AMS Teaching Excellence Award Renamed after Edward N. Lorenz

Almost five years after his passing, the AMS is honoring Edward N. Lorenz by renaming the Teaching Excellence Award after the pioneer meteorologist. Best known as the founder of the chaos theory and butterfly effect, Lorenz was also an influential professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for decades.
According to Peter Lamb in his recommendation to rename the award:

Edward N. Lorenz was arguably the most accomplished research meteorologist of the twentieth century. His seminal contributions in several key areas of our science today either carry his name or a name that he provided. At MIT, his principal instructional role was to introduce multiple generations of beginning doctoral students, many with little or no background in meteorology, to the challenges and rigor of the theoretical essentials of our science. Those lectures were renowned for their consistently very high standards of preparation and presentation, just like Professor Lorenz’s external seminars.

Lorenz received the MIT Department of Meteorology’s “Best Teacher” award the first year student evaluations were conducted as well as subsequent years. He went on to win the Kyoto Prize and AMS Carl Gustaf Rossby Research Medal, just a few of his numerous honors. Many of Lorenz’s students went on to distinguished research careers. Several were recognized with the AMS Rossby Medal and Charney Awards, and two of his past students received the AMS Teaching Excellence Award.
The AMS Council passed the recommendation in January, renaming the award “The Edward N. Lorenz Teaching Excellence Award.” Nominations for all awards are now open with a deadline of May 1. The Council encourages members and friends of the AMS to submit nominations for consideration for the Society Awards, Lecturers, Named Symposia, Fellows, Honorary Members, and nominees for elective Officers and Councilors of the Society here.

New NSTA Executive Director Talks Climate Education

Last month, AMS member David L. Evans began as the new executive director of The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), the largest professional organization promoting excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning.
Evans—former director of the Center for Sustainability: Earth, Energy, and Climate at Noblis, Inc.—has served the science profession in many different capacities throughout his career. Along with serving as undersecretary for science at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., he was assistant administrator for Oceanic and Atmospheric Research at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, deputy assistant administrator for the National Marine Fisheries Service, senior scientist and deputy administrator at the National Ocean Service, and program manager at the Office of Naval Research. Evans was also a tenured professor of oceanography at the University of Rhode Island and was a classroom teacher in Media, Pennsylvania.
The Front Page asked Evans about his plans as executive director.
As the new executive director of NSTA, what are your plans for promoting education about climate and weather?
The National Science Teachers Association is a partner in the development of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and will be working to encourage their adoption and assisting with implementation. One of the design constructs of the NGSS has been to reduce the breadth of topics covered in favor of greater depth. Weather and climate are among the disciplinary core ideas in the standards, which are important at all grade levels. In addition to their presence as “topics,” weather and climate provide ideal areas to explore science and engineering practices and cross cutting concepts like model development.
How did teaching prepare you for a career in science (and/or science prepare you for teaching?)
For me, teaching and science have always been intimately linked. Being a scientist has always inspired me to share what I know, whether in a journal article or in the classroom. Teaching is where it all begins, where we can ignite a spark in students to want to learn more about science. Discovering something new about the world we live in and discussing and sharing the information with others is all part of the scientific process of evidence-based reasoning and communication.
How do you feel your background in general will aid in facilitating the goals of the NSTA?
My background includes teaching at both high school and university levels, conducting and managing scientific research, and leading large scientific and educational organizations. At NOAA, I worked to enhance the education programs in the National Marine Sanctuaries, the National Sea Grant College Program, and NOAA Cooperative Institutes. At the Smithsonian, I worked to develop the National Science Resource Center and to emphasize the importance of the public understanding of science in the museums and zoo. My executive skills coupled with my management expertise will be helpful in leading the NSTA and navigating the association’s future. My program and administrative experiences will be helpful in managing the NSTA.
Are there plans for any new programs/innovations in the NSTA?
It is really too soon to talk about new programs in detail. However, STEM education is on the national agenda and there seems to be broad agreement on its importance. NSTA’s mission is to promote excellence in science teaching and learning for all and that is not confined to doing everything the same way that it has always been tried. We have learned quite a lot about how people learn and we have mature and evolving technologies that make “information” available everywhere, all of the time. NSTA will be a part of the changing landscape of professional development for teachers and new learning methodologies for students.

Scenes from the Annual and Austin

The meeting may still be in full swing but it’s not too early to take a look back at some highlights of the past few days. Check out AMS’s flickr page for photos of  the student conference, WeatherFest, Keep Austin Beautiful, the Exhibit Hall, and attendees in action. You might even see yourself in one.

Attendees watch the weather of the world in the Exhibit Hall.
Attendees watch the weather of the world in the Exhibit Hall.

