Annual Meeting Updates

November 20, 2013 · 0 comments

Philip Ardanuy and Eileen Shea, the co-chairs of the 2014 AMS Annual Meeting, and AMS President J. Marshall Shepherd recently sent out this message with updates about the meeting:

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

The 94th American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting is less than three months away, can you believe it? We’ve had some updates to the technical sessions, so please visit the program to view the sessions and set your very own personal schedule. We are also VERY excited to launch our new mobile app, AMS 2014—coming in early December! With this app you will be able to view sessions, view exhibitors, view floor plans, connect with other attendees, and so much more! Below are a few specific events, in addition to the technical sessions, that are new and we’re excited to share them with you!

  • The Presidential Forum’s opening plenary will be entitled “Monday Morning Quarterbacking: Looking to the Past; Preparing for the Future.” This session will provide practical perspectives on the consequences of weather and climate and will allow all of the participants and attendees to explore the Annual Meeting Theme together. It will also set the stage for the week’s exploration of the Weather and Climate Enterprise, which is aimed at improving society’s ability to more effectively anticipate, prepare for, and respond to weather and climate extremes now and in the future.

The Presidential Forum will include a keynote address given by Andrew Revkin, Dot Earth blogger, The New York Times, and Senior Fellow for Environmental Understanding, Pace University. Mr. Revkin will be speaking on “The New Communication Climate: An Exploration of Tools and Traits That Give the Best Chance of Success in Facing a Fast-Forward Media Landscape and Changing Climate.” Additional information can be found here. This address will be followed by a McLaughlin Group-style panel moderated by Margaret Davidson, NOAA Coastal Services Center. Modeled after The McLaughlin Group television program, the panel discussion will be (mostly) unscripted and unrehearsed. Panelists will be invited to express their own opinions and analysis, in anticipation of creating insightful and lively debate. Per The McLaughlin Group policy, we “will defend the right of individuals to express unpopular views . . . Intellectual honesty and argument merit are touchstones…” The panelists for the discussion will be:

