Is This Our Moonshot Moment?

by Douglas Hilderbrand, Co-Chair, AMS Board on Enterprise Communication
Have you ever imagined being a NASA scientist back in the 1960s – staring at the seemingly impossible challenge to send people to the moon and return them back to earth safely? And, doing it with the entire world watching? For the weather, water, and climate “enterprise,” that grand challenge might well be upon us.
Extreme events are now a fixture on the evening news, captured by miniature cameras and video recorders in our hands, and shared across our network via social media. Yet, heartbreaking stories of lives lost and communities devastated continue. Is this our moonshot moment? Physical science, social science, and technological advances have aligned to where the foundational warning process can take a giant leap forward from the time of lunar landings in the early 1970s to today’s smart phones.
On 4-6 August, leaders across government, academia, and industry sectors will come together at the AMS Summer Community Meeting on the campus of North Carolina State University to engage one another on how to modernize the end-to-end warning process. This summer’s theme, “For the Greater Good: Strengthening Collaboration, Consistency, and Trust to Support Informed Decision Making,” points to the ingredients that are needed to take a giant leap toward:

  • Improving how weather, water and climate threats are predicted and communicated
  • Enhancing information for risk management decisions through better expression of urgency and confidence
  • Supporting appropriate actions by the public

The value of weather, water and climate information is reflected in the decisions that are made, actions that are taken, and outcomes that result. I’m reminded of a 2011 quote from NOAA Administrator Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, who stated, “Conversation is the seminal technology of all societal change.” The SCM is an important step in bringing that conversation to the private, public, and academic sectors in an effort to help bring about meaningful societal change.
The 2015 Summer Community Meeting in Raleigh will help identify opportunities to collaborate, increase consistency and build greater trust within the enterprise and outward to the public as we take on our moonshot moment. The challenges that we face today may not be quite as dramatic as landing astronauts on the moon, but they are certainly as important with so many lives and livelihoods at stake.