Following Jonathan Martin’s address, Eric Snodgrass of the University of Illinois spoke to the AMS Student Conference this weekend about how to get the most out of an Annual Meeting. Here’s a condensed version of an inspiring story he shared:

It’s the way that you spend your time for the next two days both in sessions and in talks and out of session, in the hallways, at lunch, at dinner, and on Bourbon Street, that is going to make this conference memorable for you. I think conferences like this are about three things:  The first thing is exposure. You were just exposed to some serious meteorology from Dr. Martin.

You’re going to see stuff like that over the next few days from the top minds on the planet. When you see it, the second thing is, you need to be inspired. Look at what people are doing, take it away. Go back and apply it to your research. Take it and run with it.

I want to talk about a guy named Cliff Young. He’s Australian, a sheepherder. Two thousand sheep on a two-thousand acre farm. Forty years of herding sheep on foot puts you in pretty darn good shape.

So its not a big surprise  that Cliff Young decided to run an ultramarathon from Sydney, Australia, to Melbourne—544 miles. The problem is, Cliff Young was 61 years old; he signs up the day of the event and he showed up in overalls, a t-shirt, a baseball cap, and rubber boots—not the attire of an ultramarathoner. He was also three times the age of most of the competitors. Cliff gets to the very back of the line.  When the race starts he lets the others go first. There’s another big problem: Cliff can’t run. He shuffles; his stride is only like two feet long.

Now there’s a strategy to the ultramarathon. Run 18 hours and sleep 6. Then run another 18 hours and sleep six. You do that until you finish the race. Cliff had no training, however. That night as everyone else slept Cliff continued to shuffle. He shuffled right past every single one of those racers. For five days and 50 minutes, he shuffled his way to Sydney.  He broke the record for the race by two days. He beat second place by 10 hours. When he crossed the finish line he did not know he was going to receive $10,000 in cash. That was a lot of money in 1983. He didn’t know what to do with it, so he waited and handed out a thousand dollars to each of the next competitors who crossed the line.

It’s easy to find inspiration in that—it’s the ultimate tortoise and hare story. So why am I telling you this in an AMS conference? I’ll be honest: the first few times I came to a conference like this I was incredibly intimidated by what I saw. You will see some amazing things by students, faculty, and research scientists. So inevitably sometimes you get in a comparison mode: “How do I compare to what they’re doing?”

I’m going to tell you something, however. You are allowed to compare yourself to only one person . . . and that one person is you. You see what you don’t know about Cliff was that the year before this race, he’d tried to run another ultramarathon. That was a thousand miles long, but he only made it 500 miles before he collapsed.

This race was 544 miles. All he wanted to do was be better than he was a year ago. The five points that Dr. Martin gave to you–that doesn’t happen in a few days. It takes time; it takes perseverance. And you must remember that the only person you can compare yourself to is who you were yesterday, a month ago, a year ago. If you’re making progress, everything is going fine.



Students of Leadership

January 10, 2016 · 0 comments

Jonathan Martin of the University of Wisconsin, recipient of the 2015 AMS Edward N. Lorenz Teaching Excellence Award, spoke to the attendees of the Student Conference this weekend. Here’s a condensed version of his remarks:

It’s a great pleasure to meet with you all. I’ve decided to say a few words about leadership because that’s what you all are preparing yourselves to do as you get educated.

I want you to take a second and look around where you’re sitting. You’re looking at the next generation of leaders in our field, in our country, and in our world. You all have a couple of days and maybe a week to get to know those new leaders, and I encourage you to take advantage of that circumstance while you are here.

But also, in the background, make sure you take some time to consider what it is that you are getting yourselves into. Because you will be the ones society turns to for solutions to its problems and for encouragement and optimism in difficult times.