o Leslie Chapman-Henderson, President and CEO, Federal Alliance for Safe Homes
o David Perkes, Architect/ Professor, Mississippi State University /Gulf Coast Community Design Studio
o Ellis Stanley Sr., Vice President for Emergency Management Services, Hammerman & Gainer International, Inc.
o Rear Adm. David W. Titley, Senior Scientist and Director, Center on Weather and Climate Risk Solutions, Pennsylvania State University
o Peter Kareiva, Chief Scientist and Director, Science, The Nature Conservancy
  • Didn’t get enough discussion on the Annual Meeting Theme? Then don’t miss the Monday evening Presidential Town Hall Meeting entitled “Adapting to the New Normal—Building, Sustaining, and Improving our Weather and Climate Hazard Resilience” or one of the 18 Themed Joint Sessions that will take place during the week.
  • This year’s Annual Meeting will feature three named symposia to recognize the significant achievements of three scientists in fields served by the AMS. The Stanley A. Changnon Symposium will take place on Tuesday, 4 February, the Edward S. Epstein Symposium will take place on Wednesday, 5 February, and the Donald R. Johnson Symposium will take place on Thursday, 6 February. Please note that while all attendees are invited to attend named symposia, tickets to luncheons for the Changnon and Johnson symposia are not included in the conference registration package and must be purchased separately. There will not be a luncheon for the Epstein Symposium.
  • On Thursday, 6 February, a full day of posters and presentations are dedicated to Superstorm Sandy. Last year, as details were being finalized for the 2013 AMS Annual Meeting in Austin, Texas, Superstorm Sandy was developing. To honor this historic event, a special town hall was added to kick off the formal dialog within the AMS community. In the past year, research and studies on the event allow an opportunity for the community to share the lessons learned, show new tools and techniques, and highlight best practices that have resulted from this devastating event. The day kicks off with a panel discussion looking at President Obama’s Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force and Strategy Report. The remaining three oral presentation sessions will take a look at the weather and climate perspectives, the societal impacts, and the modeling of Superstorm Sandy. A poster session dedicated to Superstorm Sandy has twenty excellent contributions as well. Of note, we had many abstracts submitted from those interested in the event, including from the power industry, the Centers for Disease Control, Swiss Re, and from various social science backgrounds. These insightful presentations and posters should allow further dialog to continue across the weather enterprise, and hopefully create some new connections outside of our traditional weather and climate community as well.
  • Learn more about the AMS Beacons Program, an initiative of the Membership Committee designed to carry on former Executive Director Kenneth Spengler’s legacy of fostering the AMS as an open, inclusive, and welcoming organization.
  • The Short Course Programs, Workshops, and Registration webpages have been updated. Short Courses will be held on Saturday, 1 February and Sunday, 2 February. A workshop entitled, “Inside AMS Publications —Hot Topics” will take place on Tuesday, 4 February. Register before 2 December to get the lowest rates!
  • Don’t forget to Meet the President! One of AMS President J. Marshall Shepherd’s goals during his tenure was to make the leadership of the Society as accessible as possible to the membership. He has set aside some time during the week to answer questions, listen to concerns and suggestions, or just to talk. You can also follow him on @DrShepherd2013.
  • Join us for the Women in the Atmospheric Sciences: A Conversation about the Future session and luncheon on Wednesday, 5 February from 12 to 1:30pm. Lockheed Martin Corporation and Harris Corporation will provide a limited number of box lunches.
  • Please note that the registration deadline for the 13th Annual AMS Student Conference (you must be an AMS student member) and the Second Annual AMS Conference for Early Career Professionals (you must be an AMS member or student member) is 14 January. There will be no onsite registration.
  • Be sure you arrive early enough on Sunday to go to Weatherfest, our free public outreach event, as well as the 94th Annual Review just before the Fellows Awards Reception. The business meeting starts at 4:00 pm and the reception starts at 5:45 p.m.
  • The Front Page, the official blog of the AMS, has started previewing the Annual Meeting. Be sure to check The Front Page periodically for updates. Click “AMS2014” in the tag cloud for stories you may have missed. Or stay up to date by following the AMS on Facebook (ametsoc) and/or Twitter (@ametsoc). The official Twitter hashtag for the 94th Annual Meeting is #AMS2014.
  • Don’t forget to register online and book your hotel room. The hotels are filling up quickly, so keep checking back for updated availability. Also, if you’ve made a reservation but can no longer attend the meeting, don’t forget to cancel that reservation! You’ll not only save yourself a deposit, you’ll open up that room for another person that can attend. And, as always, we appreciate you booking within the AMS block!


We’re excited to see you in Atlanta!


Philip Ardanuy and Eileen Shea

Program Co-Chairpersons, 94th AMS Annual Meeting

J. Marshall Shepherd

AMS President





by Keith Seitter, AMS Executive Director

I am very proud to report that the AMS was named by the Boston Globe as one of Boston area’s top places to work.   This prestigious award is a reflection of the incredible staff we have in the AMS, but it also reflects on the Society’s members and its mission to advance the atmospheric and related sciences, technologies, applications, and services for the benefit of society.

TPTW 2013 logosThe organization that conducted the study that named the top places to work in the Boston area (and who has done similar studies across the country), makes it clear in the supporting documentation that a key factor in workplace satisfaction is doing work that the employees feel is important and mission-driven.  The AMS community is doing incredibly important work across the breadth of its many subdisciplines, from helping ensure sustainability of the atmosphere, oceans, and water resources in the face of a changing climate, to protecting life and property from the threats of severe weather and other hazards.  The AMS staff understands the importance of this work and takes great pride in supporting the professionals who do it.  The fact that AMS members tend to be simply wonderful to work with as they share their passion for the science and its application also makes being on the AMS staff a truly enjoyable and satisfying experience.

So we share this award with our members and the broader community served by the Society, and thank them for making the work we do as AMS staff members so fulfilling.


Dr. David Titley, Rear Adm. (Ret.)–well known to us as former oceanographer of the U.S. Navy, as chief operating officer at NOAA, now as a professor at Penn State’s Department of Meteorology–and of course as an AMS Fellow–writes to us asking for your input on a new project:

As you may know, the National Research Council (NRC) is now conducting a Decadal Survey of Ocean Sciences (DSOS 2015), sponsored by the National Science Foundation. Shirley Pomponi (Harbor Branch/Florida Atlantic University) and I are the co-chairs.