Children enjoy the popular parachute activity at WeatherFest.
Children enjoy the popular parachute activity at WeatherFest.

Go to flickr to see more and be sure to check back regularly for additions.

Dealing with Drought in the Heart of Texas

In 2011, Texas experienced its hottest summer on record along with a drought that has yet to let up. According to the state drought monitor released last week, sixty-five percent of the state was in severe drought, up from fifty-nine percent just a week earlier. As we head to Austin for the Annual Meeting in a few weeks the topic will be up front and center at a number of events planned.
“Anatomy of an Extreme Event: The 2011 Texas Heat Wave and Drought” will examine processes, underlying causes, and predictability of the drought. Martin Hoerling of NOAA ESRL-PSD and other speakers will use observations and climate models to assess factors contributing to the extreme magnitude of the event and the probability of its occurrence in 2011 (Wednesday, 9 January, Ballroom B, 4:00 PM).
On Tuesday, Eric Taylor of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service will speak on the “Drought Impacts from 2011-2012 on Texas Forests.” Taylor notes that the impacts of the 2011 drought on the health, biodiversity, and ecosystem functions will be felt for some time, but perhaps not in the way that most might think. During this session, he will explore the ways that the silvicultural norm practiced by private landowners affect forest health and the concomitant loss from insects, disease, wildfire, and drought (Tuesday, 8 January, Ballroom E, 1:45 PM).
The 27th Conference on Hydrology will cover a number of other drought issues both in Texas and beyond. For more information on drought and related topics, take a look at the searchable Annual Meeting program online.

Latest Evaporative Stress Index map from USDA/NDMC/NOAA, showing raised and lowered evapotranspiration rates indicating drought in the central U.S. Christopher Hain and colleagues will present on the development of ESI--which is based on GOES satellite imagery--in a poster Monday afternoon, 7 January, at the AMS Annual Meeting in Austin, Texas.


Spotlight on Early Career Professionals

If you haven’t noticed, a lot of AMS members are just starting out in the atmospheric sciences, making their way to success in a field that is full of continually evolving–and often little-known–prospects for advancement. Now is a good time, however, for those early career professionals trying to learn more about what’s ahead and meet the colleagues they’ll be encountering in coming years: AMS is providing new opportunities for them to get to know more about each other and their common futures.
The November issue of BAMS features an interview with KMGH, Denver, Colorado, weekend meteorologist Maureen McCann, part of our ongoing series of features about young people in the atmospheric sciences community. Maureen has a lot to share about getting started in the field. For example:

On advice she would give to an early career professional starting in this field: The best advice would be take whatever comes your way for your first job.  Your first job is key to fine tuning your skills and becoming familiar with the nuts and bolts of television news.  Keep in mind that it’s temporary and you will use this experience to move onto the next job, if that’s what you desire. Small market life has a lot of benefits! I look back on my time in my first market, Bangor, Maine, with great memories. The friendships I made there were with people in the same boat as myself: fresh out of college looking to get their career started.
Another point of advice is to always keep your resume current. You never know when opportunities will present  themselves. I aim to update my demo reel every six months. I probably would have missed out of the Denver opportunity if I didn’t have an updated reel online for the news director.
On who she seeks advice from and why: I’d have to say the broadcast community as a whole. Social networking has revolutionized how meteorologists can exchange information or gather feedback. There are some message groups on Facebook that serve as an excellent forum for this dialogue. Whether you have a question about graphics, or forecast models, or you’re looking for input on a prospective job location, chances are someone else has the same question too. It’s a great resource to poke through daily and see what the discussion topics are.  It’s also a good way to make connections beyond traditional ways like conferences.

For the full interview, see the November issue of BAMS and look for similar features in the future thanks to your new AMS Board on Early Career Professionals.
Another opportunity to get to know early career professionals is coming up at the Annual Meeting in Austin, with the First Conference for Early Career Professionals on Sunday, 6 January 2013. Early- to mid-career professionals will offer guidance and hold open discussions to solicit input on how the AMS can further benefit members who are beginning their careers in the atmospheric sciences. That evening, attendees and all other Annual Meeting participants are invited to attend the third annual AMS Reception for Early Career Professionals.
If you have advice for early career professionals or would like to nominate an early career professional to be featured in BAMS, the Board for Early Career Professionals would love to hear from you. You can contact Andrew Molthan, current chair of the AMS Board for Early Career Professionals, at [email protected].

Wild Weather Comes to NCAR

A visitor's contribution to the "Tell Your Weather Story" wall.