Though effective leadership arises from the interaction of many personal habits and characteristics of thought and action, I’ll suggest just five of these based on my own experience:

  1. You have to master the fundamentals of our science as best as you can and always strive to consider those notions from new perspectives. If you master them, it puts you in a position to react effectively to new situations, new challenges. You have to adopt an intellectually athletic position: relaxed but alert, focused but free of anxiety, ready to spring, ready to execute based on your mastery of the fundamentals.
  2. Now, because you may be called upon to address issues of broadening concern, you also must understand the difference between assertion and reasoned argument. Opinions elevated to the level of assertions too often pass themselves off as reasoned argument. Adopt positions for yourself that are defensible, that appeal to the facts, and that are arguable.
  3. To contribute to complicated discussions and help formulate solutions, you must understand the distinction between simple and easy. Most of the fundamental ideas at the heart of our science are simple in their concepts, but none of them are easy. This applies to a lot of things you will encounter both inside and out of the sciences.
  4. Invest yourself in the work you find interesting. I’m going to follow my curiosity wherever it leads. I hope in your career you can do the same. Make sure that when the opportunity arises, you do that.
  5. And finally, you can’t be a part of the solution to any problem if no one understands what you’re talking about. Here are some master storytellers from very different eras and very different background periods: Homer, Mark Twain, Alex Haley. They express their ideas clearly, eloquently, and precisely, and connect to universals.  You should imitate these masters. And another: Arndt Eliassen. If you want to read the best-written scientific paper I’ve ever read—and I had the great opportunity to tell him that in person—it’s his 1962 paper, “On the Vertical Circulation in Frontal Zones.” Read that and you’ll agree, this is really good storytelling. So you’re going to have to have excellent storytelling skills. Learning to communicate effectively is absolutely essential for leadership. When you go back to your campuses, tell all your young colleagues and remind yourself, “Do not neglect your humanities classes.” You’ve got to learn how to use those.

Leadership almost always involves teamwork. So you have to be able create a climate of teamwork in which although the threat of failure is recognized, the fear of failure does not exist. This permits the group to adopt the enabling perspective that you win as a team and you lose as a team. I consider the establishment of this perspective as the most critical element of team leadership because it commits every member of the team to commit fully to the success of the project without the concern that the failure of the project will be pinned on them. Such an environment encourages appropriate risk-taking, unconventional but reasonable thinking, and dedicated follow-through—indispensable ingredients for success.

The teams you lead in your career will be in part composed of the people in this room.  So commit yourselves to excellence and treat each other well. That means acknowledge the contributions of others, and disagree respectfully when you have to by offering arguments and not personal attacks.

The 21st Century will be one of important transformation for our society. Successful response to the many challenges we face will depend on a cadre of flexible, powerful, inventive, and resilient minds. And you possess those minds. It’s up to you to marry them to dedicational urgency to help us solve our problems.


WeatherFest is always a highlight of the opening weekend of the Annual Meeting, and this year was no exception, as exhibitors inspired and amazed children (and adults!) of all ages with their weather-related presentations. As these photos depict, the wow factor was high!










The Annual Meeting is upon us! This year, we return to the beautiful city of New Orleans expecting yet another great meeting full of stimulating ideas, valuable information, and new products.

The Annual Meeting is well known for bringing together more than 3,000 scientists, researchers, professionals, educators, students, and others across the weather, water, and climate community. The more than 2,000 presentations and 900 posters cover an incredible array of topics and disciplines that represent the cutting edge of scientific thinking, technology, research, collaboration, and understanding.  Rue_Bourbon_street

Yet you probably realize the success of the meeting goes beyond merely showcasing vital science and services. The Annual Meeting is also a great opportunity to engage in networking and career development for early-career, midcareer, and even late-career professionals. We hear every year from attendees who tell us how much networking means to them, and how much they appreciate a chance to meet with peers and colleagues, some of whom they see only this one time a year.

The weather enterprise has grown and changed immensely over the past decade, and many expect that to continue in the years to come. Today, we see areas of science coming together more intensively than ever to share, work, and collaborate. People in fields like energy, agriculture, transportation, and the social sciences work closely with physical scientists. These are important developments for those who are interested in starting–or changing–their careers.

This year’s meeting offers attendees many opportunities to listen to talks and presentations on careers in the public, private, and academic sectors across the enterprise.

Sunday’s Conference for Early Career Professionals will feature numerous helpful discussions—from advice on networking and interviewing to help with finding a mentor and mastering “soft skills.” The conference will also include a panel discussion of professionals who will share their perspectives on atmospheric sciences careers.