This study will review the current state of knowledge, identify compelling scientific questions for the next decade, analyze infrastructure needed to address these questions vs. the current NSF portfolio, and identify opportunities to maximize the value of NSF investments.

The DSOS committee feels strongly that this report must be informed by broad and thoughtful community input from across the entire spectrum of ocean sciences supported by NSF. The DSOS committee will be holding town hall sessions at the AGU Annual Meeting in San Francisco in December and at the ASLO/TOS/AGU Ocean Sciences Annual Meeting in Honolulu in February 2014. In addition to soliciting comments at the professional meetings, we are seeking community input through a “virtual” town hall:

The website provides more detailed information on the statement of task, as well as a complete list of the DSOS committee members. Please go to the website and contribute your comments regarding the top ocean science priorities for the next decade. Thank you very much in advance for supporting the Ocean Studies Board and the NRC in this important effort.


Many scientists these days are asking how they can better communicate their research to the public. One group of climate researchers has found a solution–by putting themselves into the spotlight (literally) in the 2014 Climate Models wall calendar.

Scheduled for release this December, the calendar will include pictures of 13 climate scientists as well as information about them, such as their favorite dataset or climate phenomenon. Their ultimate goal, according to their website, is to “increase awareness of climate change and its impacts by engaging the public with scientists and what they’re learning about Earth’s climate.” In the process, the scientists reveal a side of themselves that most of the public doesn’t regularly get to see, and they hope to inspire colleagues to be equally creative in sharing their research with the public. You can get a sneak preview of a few of the models in the video below.

In addition to their work in front of the cameras, the scientists, who represent Columbia University’s International Research Institute for Climate and Society and Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, and the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, will also be presenting a poster about their novel communication efforts at December’s AGU Fall Meeting in San Francisco.

You can help support the calendar by donating to its Kickstarter campaign.


The scars from Superstorm Sandy remain evident, even a year after it blasted the North Atlantic coast. In some areas, the cleanup and rebuilding continue in very tangible ways, while for others, the damage cannot simply be repaired with tools and lumber. And while the healing continues, so also does the effort throughout the scientific and emergency planning communities to understand exactly what happened—and to ensure we’re better prepared for the next storm.

At NCAR, scientists have been studying simulations of Sandy in the Advanced Hurricane WRF, NCAR’s hurricane-oriented version of the Weather Research and Forecasting model. Some of their research was discussed at August’s AMS Conference on Mesoscale Meteorology, and a paper detailing their work will be published shortly in Monthly Weather Review. Their key finding was that Sandy combined elements of many familiar phenomena that “hadn’t been previously shown to come together in such a way near a major coastline,” according to NCAR’s Bob Henson, who detailed the findings in this article. He wrote:

Strong winter storms at sea sometimes develop pockets of warm air within their cold cores—a process known as warm seclusion, first characterized by Shapiro and Daniel Keyser. However, in this case, the warm air being secluded was already present in Sandy’s inner core. This is the first time such a dramatic warm seclusion has been documented in a landfalling U.S. hurricane.

While Superstorm Sandy was a highly unusual phenomenon from a scientific standpoint, it also presented new and unique challenges in other ways; for example, its path through the northeast United States took it through heavily populated–and in some cases, particularly vulnerable–areas.  Sandy’s impact on the built environment makes it an especially appropriate example of the theme of the 2014 AMS Annual Meeting in Atlanta. During that meeting, the lessons that Sandy reveals about future extreme events will be explored at a special conference titled “Superstorm Sandy and the Built Environment: New Perspectives, Opportunities and Tools.” This conference will focus on three complementary elements of the storm: prediction and preparedness; response and recovery; and, particularly, new perspectives, opportunities, tools, and imperatives for the future built environment. The broad range of topics to be discussed include storm evolution and prediction; communication about the storm through the media; impacts on lives, property, and infrastructure; and preparation and response. The complete schedule for the conference can be found here.