A new exhibit exploring the power of weather and the stories behind it opened earlier this month at NCAR’s Mesa Lab in Boulder, Colorado. Spark, the group that oversees science education at UCAR, created the exhibit with input from scientists, engineers, designers, and writers.
“Weather is a fascinating topic and it affects us all,” comments Rajul Pandya, director of Spark. “In the new Weather Gallery, visitors can touch clouds, make forecasts, and learn how scientists understand weather using special instruments and computer simulations.”
The NCAR Weather Gallery joins existing exhibits like an eight-foot-tall tornado, a microburst generation tank, and a display that shows current wind speeds measured on top of the building. One of the new features is the interactive, “Tell Your Weather Story,” which gives visitors the opportunity to describe and post their own experiences on weather.
It took about 20 months to plan and develop the exhibit from start to finish. To begin the process, an advisory committee met to decide what topics the exhibit should cover and what they wanted visitors to experience. They came up with a plan that included five content sections and several different ways of delivering information, which included hands-on interactives, large mural photos, panels with pictures and text, and touch screens with games and videos.
Since the exhibit opened on 10 October, the Mesa Lab has had approximately 2,000 visitors, with at least half that number spending time in the exhibits. About 15,000 people a year attend scheduled programs at lab, including 10,000 K-12 students and teachers who take classes and go on tours, as well as 5,000 in special groups and public tours.
“People are really excited about the new exhibit. Visitors love all of the opportunities to play with the hands-on stuff, and it’s been fun to see groups of visitors interacting with each other as they explore different parts of the exhibit,” says Becca Hatheway, NCAR exhibit manager. “UCAR and NCAR staff members are also excited to see something new in this space. I’ve seen just as many staff spending time in the exhibits as I have seen visitors. So I guess we’re all excited to learn more about the weather.” The visitor center at the Mesa Lab is open to the public year round and offers free exhibits about weather and climate, a gallery featuring local artists, an outdoor weather trails, and more.  For more information visit the Spark web site.
And speaking of Spark, today (Saturday, 27 October) is UCAR’s Super Science Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.–a chance for the whole family to visit the labs and combine science with some Halloween fun. There’s a preview video at the Spark home page:


AMS Dedicates 45 Beacon Room to Joanne Simpson

Last week, AMS held a ceremony at our 45 Beacon Street headquarters in Boston to celebrate the life and accomplishments of pioneer scientist Joanne Simpson.  The AMS Council, AMS staff, and members of Joanne’s family gathered to watch the unveiling of her portrait that hangs in what is now “The Simpson Room.” The first woman to ever receive a Ph.D. in meteorology and first female AMS president, Joanne’s numerous contributions to science and the Society were lauded by current AMS President Louis Uccellini and Past President Peggy Lemone:

One of Joanne’s daughters was in attendance and Joanne’s husband, Robert Simpson, and three other children were able to view the ceremony through video conference. Robert had this to say:

On behalf of the Simpson family at large, I want to express our deep appreciation to the Society for its special recognition of Joanne Simpson with this unique posthumous award. All of us appreciate that you chose this unique way of further honoring Joanne. She served AMS nobly and effectively throughout her career—a career distinguished not only by her seminal contributions to tropical meteorology and the general circulation of the globe, but also her dedication to the role of women in science, showering them with encouragement, assistance in their efforts, and championing their struggle for recognition.

Simpson concluded by noting if Joanne had been given a choice she probably would have treasured this recognition by AMS even more than she did her Carl Gustaf Rossby gold medal award.

Broadcasters Bring it to Boston

Last week more than two hundred broadcasters made their way to the 40th Conference on Broadcast Meteorology in Boston. This was an impressive number of attendees given the unusual timing for a broadcast conference. With the approach of the peak of hurricane season, not to mention Hurricane Isaac, it’s typically not an ideal time for broadcasters to be away from their home bases. Yet, the chairs of the conference felt the significance of the 40th anniversary required a city of equal weight and were determined to make Boston work.
Here co-chair Rob Eicher, meteorologist at WOFL in Orlando, explains:

As one of America’s oldest cities, Boston is rich in meteorological history that goes back to 1774 when John Jeffries began taking daily weather observations.  Co-chair Maureen McCann, meteorologist at KMGH in Denver, talks about this as well as other touchstones that make the city a meteorological hub:

Broadcasters attended two and half days of presentations covering topics such as regional weather, new technology, and science and communication.  KWCH Wichita Meteorologist Ross Janssen, who had his first experience working as a meeting chair, talks about the hard work as well as the benefits of  bringing the broadcast community together at an event like this:

A short course “From Climate to Space: Hot Topics for the Station Scientist,” covered both climate change and astronomy, and concluded with a nighttime viewing session at the Clay Center’s observatory in Brookline. Another highlight was a panel discussion on the emergent use of social media in the broadcast community. Afterward attendees made their way to Fenway Park for a night of baseball. If only the Red Sox hadn’t squandered their early lead to the Angels it would have been the perfect way to wrap up the Boston event.

