Speakers at the Presidential Forum looked back, looked ahead, quoted Yogi Berra and Wayne Gretzky, and made attendees think about how far meteorology has come…and how far it could go in the future. Here are a few Twitter highlights:


New videos from the Annual Meeting in Phoenix continue to be posted on the AMS YouTube channel. So far you’ll find interviews with new AMS Fellow Jack Williams, on weather in the media; AMS Associate Executive Director William Hooke, on the state of the weather, water, and climate community; and UCAR President Tom Bogdan, on space weather science developments at the meeting this week.

More interviews with you and your colleagues, from poster sessions to hallway conversations, will be appearing on the channel throughout the meeting, so keep talking!


There have been many thoughtful questions raised throughout this weekend’s AMS Student Conference, but one question posed at the communications breakout session on Saturday proved particularly challenging for the panelists. A student asked, “How do you educate the public that doesn’t have access to television or social media? How do we educate the homeless about severe weather events?”

Here were the responses from the panelists:

Marshall Shepherd, Univ. of Georgia: I think you’re hitting on a key question. The homeless question…that’s tough. These are the people who aren’t watching, necessarily. That really involves grassroots efforts. TV stations can be involved in galvanizing and organizing. So, for example, I teach a class at the University of Georgia on urban climate, and one of the projects I ask students to do is look at tornado sirens in the Athens/Clark County region. One of the things we found was that the way the tornado sirens were distributed, there were significant parts of the population—particularly those who were underserved or lower income—who didn’t even have sirens where they lived.

So I think there’s a whole notion of increased social sciences and environmental justice and all types of issues that we all have to be aware of and address.  I don’t know the answer to that question you asked, and I think there’s an opportunity.

Ginger Zee, ABC News: I’ve done four stories on that same thing of the sirens, because there’s no federal law, state law, no county law in any state that says there has to be one. I grew up in Michigan and we had them in every single town. It’s amazing to me that there are places that don’t have them, especially in places that really need them but don’t. Requiring outdoor warning systems—I don’t know if that’s going to happen; it’s not going to be funded.

I think the community outreach part is probably your best bet. You guys remember in Virginia this year, there was a camp with a bunch of kids outdoors and a long line of storms on the ground for three hours. It’s amazing to me that they still didn’t have warning. That can’t go on.  There was one kid who died. That shouldn’t have happened, because once they got indoors they were safe inside. If that was a fire and they didn’t have a smoke alarms, we would not be having the same discussion. They would have been sued like crazy.

Weather has grown…our ability to forecast has grown and now the whole policy part of it has to catch up. I think that will take time.

Keli Pirtle, NOAA: The National Weather Service works with local emergency managers to help prepare communities through the Storm Ready program.  I would hope that a shelter, like a homeless shelter, would have a NOAA Weather Radio. That’s a hope more than a reality, I’m afraid.  We can encourage people—churches, nursing homes, schools—to have multiple ways to receive information, to have a plan. A homeless person on the street, they’re in touch with others. I would hope the network on the street would get them the information, but it’s certainly an area where we desperately need to improve.

Jorge Torres, KOB-TV: And I agree with that. At our station, we’re partners with the Red Cross, and with the Roadrunner Food Bank of New Mexico, which helps feed the hungry because New Mexico is, I believe, the number one state in the country for childhood hunger. So we do have outreach programs with the lower-income communities. But that’s not in the form of weather [information] mostly, it’s in the form of talking to them. I do think you bring up a good point that those who don’t watch us, can’t watch us. They’re the ones who deal with the elements much more—the homeless especially—than the rest of us because we have a roof over our head and they don’t.

{ 1 comment }

At the Annual Meeting each year, past, current, and future AMS presidents come together. In Phoenix today, incoming AMS president Alexander “Sandy” MacDonald takes the reins from outgoing president Bill Gail.

“I hope to make the best use of my years of experience to bring the government, commercial, and academic communities together,” MacDonald comments. “I feel that my theme for next year’s meeting, ‘Earth System Science in Service to Society,’ weaves the many parts of AMS into a common core.”

For MacDonald, that experience is considerable: namely, 43 years at NOAA, with a diverse list of contributions to the science of weather and climate. One of them—his Science On a Sphere® —will be showcased at the kickoff of the meeting in Phoenix. The multimedia system displays full-color animated images of satellite, geophysical, and astronomical data on a sphere. It’s in more than 110 museums and science centers around the world and is now educating millions of people a year about many aspects of our planet.