The Front Page received the following note from John Nielsen-Gammon, Regents Professor of Atmospheric Sciences, Texas A&M University; Texas State Climatologist; and a Fellow of AMS:

A Message To Fellow Physical Scientists

I’m part of a new journalistic endeavor called the Climate Change National Forum and Review.  The purpose of this web site will be to provide a public forum wherein scientists can discuss the latest research on climate change and share and debate ideas on aspects of climate change especially relevant to policymaking.  When the second phase kicks in, policy experts will join the discussion and compare the benefits and costs of possible responses.

I know what you’re thinking: “This sounds an awful lot like the IPCC.”  Well, it’s not.  Nor is it intended to replace the IPCC in any way.  It has a different purview and a different set of goals.

  • The IPCC is an international body. The CCNFR is focused on issues facing the United States.
  • The IPCC scientists are selected from nominees from various countries. The CCNFR scientists consist of anyone who contributes regularly and constructively to the discussion.
  • The IPCC produces reports every few years, whose summaries are edited and ratified by political representatives. The CCNFR web site is a living document, continuously updated to account for the latest science, and not subject to political interference.
  • The IPCC’s purview is anthropogenic climate change. The CCNFR’s purview is climate change in all its causes and manifestations.  Would it make sense to only adapt to anthropogenic climate change?
  • The IPCC reports are written by experts within their subject fields. The CCNFR will draw upon the expertise and experience of scientists from a wide range of fields, not just insiders.
  • The public gets to see the IPCC final report. The public gets to see scientists grappling with, understanding, and debating the issues.

For me, this last point is an important one.  The public can benefit tremendously from being able to see how scientists think and reason scientifically.  We ask them to trust our collective scientific wisdom without allowing them to see how we evaluate conflicting or flawed evidence and develop judgments.  Presently, the only extensive example of this available to the public is the set of emails from Climategate.

Why should you participate?  First, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of climate science.  Perhaps you’ve just taken the IPCC reports on faith, trusting the experts to do a good job.  Whether they did or not, you will be better able to articulate the issues and explain them to others after exchanging ideas, digging into some of the primary literature, and fleshing out any questions that might be nagging you in the back of your mind.

It should be obvious by now that you don’t need to be a climate scientist to participate, as long as you have a suitable technical background.  Indeed, we need at least some people who know relatively little about the state of the art of climate science, for their intellectual journey while participating in the CCNFR is similar to the journeys we hope dedicated lay readers will take.  Outsiders to climate science can better spot the unspoken assumptions and unjustified conventions.

Your learning will come through the course of online debate and discussion with other scientists.  As you probably know from personal experience, discussion with other scientists is often the absolute best way to come to grips with a contentious or controversial scientific issue.  Along the way, you will develop skills as a writer for an outside audience.

Finally, you will be doing a public service, simultaneously helping to educate the public about climate change and about science in general.

On the negative side, it requires time, though not a whole lot.  We’re only asking for participants to contribute new essays once a month, plus participate in some of the online discussions with other scientists.  Compared to starting your own blog, this is a relatively easy way to bring your ideas and judgment into public view.

Scientists who think they know everything about climate change are not welcome to participate.  If you’re an expert in a particular branch and want to broaden your knowledge, or even if this is something outside your expertise entirely so that you have a lot you want to learn, then come join us.

The link above that John provides is a beta form of the CCNFR web site. To facilitate your postings explaining, debating, and discussing climate science–and to keep the site tied to issues in the news and policymaking–the CCNFR hopes to provide a steady stream of news and statements culled even-handedly  from the media by a professional journalist.

As such, this is not only a time to consider getting in on the ground floor of a new public outreach project but also a time to consider making a donation. The CCNFR hopes to raise more than $60,000 to get a journalist on board soon.


AMS Glossary Goes Mobile

September 26, 2013 · 0 comments

The AMS Glossary of Meteorology continues to evolve over time. Originally published in book form in 1959, with a second edition in 2000, the Glossary has more recently been available online for AMS members. Now, online and mobile versions of the Glossary are available to all.