The AMS Board for Early Career Professionals will also host a Town Hall Meeting on Monday on “ ‘Outside the Box’ Skillsets for Staying Relevant and Landing the Next Job,” which will highlight skills that may not be required in an academic curriculum, but could be valuable in a resume.

Wednesday’s Town Hall Meeting on “Demystifying Careers in the Atmospheric Sciences” will present an overview of employment in the weather, water, and climate sciences. What skill sets are most important to employers?  What employment trends and changes are occurring, and what are some areas of future growth? This meeting will explore those and other career-related questions.

For budding broadcasters, Tuesday’s Town Hall Meeting on “The Work Behind the Scenes” will provide a glimpse at some of the research broadcast meteorologists work on when they’re not in front of the camera—showing that there’s more to the job than may meet the eye.

And for students, this Saturday’s Career Fair will allow attendees of the AMS Student Conference to view available job opportunities, network with government-agency and private-industry employees, meet graduate school recruiters, and schedule interviews with school representatives and potential employers.

This is just a sampling of the career-related events taking place during the week. The Annual Meeting is a great chance to better connect to your career goals and directions. It’s also a great opportunity to meet others while networking with peers and colleagues engaged in the work of benefitting society with the science of weather, water, and climate.



The 96th AMS Annual Meeting is just around the corner, and there are many reasons to be excited about spending a week devoted to making connections across the weather, water, and climate enterprise. The meeting promises to be an intensive focus on the incredible work you’re doing, but before we get there, now’s is a good moment to take a closer look at this year’s theme, Earth System Science in Service to Society.

AMS President Alexander E. “Sandy” MacDonald’s provides an inspiring explanation of how he came up with that theme to “bring the many parts of AMS” together. Here’s what he says about the first three words, “Earth System Science:”

The “Earth System Science” theme emphasizes that the growing knowledge of the academic and research communities about our Earth system is a strength of AMS.  AMS brings together the physical, chemical, and biological study of the Earth, allowing important decisions to be made by policy makers and the public.  An example of the physical domain was the forecast of Hurricane Sandy, which was predominantly atmospheric and ocean model driven. An air quality forecast would exemplify the chemical and physical domains.  The fate of global carbon illustrates the overarching importance that includes physics, chemistry, and biology.  All of Earth’s biology participates in the carbon cycle, in which the chemistry of the ocean and atmosphere is of crucial importance, and which are controlled by the physical ocean and atmosphere. The Earth system also includes the human-centered “domains of action”: (1) Observing, (2) Analysis and research leading to understanding, (3) Modeling and prediction, and (4) Social sciences – how people deal with Earth. The AMS integrates these different disciplines in a common intellectual and operational framework with an Earth system emphasis – I believe that the AMS is the scientific society where the whole Earth System fits most comfortably.

The theme indeed captures the wide spectrum of sciences in the weather, water, and climate enterprise. The AMS Annual Meeting serves a growing need to share the incredible work you do, across many fields of science, in order for the whole community to advance its understanding of how the entire earth system works, functions, and evolves.

Yet rarely do we take time to see that broader picture. Search “Earth System Science” in our journals database, and you’ll find hundreds, if not thousands of references to job and academic department titles, but a scant handful of actual article titles or abstracts overtly address that encompassing mandate. Instead, science papers generally are a tightly focused within specific disciplines. We all know that a single discrepancy between a dataset and a theory can consume an entire career, let alone a solitary paper.

That’s one reason the AMS Annual Meeting is so special. Normally, we are engrossed in furthering our specific tasks, even at conferences. This meeting, however, is also a rare period of time set aside to look around us and explore our broader scientific context—to get into the flow of our times. Watch for that word “flow” as Sandy explains the rest of the theme, “In Service to Society”:

The second half of the theme title connects research to the benefits that society writ large gains from our science.  “Service to Society” includes information services, such as operational weather prediction, provision of timely and accurate weather literally at our fingertips, and scientific assessments such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that help guide society’s actions.  It also includes the growing climate services from programs like NIDIS and the efforts to help society mitigate and adapt to climate variability and change. “Service to Society” explicitly evokes the integrated and complementary government and commercial enterprise that the AMS has done so much to foster over the last decade.  The strong AMS contingent of media professionals – the people who stand before TV cameras and explain what the coming storm will do – are surely at the forefront of serving society, as are the critical efforts of the National Weather Service and military weather services.  “Service to Society” also effectively uses social science to make the benefits and dissemination of our information most beneficial to the public. This meeting will address the effort to improve communications of geophysical threats to the public.