MacDonald notes that “AMS is unique in bringing together the effort of understanding our Earth and the people who use that information to make life better.” (MacDonald’s career and plans as president are profiled in the upcoming January issue of BAMS.) 

Following MacDonald in the leadership queue is Frederick Carr, who serves as AMS President Elect this year. Similarly to MacDonald, Carr’s plans as AMS president in 2016 include facilitating synergies and partnerships among all components of the atmospheric science community.

“I am honored and excited to be elected AMS President and look forward to helping the AMS provide leadership and support to the academic, public, and private sector members of the Society,” Carr says. “My current thinking is that the theme of the 2017 Annual Meeting will be ‘Observations Lead the Way,’ meaning that in all aspects of our related disciplines, from improving forecasts to making data-based policy decisions, obtaining and making best use of increased observational capabilities will best move our science forward.”

Fred has spent the past 37 years as a professor of meteorology at the University of Oklahoma, and served as the director of the School of Meteorology for 14 years (1996-2010) as the program doubled in size and moved into the National Weather Center. His expertise straddles both observational meteorology and numerical weather prediction. He takes pride in both having made significant improvements to NCEP’s numerical models in the 1980s and ‘90s and in the professional success of his students. He has served the AMS in many capacities, including as editor or associate editor of three AMS journals and as councilor (2001-04). He currently serves as cochair of the UCAR Community Advisory Committee for the National Centers for Environmental Prediction and on the UCAR Board of Trustees.

“I welcome all members of the AMS, from students to honorary members, to contact me if they have any suggestions for how the AMS can better serve them as we move forward to the 100th anniversary of AMS,” Carr notes. MacDonald echoes that sentiment, encouraging member input at the upcoming Annual Meeting as well as throughout the year as the Society’s Centennial approaches.

AMS Presidents present, past, and future: (left to right) Sandy McDonald, Bill Gail, and Frederick Carr AMS Presidents current, past, and future: (left to right) Sandy MacDonald, Bill Gail, and Frederick Carr


{ 1 comment }

Time to Bloom

January 3, 2015 · 0 comments

They say Phoenix has made the desert bloom. Indeed, flying into this city or looking out the hotel window reveals an impressive display of urban ingenuity over the timeless harshness of desert climate.

Plenty of papers at this AMS Meeting will examine the pitfalls of this urban oasis–its heat waves, droughts, floods, lightning, and dust storms.

Yet, the meeting will repeat this desert flowering in a microcosm. A day ago this building, the Phoenix Convention Center, was empty. Teeming with people from any number of conferences but empty of water, weather and climate experts…people like you. Now it’s rapidly filling up with a whole community–thousands of your colleagues and their work and ideas. You will hear about new projects, the latest technologies, concerns and hopes for future research and services, ideas for new businesses. You bring your expectations, fill up with ideas, and then leave Phoenix brimming with possibilities.

Arizona, it turns out, is a good place to fill up. In fact there are few more spectacular places to do so. Just as Phoenix bloomed from practically nothing, the Grand Canyon, of all places, recently bloomed from arid to wet, suddenly sloshing with fog. It filled with meteorology. You can, too–the results will be just as spectacular.



A breakout panel at Saturday’s Student Conference emphasized the importance of communication in meteorology. Panelists Ginger Zee of Good Morning America, Jorge Torres of KOB-TV in Albuquerque, Marshall Shepherd of the University of Georgia, and Keli Pirtle of NOAA discussed what it means to be a meteorologist in the modern world of social media, apps, and soundbites.


The 2015 AMS Student Conference must be off to a great start already. NOAA’s Deke Arndt already made a stir with a striking analogy about the relative meanings of weather and climate. Clearly the gloves are off and the discussion is moving fast. Now is the time to let your guard down and take in as much as you can!


The App Is Back!

