observational needs for the future .

Let’s look at a few of the milestones along the path of alternative observing, if you choose to take it.

Roadways themselves are paths, of course, and the Annual Meeting will showcase the new ways roads are a vital part of observing. On Tuesday (9:15 AM), Jeremy Paul Duensing of Schneider Electric will examine the success of Alberta Transportation’s road weather sensor network. One of the largest intelligent road observing systems in North America, this network features sensors taking 100 readings per second directly on vehicles.

Also on Tuesday, at 9:30 AM, Amanda Anderson of NCAR will review the Wyoming Department of Transportation’s project to collect weather (and other) data from internet-connected vehicles traveling on the state’s portion of I-80, which is prone to all sorts of hazardous conditions from blizzards to wildfires.

Meanwhile, the Oklahoma DOT combines a roadside weather information system with modeling and GIS visualization software to monitor road icing hazards. Benjamin Toms of the University of Oklahoma will discuss this system on Tuesday at 11:15 AM.

Our emerging technologies pathway extends skyward, too. On Wednesday at 9:45 AM, learn more from Djamal Khelif of the University of California, Irvine, about the Controlled Towed Vehicle (CTV), which utilizes improved towed-drone technology to measure spatial and temporal variability of sea surface temperatures, wind, temperature, and humidity, as well as turbulent air-sea fluxes from observations made as low as eight meters.

Range into space as well—you no longer need big, complicated satellites to get there. On Wednesday at 8:45 AM, as William Blackwell of MIT Lincoln Laboratory explores the capabilities of CubeSats in microwave high-resolution atmospheric remote sensing. James Clemmons of The Aerospace Corporation will investigate the potential uses of CubeSats in space weather research on Monday at 4:30 PM .

The path even extends onto and into the water. On Monday at 4 PM, Maricarmen Guerra Paris of the University of Washington will review a project that utilizes ferries equipped with Acoustic Doppler Current Profilers to provide full-depth profiles of currents and distinguish tidal currents adjacent to Puget Sound.

The Annual Meeting is full of such unconventional paths—paths of invention paving the way to observation. It’s time to make the choice and your journey.

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by Fred Carr, AMS Past President

Dear Paper and Poster Presenters at the AMS Annual Meeting,

As you know, the theme of the 2017 AMS Annual Meeting is “Observations Lead the Way.” Even though there are several conferences, symposia and sessions dedicated to identifying the greatest observational needs in many disciplines within the weather, water and climate community, we want the advice of all presenters in the 42 conferences and symposia comprising this year’s Annual Meeting.

blog_logo_final_all_caps_updateThe intent is to obtain a community consensus on what observations we need to advance our research, applications, products and services. This information, hopefully from you and the 2000 other presenters at this meeting, will be organized and summarized

  • to write an article for the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society on our community’s consensus on the greatest observational needs across the weather, water, and climate enterprise;
  • to create a document using the same data that would be presented to Federal and State agencies that support environmental measurements, platforms, and networks; and
  • to create a similar document tailored for policy makers, especially for Congress and their staff, to give them the community consensus they are often looking for.

To help us in this effort, we are asking you to create one slide or set of bullets near the end of your talk or poster that includes

  • observations (or networks) that are needed to benefit your future research, application or product development;
  • recommended instruments that are needed to make these observations;
  • your view on the greatest observational needs for your discipline in general.

If you have co-authors, please seek their opinions on these questions as well. We have signed up 100 student volunteers who will attend your sessions and help “harvest” and organize all of your recommendations in a form we can use for the aforementioned publications. I also encourage all poster presenters to upload an image of their poster to the Presenter’s Corner.

I hope you decide to assist us in this very important effort to improve our nation’s observing capacity. Thank you!