The Rainbow Goes Green

Omaha's Bemis Center, 21 June. Photo by Kathleen Franco.

Downtown Omaha, Nebraska, may not be a place you’d expect to see many rainbows, since the state is under an official drought emergency this summer. But art has a way of trumping nature at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts. The Rainbow: Certain Principles of Light and Shapes between Forms, an exhibit created by artist Michael Jones McKean, gives residents a glimpse of welcome sights from wetter times. McKean worked with irrigation and rainwater harvesting experts and atmospheric scientists to create the display, in which a dense wall of water shoots up to 100 feet into the air to create a rainbow above the building.

“There are a number of novel aspects of this project,” explains Joseph A. Zehnder, professor and chair of the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at Creighton University, who also served as a technical advisor on rain and wind climatology and on atmospherics optics for the project. “One is that the display is created using harvested rainwater. Local agricultural irrigation and rainwater harvesting companies contributed time and expertise to the project, with the hope of providing a public demonstration of currently available technologies.”
Prior to the opening, a self-contained water harvesting and storage system was built in the Bemis Center. The collected and recaptured storm water is filtered and stored in six above-ground 10,500-gallon water tanks while within the gallery a 60-horsepower pump supplies pressurized water to nine nozzles mounted to the roof. Based on atmospheric conditions, vantage point, available sunlight and the changing angle of the sun in the sky, each rainbow has a singular character and quality.
Zehnder notes that although the basics of rainbows are well understood, there are some complications that arise with providing them on demand. “There are variations in the hue and intensity of the rainbow that are related to the water drop size and density,” he explains. “The drop sizes need to be sufficiently large in order for the internal reflection and refraction of sunlight to occur. Scattering from smaller drops is the wavelength independent Mie scattering so the color separation doesn’t occur.”
McKean began experimenting with manmade rainbows in 2002 and in 2008 started researching the logistics of creating a rainbow over the Bemis Center. In 2010 he started a partial test of the rainbow in Omaha, with the full test last October. “The rainbow is a reminder of a constant universal—something forever, simultaneously contemporary and ancient,” comments McKean. “In the face of our earthbound landscape of shapes and forms, of geologic, evolutionary, archeological timescales, the rainbow is a kind of perfection, our oldest image.”
Even if artists can make their own rainbows, weather still has its say. Because of the dry summer, the Bemis Center is only showing the exhibit on select occasions, with scheduling twenty-four hours in advance. To find out when the rainbow will be on, check here or the Bemis Facebook page. There is also a free mobile app that can be downloaded to Apple and Android phones, which will notify users when the next rainbow will take place and also includes information about the artist and the project.

OSHA Calls on Meteorologists to Help Prevent Heat Illness

Much of the country is feeling the heat this week at the official start of summer, with temperatures reaching triple digits in many areas. According to National Weather Service Acting Deputy Director Steven Cooper, heat is the most overlooked weather hazard with thousands of outdoors working suffering from heat exhaustion and heat stroke during the summer months. In a campaign to prevent heat illness and deaths, the NWS collaborated with the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to spread the word on heat safety. OSHA has been reaching out through training sessions, public service announcements, and media events to educate the public on the seriousness of heat illness.
In a June 20th teleconference aimed at television and radio meteorologists and reporters, Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis noted the invaluable role that broadcasters play in getting out information. She relayed the three critical words to include in their broadcasts: Water, Rest, and Shade. “This is a vital public service,” she commented.  “Television and radio meteorologists and weather reporters can speak directly to outdoor workers as well as employers who need to be educated on keeping their employees safe on the job.”
David Michaels, assistant secretary of Labor for OSHA, noted that now is the critical time to get this information out since people have not yet acclimated to the heat,  making it a particularly dangerous time.  He commented that training workers to recognize the signs of heatstroke is as important as educating employers to provide regular breaks and access to water. Acting quickly at the first signs of heat exhaustion—such as headache, nausea, dizziness—can prevent more serious consequences, like heat stroke, which can involve confusion, fainting, or seizures.
OSHA has developed a new smartphone App, the OSHA Heat Safety Tool, that is now available and can be downloaded here. The App allows workers and supervisors to calculate the heat index for their worksite and displays a risk level and users receive reminders about the protective measures that should be taken at that risk level.
As the agencies continue to develop new ways to keep outdoor workers safe they urge the weather community to not only spread the word in their broadcasts but also through personal Web sites, Twitter, and Facebook.  Michaels encourages the use of the materials on the OSHA Web site, noting the message is one that can be used by anyone to raise awareness and promote heat illness prevention.