December 29, 2014 · 0 comments

The 95th AMS Annual Meeting in Phoenix begins this weekend. Are you concerned that you won’t be able to keep track of everything going on at the meeting? Do you want to be certain that you don’t miss any presentations, exhibits, or special events? Are you looking for some help with organizing all of your plans for Phoenix? We have a solution for you: the AMS 2015 mobile app! mobile app On it you can find lists of exhibitors, sessions, Town Hall Meetings, and even individual authors making presentations. With the app, you can access helpful documents (including maps of the Phoenix Convention Center), keep up with social media activity, watch videos from the meeting, and get shopping, dining, and entertainment suggestions for the Phoenix area. There’s even a “locate me” feature in case you get lost in the convention center–which could be a common occurrence with so much going on!

The app will also provide real-time alerts and information from the meeting’s organizers. And maybe best of all, it includes a personal scheduler that allows you to keep track of your day-to-day plans so that you don’t miss anything.

You can do all of this with just a few clicks on your mobile device, whether it’s an iPhone or iPad, Android device, or Blackberry or Windows phone. And it’s free! So what are you waiting for? Download the app today by visiting this page (and get some tips for using the app here).


Survivors Meet the Storm

December 6, 2014 · 0 comments

As  Typhoon Hagupit (Ruby) headed their way this weekend, Filipinos began to show they were a people far too experienced in the ways of typhoons.

Anxiety mixed with prudence. 500,000 people evacuated to safer quarters. Many residents of Tacloban–the city hardest hit by last year’s disastrous Typhoon Haiyan—took shelter in the local stadium. Others stocked up with food and other supplies. The city’s deputy mayor told the BBC, “It’s stirring up a lot of emotions in our hearts and bringing back so many painful memories.”

Those who study severe weather warnings are increasingly noticing this phenomenon: whether by fear or familiarity, people with prior experience have a peculiarly complex reaction to impending severe weather.

For example, a succession of well predicted tornadoes hit central Oklahoma within a short span in May 2013. During the third outbreak of that period, public reaction went awry. Before meteorologists could warn of the dangers of fleeing by car, residents hit the roads and caused potentially catastrophic traffic jams. The spontaneous evacuation, unlike any seen previously for a tornado, exposed the public to great risks.

In a paper to be presented at the AMS Annual Meeting next month at the Phoenix Convention Center (Wednesday, 7 January, 11:15 a.m., Room 226AB), Julia Ross and colleagues will analyze the effects of experience on the public’s “freak out” response to these tornadoes.

Quoting a recent paper by Silver and Andrey in the AMS journal, Weather, Climate, and Society, Ross et al. note that direct experience with hazards amplifies risk perception.  But their survey results show both reasoned and fear-driven reactions to the warnings—and possibly some regionally specific preferences as well.

(In the presentation to follow Ross et al. at the Annual Meeting, Lisa Dilling and colleagues analyze the opposite of a wary, seasoned public. They report on the effect of surprise in the Boulder, Colorado, floods last year.)

If anyone knows typhoons, it’s the people of the Philippines. Supertyphoon Haiyan, which killed 7,000 a year ago, was but one of six different tropical cyclones that have killed more than 1,000 Filipinos in the past decade.

This time around authorities say they’re aiming for zero casualties. But there’s more than just anxiety to deal with. It takes time to rebuild from a blow like Haiyan. A Haiyan survivor in Tacloban told the Associated Press, “I’m scared. “I’m praying to God not to let another disaster strike us again. We haven’t recovered from the first.”



by William Hooke, AMS Associate Executive Director and Senior Policy Fellow

The AMS and its Policy Program invite you to take on-line survey on R2O: here are four reasons why you should.

Research-to-operations.” “R2O.” “Applied research.” “Development.” “Technology transfer.” A rich nomenclature has grown up to describe the process and activities by which people and institutions take basic scientific understanding – pure knowledge – and turn it into practical products and services that people want or need. Making the leap from Maxwell’s equations for electromagnetic waves to the radio and then television. Conjoining Boolean algebra and understanding of semi-conducting materials to develop computers and smartphones. Seeing in Bernoulli’s equation the possibility of flight, and inventing the airplane. Discovering the equivalency of matter and energy; then going from E=mc2 to nuclear power – and so on. The process is often thought of as purely technical, but there’s also a social component to uptake of new ways of doing things – and more jargon: bridgers; translators; boundary organizations.

R2O is generic. It challenges every field of endeavor and every application: What good are lasers? Now that we’ve mapped the human genome, what does that tell us about health and disease? We can now locate ourselves on the surface of the planet to within a meter or so. Is that valuable? The photoelectric effect? Curious… but can we apply it to our advantage? Fullerenes are interesting carbon structures – but might there be commercial applications of buckyballs and buckytubes in either electronics or nanotechnology?