Finally – this theme conveys the flow inherent in the nearly 100-year history of the AMS.  Some people call it research to operations (R2O), but I like to call it “Science to Service.”   AMS has a proud history of making a positive difference in the lives of our citizens by continually making the advances of science available to the public and policy makers.  The 2016 meeting will bring these two great endeavors together.

Over the years, there have been many meaningful solutions to writing the Annual Meeting theme. The thing that really raises “Earth System Science in the Service of Society” above the routine is that “flow inherent in the nearly 100-year history of the AMS.” We are indeed a scientific society immersed in the research-to-applications flow. AMS keeps that river of ideas and technologies moving, at every stage. Embracing “Earth System Science in Service to Society” in New Orleans is a part of the primary directive of the AMS to “advancing the atmospheric and related sciences, applications, technologies, and services for the benefit of society.”

There is yet another flow embedded in the eddies of Annual Meeting week that is only implied in Sandy’s theme. When we emerge at the far end of Thursday, the theme itself will be transformed in our eyes. It will be rewritten by our observations and experiences in the conferences, conversations, and special events. Every year at the Annual Meeting, without fail, all of us travel further downstream in science and in service.


by Shawn Miller, Chair, Board of Enterprise Economic Development

The AMS Board on Enterprise Economic Development invites you to attend the 2016 AMS Washington Forum, April 12-14, 2016, at the American Assocation for Advancement of Science (AAAS) Building in Washington, D.C. The purpose of the AMS Washington Forum is to provide an opportunity for members of the weather, water, and climate community to meet with senior federal agency officials, Congressional staff, and other community members to hear about the status of current programs, learn about new initiatives, discuss issues of interest to our community, identify business opportunities, and speak out about data and other needs.

This year’s theme is “Leveraging Environmental Intelligence to Enhance Risk Management.” Following that theme, the Forum will focus on the use of weather, water, and climate data–together creating a foundation for environmental intelligence–to support risk management across the public and private sectors. This includes agencies and companies whose operations and planning are dependent on environmental factors, as well as agencies and companies whose primary mission is to identify, analyze, and/or mitigate environmentally induced risks. Several special topics are planned for interactive panel discussions, each with a special focus on risk management, including an overarching theme session, environmental security, water resources, space weather, big data, and renewable energy.

We will invite senior leaders from agencies such as NOAA, NASA, DoD, and FEMA to look ahead and provide updates on current weather, water, and climate programs and provide insights on new science initiatives and directions. We will also invite leaders from the Office of Management & Budget and the Office of Science & Technology Policy, and from Congress, who will discuss the latest programs and legislative initiatives in our enterprise to better serve the American people.  For our keynote, we have invited Dr. DJ Patil, U.S. Chief Data Scientist at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

We hope to see you in D.C. in April!


Lately you may have noticed that AMS has garnered media attention by standing up for NOAA scientists who are the focus of Congressional scrutiny. This scrutiny was initiated after the scientists re-analyzed global surface temperatures with newly corrected data and found that the warming trend of the second half of the 20th century has been continuing unabated since 1998 instead of experiencing what sometimes has been portrayed as a warming “hiatus.”

AMS doesn’t step casually into political arenas. As a non-profit scientific and professional society, we remain solidly grounded in the world of science. We help expand knowledge and understanding through research and, as our mission states, we work to ensure that scientific advances benefit society. We engage the policy process to help inform decision making and to help ensure that policy choices take full advantage of scientific understanding.

This case is slightly different, however, because the scientific process itself is at risk. When the scientific process is disregarded or, worse yet, possibly derailed, a political issue can become an AMS issue.