Fred Carr
President, American Meteorological Society

 

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The Annual Meeting kicked off this weekend with one of our biggest Student Conferences ever, as more than 700 students were in attendance. It was a lively, entertaining, and educational event for everyone who participated, as can be seen in these observations taken at the Conference:

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Good Enough for Ethics

January 21, 2017 · 1 comment

At his blog, Living on the Real World, AMS Associate Executive Director William Hooke makes a compelling prediction for the next four years: Ethics will matter more than ever.

He’s not talking about politicians, necessarily. He’s talking about our ethics, as members of the atmospheric sciences community. His reasoning? Our capabilities in making predictions are getting that good:

In this high-stakes environment where the products and services we provide are the basis for action, ethics matter. When can and should a NWS field forecaster begin to act when numerical guidance appears to diverge from on-the-ground reality? What observations, products and services should be considered public goods? What can and should be privatized? What’s at stake with warn-on-forecast? To list these few examples doesn’t do justice to the dozens of ethical dimensions to the daily work of everyone in every corner of today’s Earth observations, science, and services community.

At the AMS Annual Meeting on Sunday, Tom Ackerman (meteorologist/climatologist) and Steve Gardiner (philosopher/ethicist) of the University of Washington will moderate a panel session on ethics (1:30 to 3:30 p.m.; Room 613).

Gardiner is the author of the book, A Perfect Moral Storm: The Ethical Tragedy of Climate Change, in which he describes the way this environmental hazard combines many of the classic types of ethical dilemmas found separately in other threats to civil society. The challenges include incomplete knowledge and the uneven distribution of exposures to risk, incentives for action, and burdens of cost—across geography as well as economic classes and generations.

To get a taste of the discussions this week, try this lecture in which Gardiner shows how 200 years ago Jane Austen anticipated the perfect storm of ethical challenges of climate change.

Then follow up Sunday’s sessions by attending “Shades of Gray: Panel Discussion on Ethics, Law, and Uncertainty in the Weather, Water, and Climate Community,” on Wednesday (8:30 a.m., Room 613):

Though our Enterprise is indeed motivated by altruistic interests, ethical gray zones emerge. How confident are we in that climate model, and what should we disclose? Should we attempt to create a forecast beyond 7-14 days? What is the proper balance between providing information and urging action? The presentation of scientific uncertainty can be fraught with misinterpretation and resistance, particularly from non-scientists.

 

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The Inauguration of Donald Trump yesterday marked the end of the Transition. Yet, the end of the Transition with a big “T” marks the beginning of small “t” transitions for everyone else—political winners and losers alike.

According to Reed College historian Joshua Howe, climate science is particularly affected by such changes, absorbing and adapting to shifts in political winds for many decades. The continually transitioning relationship climate science has forged with politics—especially environmental politics—is chronicled in Howe’s book, Behind the Curve: Science and the Politics of Global Warming (Univ. of Washington Press, 2014).

As a past recipient of the AMS Graduate Fellowship in the History of Science, Howe presented the basics of his book at the 2009 AMS Annual Meeting. His dissertation was expanded into the book. In a recent interview at New Books Network (listen here), Howe explains how climate scientists have had to reinvent their approach to environmental advocacy. In Howe’s view, the approach politically active scientists took to triggering action on climate change simply didn’t work well, making the field ripe for further transition.

It was clear early on that climate change, as an environmental concern, was unprecedented in scale and complexity. Following on the debate in the 1970s over the nation’s Supersonic Transport program, atmospheric science had won a place at the environmental table. But environmentalists were used to dealing with local pollution and wilderness access—clear quality of life issues that resonated with their middle class constituency, Howe says. They were interested in concrete, simple, nontechnical issues they could rally around—and climate change was too complex to fit those parameters. Climate change wasn’t a low-hanging fruit ripe for political victories.

Meanwhile, the issue of nuclear winter provided a further, politically loaded impetus to the climate community, Howe said. But the result was a split, with some scientists becoming more politically outspoken within the environmental movement, while others became more entrenched within a conservative physical science community. As a result, the relationship of government funding to climate science became politically fraught.