The idea of an electronic, open-access, wiki-based version of the Glossary was presented to the AMS Council last fall by then-Publications Commissioner David Jorgensen, then-STAC Commissioner Mary Cairns, current STAC Commissioner Ward Seguin, and AMS Publications Director Ken Heideman. The Council approved the recommendation and appointed Cairns to a three-year term as chief editor of the new Glossary.

The online version was made freely available on the web earlier this year. With the launch of the mobile version last month, the Glossary is now even more accessible to students, young professionals, and others utilizing the newest technologies.

The electronic version of the Glossary has a convenient look-up interface and facilitates reader feedback. As chief editor, Cairns manages peer review of those suggested changes–including corrections and new terms–before they are approved. Initial response to the wiki aspect of the site has been very positive; a number of revisions and new terms have already been completed, suggesting that users are beginning to look at the Glossary as a “living document” that can regularly be revised, and therefore will remain up-to-date well into the future.


It has been known by many names: the Yankee Clipper, the Great New England Hurricane, the Long Island Express . . . or simply the New England Hurricane of 1938. With fatalities estimated at between 500 and 700, it’s still the deadliest hurricane in modern New England history, and only Sandy last year was more costly (property damage from the ’38 storm amounted to almost $5 billion in 2013 dollars). Tomorrow is the 75th anniversary of the storm’s landfall as a Category 3 hurricane on Long Island, and to coincide with that occasion, the AMS has just released a new book about the event: Taken by Storm, 1938: A Social and Meteorological History of the Great New England Hurricane, by Lourdes B. Avilés. (To order the book, visit the AMS bookstore.) The first book to detail the science of the storm, it also delves into the Great Hurricane’s significant societal impacts. In the preface, Avilés discusses her motivation for writing the book:

My goal has not been to retell the story that has already been told, although there has to be some of that too, but to take a somewhat interdisciplinary approach to weaving together different aspects–different stories–of the 1938 Hurricane. This includes what happened before, during, and after the event, in the context of the meteorological history of the storm and its associated destruction and devastation; casualties, survival, and recovery in the affected population; environmental and geological changes caused by the storm; the science of hurricanes and of early-20th-century meteorology; and, finally, the added perspective of other intense hurricanes that have affected and no doubt will again affect the region.

AMS Director of Publications Ken Heideman, who wrote the foreword to Taken by Storm, 1938, recently talked to Avilés about the hurricane and her new book; the complete interview is below.


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We’re nearing the halfway mark on the AMS 2013-2014 Solar Energy Prediction Contest. Right now the leaderboard is headed largely by teams that participate the most, but there’s still time to join in if you want to have a chance at a prize.

The 130-day contest opened on July 8 and closes on November 15. It is run by the AMS Committees on Artificial Intelligence Applications to Environmental Science, Probability and Statistics, and Earth and Energy, which began reaching out to a wider community of participants last year by hosting the contest on the website, Kaggle. More than 90 teams are trying their skill with statistical and machine learning techniques. The daily challenge is to predict incoming solar energy at a preselected set of 98 Oklahoma Mesonet sites that serve as a virtual solar farm.

Hopefully, the contest will show “which statistical and machine learning techniques provide the best short-term predictions of solar energy production,” say the organizers, Amy McGovern and David John Gagne II of the University of Oklahoma. “Power forecasts typically are derived from numerical weather prediction models, but statistical and machine learning techniques are increasingly being used in conjunction with the numerical models to produce more accurate forecasts.”

The contest website provides input numerical weather prediction data from the NOAA/ESRL Global Ensemble Forecast System (GEFS) Reforecast Version 2. Data include all 11 ensemble members and the forecast time steps 12, 15, 18, 21, and 24 provided in netCD4 files. There’s also a training dataset and a public testing dataset. Basically all you have to do is jump right in and see how well your methods work.

Teams identified as preliminary winners (based on mean absolute error, a common metric in the renewable energy industry) will submit their code to the judges after the contest for verification. The verified winners will make their code open-source, and will be honored (and expected to present) at the AMS Annual Meeting in February 2014 in Atlanta.

The prizes are sponsored by EarthRisk Technologies, Inc., and include $500 awarded to the winner, $300 for second place, and $200 for third. Each of the top three gets their abstract fees waived for the upcoming AMS Annual Meeting, and the top student forecaster gets both abstract fee and conference registration waived.