The scientific process that AMS and other like-minded institutions have championed over the centuries is about taking careful observations, conducting controlled experiments, separating personal opinions and beliefs from evidence, and, perhaps most critically, exposing scientific conclusions to rigorous and repeated testing over time by independent experts. These repeated cycles of distribution and “trial by fire” happen most notably at meetings, in peer-review, and in publication.

Crucially, the process systematically removes as much as possible of our human tendency to see what we want to see and puts the burden of proof on reproducible steps. It is a disciplined, particular way of finding truths, no matter how elusive, while rendering biases, opinions, and motivations as irrelevant as possible.

This systematic approach to separating fact from opinion occasionally goes astray, of course, but its iterative nature means that science is continually self-correcting and improving; better data and understanding ultimately replace older thinking. Science encourages people to question and challenge thinking, certainty, and accuracy—but it requires they focus exclusively on what they can detect and measure and reason.

Even though all the data, logic, and methodologies are publicly available, the paper rejecting the global warming hiatus inspired Congressional requests for additional email and discussions. Asking for these correspondences—especially from scientists themselves—can easily weigh down the ingenious process by which science has continually advanced. And so AMS made public statements in favor of letting science freely work its wonders. It’s not the first time AMS has done so, and it probably won’t be the last.

We owe much of modern prosperity to an unencumbered scientific process, and it continues to provide some of the most profound and dramatic advancements in the world. This includes medicine, biology, chemistry, computing, agriculture, engineering, physics, astronomy, and, of course, meteorology, hydrology, oceanography, and climatology. Every one of us benefits every single day from what scientists have learned, shared, and provided.

And that’s yet another reason why occasionally AMS must speak out—because of our mission “for the benefit of society.” The point is not just to protect science but also to protect the benefits that knowledge can provide to all of us, no matter what we think of the results. In this, our scientific society actually has much in common with the politicians and policy makers in Washington, D.C.

AMS stands behind the scientific process and will defend that process when necessary, but our goal is to work with policy makers to promote having the best knowledge and understanding used in making policy choices.


by Mary M. Glackin, Senior Vice President, Public-Private Partnerships, The Weather Company

Forecasts of hazardous weather have continually improved, particularly over the past few decades. It is oft-cited fact that 5-day forecasts are now as good as 3-day forecasts were 20 years ago. At the same time, the public has more choices than ever in how it accesses weather information. In particular, we are seeing explosive growth in the web, apps, and social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter. Yet in the aftermath of a severe event, it is common to hear, “I didn’t know” either from public officials or the public at large.

It is this latter issue that the United Kingdom’s Met Office and the Irish Meteorological Service (Met Éireann) were seeking to address when they recently announced their plans to name storms this fall and winter. And to kick the campaign off, they are soliciting the public’s help in picking the names. After watching other country’s experiences, they believe naming significant storms will increase public awareness of severe weather and thus improve appropriate responses to warnings.

Several European countries name winter storms. For example, the Free University of Berlin’s meteorological institute has been naming them since the 1950s, and these names are adopted and used by the media and the German Met Service, Deutscher Wetterdienst. In the U.S. and elsewhere, very impactful storms become named by the media; think Snowmageddon in the Northeast (2010) and St. Jude Storm in the U.K. (2013). In the U.S., The Weather Company (TWC) began naming winter storms in 2012-13, citing the importance of communicating in social media–especially Twitter, which requires a hashtag. Rightly or wrongly, this effort was roundly criticized as having suspect science and for being a marketing ploy.

After three years experience at TWC, here is what we can report: Twitter alone provides an incredible reach where we routinely see more than one billion people receiving tweets using the storm name. Millions of tweets are sent using the hashtag from government agencies, school districts, utilities, businesses, and the general public. These hashtags also allow the NWS and others to find real-time weather data tweeted by citizens that can be used in nowcasts and other storm reports.