Scientists initially reached out on climate change through the government agencies in the 1970s. Howe points out that “working within government bureaucracies left scientists vulnerable to political change.” The Carter administration shifted directions; Reagan then arrived with budget cuts and curtailed access to bureaucracy.

In response, many climate scientists sought a technical consensus that might force political action by the shear power of knowledge. The scientists attacking the problem in the 1970s onward had, as Howe puts it, a “naïve” attitude.

“Better knowledge, climate scientists believed, would lead to better policy,” Howe said in his 2009 AMS presentation. “Perhaps it is time for scientists to drop the false veil of political neutrality and begin discussing science and politics as two sides of the same coin.”

The AMS Annual Meeting in Seattle is an ideal opportunity to ponder the future of the atmospheric sciences during the next four years. Check out the Monday Town Hall on “Climate Change – How can we make this a national priority?” (12:15 p.m., Room 613). Then attend the panel session on priorities of the Trump Administration and Congress later that day (4 p.m., same room). The panelists include Ray Ban, Fern Gibbons, and Barry Lee Myers.

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Thanks for Sharing

January 16, 2017 · 0 comments

by Jeff Rosenfeld, Editor in Chief, BAMS

One of the great challenges of parenthood is teaching kids how to share. All too often the stigmatizing message spreads amongst parents at your toddler’s preschool: your little Izzie isn’t “sharing” with the other kids. Sharing is a difficult skill to teach at any age.

The problem is, of course, that we’re telling our children to share the things that matter most to them—sacred items like a toy car, a teddy bear, or a cupcake. To a two-year-old, the most innocuous possessions are precious and are not negotiable. Nor are adults setting an example by sharing precious possessions: we’re not sharing our home with our coworkers or handing the keys of our car to complete strangers. We don’t invite the people at the table next to us in the restaurant to sample our dessert.

Ultimately, some things we simply never learn to share. But you wouldn’t know it from looking over the program to our upcoming AMS Annual Meeting. Clearly, in atmospheric, oceanic, and hydrologic sciences you will find people who have learned to share. It’s a key characteristic of our community that we ought to share more with the rest of the world (for more on this, seek William Hooke’s book, Living on the Real World: How Thinking and Acting Like Meteorologists Will Help Save the Planet).

People in this community have no choice about sharing, actually. It’s the subject matter, above all. Water and air on this planet must be shared. We can’t live without sharing them. We certainly can’t study them without sharing, either.

Now, actually, science in general is good at sharing. Research can’t get anywhere if ideas and information aren’t shared. The shear number of people presenting at our meeting, however, is a very high percentage of our overall membership. Sharing is integral to science, and in particular to weather, water, and climate science.

Some presentations deal head-on with improving scientific sharing. For example, on Wednesday (Jan. 25, 8:45 a.m.), Kyle Tyle of SUNY is discussing the Big Weather Web initiative of NSF. The idea is to improve data management and access and minimize the work of creating visualizations. In the process Big Weather Web addresses the problem of reproducibility that bedevils a world in which everyone is creating tools and storage on their own.

Later the same day, at 5 p.m., Cecelia Deluca (CIRES, Univ. of Colorado) will talk about how the Earth System Prediction Suite initiative helps the major U.S. modeling centers strengthen their common efforts in subseasonal to seasonal scale prediction. “ESPS and its underlying standards begin to transform the S2S modeling community from one in which multiple modeling centers strive to understand each other’s efforts, to one in which each agency can leverage resources across the nation.” A lot of this, of course, is the sharing of codes and modules.

There are countless other examples of how scientists share techniques and data. Sharing gets more difficult—and the material benefits more elusive—when we talk about sharing at a personal level. The rewards are deep, however. This type of sharing is also fundamental to science. It governs how mentors, teachers, and leaders must interact with colleagues and students.