Daily solar energy data were provided by the Oklahoma Mesonet with the assistance of Jeffrey Basara of the Oklahoma Climatological Survey. The GEFS Reforecast Version 2 data were developed and provided by Thomas Hamill of NOAA.


by J. Marshall Shepherd, AMS President. Reprinted from The Mind of J. Marsh.

I had no intentions of writing anything about the Anniversary of my Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity brother Dr. Martin Luther King’s historic “Dream Speech” today. But as I sit here in the Tate Center of the University of Georgia eating breakfast and responding to emails from the Executive Director of the American Meteorological Society, a flood of realization came over me. Dr. King’s Dream is tangible for me and my career path.

King stated in 1963:

“I have a dream that one day little black boys and girls will be holding hands with little white boys and girls.”

I am one of those little black boys. I grew up in a small town north of Atlanta called Canton, Georgia. It is home and I cherish it. Yes, it had (and has) as any place does, pockets of hate and narrow thinking, but my experiences reflected the aforementioned quote. I went to school with, played S.W.A.T with, played sports with, and interacted with white and black kids. I eventually went on to be the first African American Valedictorian at Cherokee High School. I don’t make this point to brag. I make the point because it presents a dilemma in how I view it. On one hand, I feel proud to have achieved a goal and hopefully inspired someone else to strive to achieve academically. On the other hand, over 25 years later, I may still be the only person that looks like me to have given that speech. Indeed, times have changed but there is still room for me to continue to dream for my kids or for cousins that may aspire to similar goals at Cherokee High School. 

But, I want to reflect on my personal career trajectory as a projection of King’s Dream forward. 
I was blessed to be the first (and only) African American to receive a PhD in meteorology from Florida State University. This presents the same aforementioned dilemma. It’s too far past 1963 for these types of “firsts.”  After a successful career at NASA, I returned to my home state of Georgia and am now the Director of the Atmospheric Sciences Program and the Athletic Association Professor of Geography and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Georgia. Only 2 years before Dr. King delivered his “Dream Speech,” the University of Georgia was integrated and allowed black students, and now I am teaching, advising and mentoring students of all races.

Another significant milestone and blessing came last year when my peers, the members of the American Meteorological Society (AMS,, the largest and oldest professional society in my field, elected me to serve as President. To serve as the President of one of the more influential science organizations in this country is a privilege and honor. So back to the email I mentioned earlier from Dr. Keith Seitter, AMS Executive Director. I emailed Keith to inquire how many members of the AMS would have looked like me in 1963, the time of the “Dream” speech.  I guessed less than 10. Keith’s reply:

“Other than (Charlie) Anderson, I can only think of Warren Washington (not sure when he might have joined but probably close to then), and maybe June Bacon-Bercy (though she may have come on the scene closer to 1970), So, yes, almost surely less than 10, but probably not zero.” 

These numbers are not a reflection of the AMS, it is more of reflection of the times. However, in 2013, a relatively : ) young African American that has loved weather since 6th grade presides over this esteemed organization with contributions from all races, genders, and cultures. I am the 2nd African American to serve as AMS President. My mentor and recent National Medal of Science recipient, Dr. Warren Washington (, was the first. 
I owe many aspects of my career to the AMS and Warren Washington. I received one of the first AMS Industry Fellowships, have been afforded opportunities to lead and inspire within the organization, and have experienced the scholarly community of a first-class organization. Warren Washington invited me as a young scholar to spend a week with him at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and gave me sage advice that I carry with me to this day and try to pass along also. Blacks are still underrepresented in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) careers and my field is no exception. However, I offered some thoughts on how to overcome this in a recent article ( One of those suggestions is mentorship and I am grateful to Warren (another Alpha Fraternity brother, by the way) for life. I originally hesitated when approached to be put on the ballot for the AMS Presidency, but then I reflected on how I might inspire some boy or girl, irrespective of race.

There are so many other examples of my traceability to the Dream as the nation reflects on this anniversary, but I hope you see why I say that “I am one of those little black boys” in the Dream speech.