The criteria to name a storm are pretty simple: it must meet the National Weather Service winter-storm warning criteria, and it must be expected to impact at least two million people and/or 400,000 sq. km. We use a formal process and a committee of three meteorologists to review these criteria for each possible storm, and while we consider the criteria strict, the storm-naming committee still reserves the right to override the quantitative decision in certain circumstances. Some of the factors that may influence decisions to override the naming rules include the degree of historical significance of the event (e.g., accumulating snow in South Florida, a summer-season snowstorm, etc.); see more details here.  The U.K. is planning a similar system using their two highest warning levels, so names are only applied to the storms that present a significant threat.

What’s in a name? Well in this case, the name is the headline to attract attention to the threat. It is the beginning. It needs to be backed up with easy-to-understand information that details the threat to a specific locale and appropriate call-to-action statements. But, in this information-saturated world, this headline/hashtag is key. We need to recognize the importance of serving people in the way they find easiest to consume information vs. how we are most comfortable in delivering it.

Could we take this U.K./Ireland announcement as a call to the U.S. weather enterprise to come together to see how we could maximize the use of social media to improve the public response to severe weather events?  Twitter is here to stay, and it requires hashtags to separate the relevant information from an avalanche of incoming data. Hashtags are spilling over into other social media as well. It is easy to create a hashtag from a tropical storm name. If we could come together as a community to address this for winter storms, we’d no doubt learn a lot that could then be applied to significant weather at the local scale. The nomenclature could be something much different than what’s used in tropical storms or what we have been using.

What’s important is to lead as a community in this social media era. For our part, we are willing to share our experiences, transition our system, and/or help set up an enterprise-wide naming system. During major snow events, the reach on Twitter has been over a billion. What would our reach be with all of us working together feeding into the same system to keep people informed during these hazardous events? Are we ready to re-engage on this topic as a community?




A primary focus of this week’s AMS Summer Community meeting in Raleigh, NC, has been communication, particularly about how best to present information on weather, water, and climate threats to the public. So it’s not surprising that the meeting has generated plenty of activity on Twitter. Here are a few of the highlights:


A New Web Vision

July 24, 2015 · 0 comments

by Tom Champoux, AMS Communications Director

You may have noticed that AMS rolled out a new website today, updating content and navigation in a brand new design. We hope you like it. This is a critically important step for AMS as we continue to improve the communication of our value to our members, to the greater weather, water, and climate community, and to society.

Many tens of thousands of people in our community work extremely hard to create and share knowledge to benefit society. Our website is a tremendously important vehicle in supporting that effort—engaging, informing, and inspiring people. It is a place for the entire community to connect, share, and collaborate. The redesign helps the website do all this by capitalizing on more up-to-date technology and creating a more modern online experience. website_screenshot1

The new look points the website in a new direction, as well. Immediately you’ll notice the shift in the homepage, which previously tried hard to be all things for all people, inevitably with limited success. The new home page focuses less on engaging members directly. Instead, we put more focus on educating all visitors about how AMS supports and strengthens this vibrant community. As a result, navigation is simpler and cleaner; there are more images to convey the excitement, dedication, and enthusiasm that is so apparent across the entire enterprise.

Throughout, the colors are more modern, and the look and feel better represent the tremendous passion and commitment of AMS members and their community.  We wanted to accurately capture that spirit in this new site, and of course make it is easy to find what’s new at AMS.

We felt the website would serve AMS best by

  1. delivering the AMS’s core assets;
  2. educating and inspiring audiences inside and outside the community;
  3. expressing the value of AMS to society at large; and
  4. creating community, bringing audiences together.

Those audiences extend far beyond our membership. While AMS has more than 13,000 active members, we reach a much larger and vibrant community that includes more than 28,000 Facebook and 10,000 Twitter followers. There are also thousands more volunteers, meeting attendees, presenters, authors, and many others who are deeply engaged with AMS and our work, but are not currently active members. These audiences span the career spectrum, from students to late-career professionals. We reach thousands of educators as well as all kinds of enthusiasts. We believe AMS has much to offer everyone and we wanted to be sure the website effectively showed all the ways we can help the community and society.

We’ll continue adding new content, updates, and information in the coming weeks and months to ensure that the AMS website remains a dynamic, engaging online experience for all audiences. We welcome your feedback and comments.