Melissa Burt and colleagues from Colorado State University published an illuminating article in BAMS in July about how sharing is the essence of solving a central dilemma of our science—how do we attract and keep talent from underrepresented groups in our field? Offering mentorships and field research opportunities are among the keys, but the bottom line in all of those recipes for recruitment and retention is the idea of sharing. Advisors, mentors, and colleagues need to show students that they will share their experiences and opportunities at every step in a student’s education.

At the root of effective sharing is the willingness to build and keep trust. Students ultimately will trust the atmospheric sciences with their futures if they realize the atmospheric sciences will entrust them with the responsibility to carry our work forward.

The trust-building example of the Earth Science Women’s Network (also featured in BAMS) has earned them the 2017 AMS Special Award at this upcoming Annual Meeting. It is inscribed “for inspirational commitment to broadening the participation of women in the Earth sciences, providing a supportive environment for peer mentoring and professional development.”

On this Martin Luther King Day, there’s a lesson in that for all of us—a lesson in supporting diversity through building trust and sharing. Science already models its relationship of trust, and not just by sharing data and tools with each other. Science models this relationship by asking for a measure of trust from the world. The fate of many, many species is, to a large degree, in the hands of those who seek understanding of climate, weather, and water. Surely a science entrusted with the global future can learn to hand over the keys to its intellectual future to eager, talented young people of all backgrounds.

(This post is adapted from the “Letter from the Editor” in the July 2016 issue of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.)

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“We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny” wrote Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., from a jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963. “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly….Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its borders.”

On this day, each year, Americans honor Dr. King’s achievements. Yet realizing his goal of peace, justice, and empathy remains a challenge in a diverse society that continues to sort itself racially, ethnically, economically, and geographically. It takes action year-round to advance Dr. King’s social justice vision.

There are many members of our AMS community who, in their own ways, are answering that call to action. The themes of Martin Luther King Day will be fresh on our minds next week at our 97th AMS Annual Meeting in Seattle–consider taking time to weave your way into that “network of mutuality” by attending some of the many presentations on diversity in the sciences. For example:

There are posters, too, that look at diversity and programs that assist minority students and faculty teaching at minority-serving institutions:

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Don’t Stay Neutral

January 6, 2017 · 0 comments

by Keith Seitter, AMS Executive Director

Back in September, I had the privilege of taking part in an excellent workshop on sexual harassment in the sciences that was convened by AGU in collaboration with several other societies. Several sessions of the workshop included discussion on how to reduce the potential for harassment at scientific meetings, so with the 97th AMS Annual Meeting just around the corner, I want to take this opportunity to address these issues.

First, it is important to recognize that sexual harassment in the sciences is more prevalent than most of us would like to believe. We have all read about some of the high-profile cases of truly egregious misconduct between senior scientists and students or junior colleagues. Much, much more common are types of harassment that may fall well below the legal standard for prosecution but are, nonetheless, unacceptable levels of behavior in a professional setting. As the workshop highlighted, these forms of harassment are able to exist partly because many of us are reluctant to take action when we see them (or even when we experience them)—choosing instead to “remain neutral” and not call someone out on behavior that has made someone else uncomfortable.

AMS has an excellent statement of “Professional and Respectful Conduct at AMS Meetings” that can be found here. This statement makes it clear that AMS expects all attendees to adhere to levels of professional behavior that ensure attendees will feel safe and comfortable throughout the meeting and all associated activities. It includes actions AMS will take if attendees do not adhere to these guidelines. As noted in the conduct statement, AMS has established several mechanisms for reporting unprofessional behavior at a meeting (which include sending an e-mail to reportconcern@ametsoc.org, leaving a message on a special hotline at 617-226-3965 that will automatically alert a response team of senior AMS staff members, or simply letting anyone with a staff badge know about the issue).

The most powerful and effective mechanism to ensure a climate of safety and comfort at meetings, however, is for all of us to do our part and not stay neutral if we see or experience behavior that is not consistent with professional and respectful conduct. Take a few minutes now to imagine a scenario in which you see something that makes you or someone else uncomfortable, and think of some phrases that you could be comfortable saying. It can be simple, along the lines of “It is not OK to talk that way” or “that is not the way we do things.” A few simple words can have an enormous and immediate impact. The important thing is that you say something. Doing so will promote a climate of respect and help ensure that the kind of behavior we all expect at a scientific meeting is, in fact, what we experience.

