There's That Word Again: "Bomb"

It’s like the word du jour. Or, more accurately, THE word du storm.
It seemed like every time this winter that a big East Coast storm—a significant nor’easter—looked impending in computer models, the media hype machine cranked out the word “Bomb.” Or “bomb cyclone.”
And here it is again:
Destructive Nor’easter Emerging; Expected to ‘Bomb Out’” trumpeted Thursday morning about Friday’s storm.
Bomb Cyclone: MA Town Orders Voluntary Evacuations” the Falmouth Patch splashed on its online front page. (Ponder that additional hype for a moment: order “voluntary evacuations.”)
Another ‘bomb cyclone’ — with a huge flood risk — is aiming for the Northeast” buzzed CNN.
Bomb cyclone. As in meteorological bomb. Short for bombogenesis. Not a fiery explosion, but rather an explosive—as in extremely rapid—deepening or lowering of atmospheric pressure in the center of the storm. A drop of at least 24 mb in 24 hours. That ramps up big winds.
This time, though, the term may be apropos. And not just meteorologically.
While the pressure in tomorrow’s nor’easter is expected to plunge from about 1006 mb to 975 mb—31 mb—from Thursday night to Friday night, meeting the definition of bombogenesis, it’s the formidable eruption of hazardous weather—high winds, heavy rain and snow, and coastal flooding, potentially major to even severe coastal flooding, the NWS in Boston says—that will define this particular storm.
The storm will generate high winds from the mid-Atlantic to eastern New England, gusting 50-60 mph in many areas and possibly to 75 mph hurricane force in southeast New England and on eastern Long Island. For a long time, as strong high pressure over Greenland (that incidentally has brought stunningly warm air to the Arctic) slows the storm’s departure.
These northeast winds will persist through three high tide cycles, some of the highest tides of the month, contributing to minor to major coastal flooding from Maryland to Maine, as detailed in a blog post by the Weather Underground. And with 2-3 feet of storm surge combined with 20-30 foot waves just offshore and tides Accuweather says are already running 2-4 feet above normal, there’s a small chance that flooding at the coast could be severe and widespread—”a very dangerous situation that may require evacuations,” the NWS in Boston stated in its 5 a.m. Thursday Area Forecast Discussion.
Add to that 2-4 inches of rain likely to worsen snowmelt flooding across much of Southern New England and more than a foot of heavy, wet snow in the higher elevations of the Northeast, and Friday’s nor’easter looks set to do some damage. Power outages from the winds and snow are likely.
We’ve posted about meteorological bombs before, here and here. This time, this nor’easter might just live up to the hype.

A Letter from AMS President Roger Wakimoto

Dear AMS Community,
I am delighted to send this letter to you after the wonderful Annual Meeting in Austin. You told us that the Presidential Forum with Richard Alley and the Presidential Town Hall on the recent hurricane season were the highlights of the week (both can be viewed online) and I am glad that our efforts to arrange for these two events were well-received. The latter was possible owing to our breadth as a scientific and professional society. It allowed us to assemble a panel of experts from the university and broadcast communities, NWS, FEMA, and Flood Control District that could tell a story that was quite engaging.
I was honored to have completed President Matt Parker’s vision for the Annual Meeting. I believe that he would have been very pleased with the program. Of course, the AMS staff, Executive Committee, and Council are an amazing and supportive group to work with and I owe them a deep debt of gratitude for supporting me during the past year.
I wanted to take this opportunity to highlight a couple of priorities that I will be working on in the coming months. I am deeply committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion. The AMS supports a number of programs that illustrate their commitment to diversity. However, I believe it is time to step back and review diversity, equity, and inclusion across AMS in a holistic manner and assess the collective effectiveness of its broadening participation efforts. What is our strategic vision on this important topic? With the support from Council, I appointed and charged a task force to review what the Society has accomplished to date in this area and to deliver a set of recommendations, including bold ones if necessary, to guide us as we rapidly approach our Centennial celebration. Susan Avery has kindly agreed to Chair this task force and I hope you contact her with your advice and suggestions.
There have been a number of events across the nation this past year that few of us could have predicted. The withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement (currently the only nation to do so), the March for Science, a proposed tax on graduate student tuition waivers, controversy at the EPA on the subject of membership on advisory committees and climate-related issues, and no Science Advisor for the Administration (the longest time this position has been left unfilled since it was created). These and other events beg the question whether AMS should alter the direction of its advocacy program or stay the course in this age of disruption. I have asked the Council to discuss this topic in the coming months so that we can define a path forward and communicate it clearly to all of you.
Finally, I would like to remind you of my vision for next year’s theme for the 2019 Annual Meeting in Phoenix, “Understanding and Building Resilience to Extreme Events by Being Interdisciplinary, International, and Inclusive.” It is the first time that extreme events, international and inclusive have been specifically highlighted in a theme and it is a timely subject owing to the natural disasters that impact our society and the need to build resilience. Xubin Zeng and Wen-Chau Lee are the overall program co-chairs and they are working with a great team that includes Julie Demuth, Rebecca Haacker-Santos, Sarah Jones, and Chris Schultz. The 2019 Annual Meeting will be the kickoff for a year-long celebration leading up the 2020 Centennial Meeting in Boston (will it snow or not??).
AMS has been a great organization that has supported me personally throughout my long scientific and professional career. In the bigger picture, AMS has endeavored to remain relevant and has adapted to change when necessary. Of course, AMS only exists because of you and the enormous number of hours that you volunteer to the organization. It is the primary reason that I know that the Society will continue to be strong and impactful for years to come. I hope to both meet and interact with as many of you as possible this year.
Roger M. Wakimoto, President, American Meteorological Society