Meteorology provides its own examples. Computers can perform trillions of computations per second. How might we harness that capability to predict weather numerically? We can measure infrared and microwave radiances from space. Can we use that to infer ground, water, and atmospheric temperatures? Can we accomplish that well enough to put data into those numerical weather models? And what about radars for aircraft detection? Perhaps if we made them even more sensitive, they’d detect rain or snow. Or clouds themselves. Or the wind field within clouds. We’ve improved the physical aspects of weather forecasts (such as the severity of storms, their onset, motion, and dissipation); how can we apply social science to characterize weather impacts and help individuals and communities take effective action?

But R2O is not only pervasive. It is difficult. Vexing. Time-consuming. It can offer huge payoffs, but it’s also expensive. And it’s risky. For every success, there may be dozens, even hundreds of failures, dead ends. It’s complex, and sometimes feels more like an artistic endeavor than the basic science it feeds on. The difference between what works and what doesn’t is poorly understood. The R2O terrain is so difficult that it’s been referred to as “crossing the Valley of Death.[1]

Enough context. You’ll find the link to the AMS Policy Program R2O Survey here [2]. We’re hoping you’ll take time to contribute, for four reasons:

R2O matters. Simply put, it’s the key to realizing societal benefit from R&D. The International Council for Science (ICSU) has long argued that the greatest challenge facing 21st century science and technology is “the widening gap between advancing scientific knowledge and technology and society’s ability to capture and use them.[3] Without R2O the potential benefit from national investments in science is compromised. The world urgently needs scientific understanding of natural resources, natural hazards, and threats to the environment to be translated into action.

The survey has an important audience, and it will change behavior and outcomes. That starts with you. You’ll have access to the results, including others’ inputs, and they’ll have access to yours (without attribution, if you so desire). It will be impossible for you to participate in this survey without becoming more intentional yourself about the uptake and use of your work to make a better world. But it extends as well to national-level leadership. Congressional staffers and executive – branch policy officials are aware of this site and can draw ideas from it as they formulate legislation and allocate federal-agency resources on R2O, especially as it bears on forecast improvement, but not limited to that arena. The more thoughtful and detailed your participation, the greater will be your impact.

Diverse cases provide fuller opportunities for learning. R2O projects are much like snowflakes in that no two are identical. The efforts are not like laboratory experiments which allow stepwise dialing through different inputs and variables to divine generalizations. What’s needed, then, is a rich diversity of cases or narratives, a blend of success stories and failures, and ventures in between, that allow general principles to emerge. Look at the results to date and you’ll find citations to the Clean Air Act, development for weather information processing systems, dual-polarization radars, satellite instrument applications, and more. Add from your own unique personal experience and our community will grow that much wiser.

Your participation will shape future surveys. The AMS Policy Program, under the leadership of Dr. Paul Higgins, is not simply carrying out a one-off survey, but rather developing a platform for drawing on the full resources of our community to think through a range of complex, timely, and important issues. The survey website captures this aspiration:

… Through this site, the AMS Policy Program creates a platform for scientists to engage in the policy process by providing opportunities for them to share their subject matter expertise and inform decision making on important issues for the community. We have informed policymakers, including decision makers in the Executive and Legislative branches, about this site. They are aware of this site and can actively peruse it for a better understanding of the relevant and important community issues.

This site is open broadly to all members of the weather, water, and climate community. It creates a public forum for sharing experience and expertise in these specialty areas of the AMS. Periodically we will host surveys on policy relevant issues within these areas. Please visit this site regularly to participate in current surveys and view past survey results. We hope that you find this public forum as a useful resource for engagement and information!

So, please, participate in this survey. And along the way, help us improve the saliency and utility of the surveys to come. Let’s master this technique for adding to the store of human knowledge and making a safer, more sustainable world.

Thank you!

[1]Want to learn more? See, for example, these links, for biology, for cybersecurity,  and for Earth observations.)

[2] This particular survey has been formulated and is being conducted by Dr. Shalini Mohleji, a Senior Policy Fellow at the AMS.

[3]From a 2006 ICSU CSPR Assessment Panel report, Priority Area Assessment on Capacity Building in Science page 5.