(A version of this post appeared in AMS Executive Director Keith Seitter’s “Letter from Headquarters” column in the November 2016 BAMS.)

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By Paul Higgins, AMS Policy Program Director

Presidential transitions are a time of uncertainty, change, and opportunity. For the AMS Policy Program, and for the entire AMS community, the transition from President Obama to President Trump offers a chance to reflect on our role in the broader society and to reevaluate how we might engage that broader society most constructively.

Our role is to advance science. For us, that means increasing both the potential for scientific discovery (i.e., through research and observations) and for the beneficial use of scientific understanding by the broader society (i.e., through the application of science and informed societal decision-making).

The AMS Policy Program uses three primary approaches to advance science: 1) we develop capacity within the scientific community for effective and constructive engagement with the broader society, 2) we inform policymakers directly of established scientific understanding and the latest policy-relevant research, and 3) we help expand the knowledge base needed for incorporating scientific understanding into the policy process through research, analysis, and studies.

Since the election, AMS Executive Director Keith Seitter and I have been active in reaching out to Congress and the transition teams. We’ve had discussions with staffers from both parties, including those who serve on the Senate Commerce and Appropriations Committees and the House Budget, Science, and Appropriation Committees. The meetings gave us the chance to distribute the AMS priorities statement and to provide background information on Earth observations, science, and services. The discussions have been going very well and they’ve helped to reinforce the value of our information-based, nonpartisan approach to policy engagement. Staff from both sides of the aisle express their appreciation for our approach and their high regard for our input.

Over the next several months, we will continue to consider ways that we can build on our core approaches to advance science most effectively. Our activities will almost certainly emphasize six basic strategies:

  1. To develop, communicate, and advance a positive vision for Earth observations, science, and services (OSS)
  2. To engage constructively with administration officials, the agencies, and congressional staff from both parties to encourage scientific advancement
  3. To praise, thank, and congratulate those who make positive contributions to Earth observations, science, and services
  4. To identify, characterize, and work to resolve efforts that may be counterproductive to scientific advancement
  5. To empower the scientific community to engage effectively and constructively with the policy process
  6. To improve our communication with (and outreach to) AMS members, other scientists, policymakers, members of the media, and the public with respect to the advancement of Earth observations, science, and services.

For now, we are focused on opportunities to work with Congress and the new administration to advance science and its beneficial use. We strongly believe the most effective approach to policy engagement starts with first building solid relationships, particularly with those with whom we differ. Building relationships depends on respect and understanding—recognizing that those who see it differently can still be high-minded people who are working toward their vision of a stronger country and a better world. In my experience, the vast majority of policymakers in Washington, D.C., have good intentions.

We understand why many are concerned about the potential for the misuse or abuse of science. We hope the need to protect scientists and science (e.g., from attacks or from misrepresentation and misuse) will not be necessary, but AMS has been strong on that in the past and is prepared for it again whenever necessary.

Now is an important time to engage constructively with the policy process. We can advance science most effectively with strong positive messages about the role of science in society. After all, our science helps efforts to meet basic human needs including food, shelter, energy, health, and safety. We need not be shy in seeking strong positive outcomes for our community or for the broader society that we serve. The policy process is complex, however, often more so than outsiders (including scientists) recognize. When we can balance humility about what we don’t understand about the policy process with confidence in what our science can provide to society, our efforts to engage will be more well received and that will lead to better outcomes.

Policy choices have the greatest chance to benefit society when grounded in the best available knowledge and understanding. Through our activities, the AMS Policy Program advances societal decision-making with respect to weather, water, and climate. This helps policymakers recognize and manage Earth system risks, and take advantage of emerging opportunities our science makes possible.

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