Standing Up for the Integrity of Science

by Keith Seitter, AMS Executive Director
In carrying out its mission, AMS provides a broad range of support for the science and services making up the atmospheric and related sciences. As a part of this support, AMS has a long history of being a voice on behalf of science and the scientific method—as do most other scientific societies such as AAAS, AGU, Sigma Xi, and many, many others. This past year has been especially challenging for all of us as pressures and outright attacks on science have become far more prevalent. AMS has always been careful to be nonpartisan, to avoid being policy prescriptive, and to really focus on science. We have not, however, shied away from taking strong positions on behalf of the integrity of science.
The hope is that the community and society will view AMS journals, statements, and other material as reliable sources of information on the scientific disciplines AMS covers. AMS statements, in particular, are developed with the goal of being broadly accessible to those seeking credible summaries of current scientific knowledge and understanding on various topics. Beyond being a resource, however, it is vital that AMS proactively stand up for the integrity of science and the scientific process—especially when it is mischaracterized in ways that might impact policy decisions or mislead the public.
There is an extraordinary amount of misinformation being disseminated through many outlets on a variety of topics (but perhaps most notably those associated with climate change)—far more than one can effectively monitor or hope to address. With so many incorrect or misleading statements out there, it can be hard to know when to jump into the discussion. Recognizing that we cannot address all instances of misinformation, AMS has focused instead on taking a more public stance when policy makers in leadership positions make statements that mischaracterize the science. Thus, this past year for example, AMS has sent letters to the EPA administrator and the Secretary of Energy (see the “AMS Position Letters” for an archive of all letters that have been sent by AMS).
Protecting the academic freedom of researchers, and the freedom to present their scientific results broadly and without censorship, intimidation, or political interference, has also been important to AMS for many years. These fundamental precepts upon which scientific advancements depend have come under attack before, and AMS has maintained a strong “Statement on the Freedom of Scientific Expression” for a number of years to make the Society’s position clear.
Scientific advance requires that all data and methodologies leading to research results be openly and freely available to others wishing to replicate or assess that research. That said, AMS has spoken out to protect the confidentiality of discussions among researchers as they develop ideas and critically assess the work of others. These candid discussions are essential and must be able to happen without fear among those involved that comments might be taken out of context to attack the research or the researchers.
AMS membership is diverse and not all members have been supportive of these efforts. I can appreciate the concerns some may feel, and know there is a danger of acting out of bias, despite our putting a lot of time and energy into avoiding biases. I know, as well, how easily inherent biases can color the way one might read these statements or letters. I also know, however, that to remain silent in the face of clear mischaracterization of science or to fail to defend the scientific process is wholly inconsistent with the AMS mission of “advancing the atmospheric and related sciences, technologies, applications, and services for the benefit of society.” I’m proud to be part of an organization that has such a strong history of standing up for the integrity of science.
(Note: This letter also appears in the September 2017 issue of BAMS.)

Cruising the Ocean’s Surface Microlayer

Oceans are deep, and they are integral to the climate system. But the exchanges between ocean and atmosphere that preoccupy many scientists are not in the depths but instead in the shallowest of shallow layers.
A lot happens in the topmost millimeter of the ocean, a film of liquid called the “sea-surface microlayer that is, in many ways, a distinct realm. At this scale, exchanges with the atmosphere are more about diffusion, conduction, and viscosity than turbulence. But the layer is small and difficult to observe undisturbed and over sufficient areas. As a result, “it has been widely ignored in the past,” according to a new paper by Mariana Ribas-Ribas and colleagues in the Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology.
Nonetheless, Ribas-Ribas and her team, based in Germany, looked for a new way to skim across and sample the critical top 100 micrometers (one tenth of a millimeter) of the ocean. This surface microlayer (SML) “plays a central role in a range of global biogeochemical and climate-related processes.” However, Ribas-Ribas et al. add,

The SML often has remained in a distinct research niche, primarily because it was thought that it did not exist in typical oceanic conditions; furthermore, it is challenging to collect representative SML samples under natural conditions.

In their paper (now in early online release), the authors report on their solution to observing is a newly outfitted remote-controlled catamaran. A set of rotating glass discs with holes scoops up water samples. Pictured below are the catamaran and (at left, top) the glass discs mounted between the hulls and (bottom left) the flow-through system.
Catamarans are not new to this research, but they were generally towed behind other vessels and subject to wake effects or were specialized. The new Sea Surface Scanner (S3) takes advantage of better remote control and power supply technology and can pack multiple sampling and sensors and controls onto one platform. Tests in the Baltic Sea last year showed the ability of S3 to track responses of organisms in the surface microlayer to ocean fronts, upwelling areas, and rainfall. The biological processes in turn affect critical geochemical processes like exchanges of gases and production of aerosols for the atmosphere.
The technology may be a fresh start for research looking in depth at the shallowest of layers. See the journal article for more details on the S3 and its performance in field tests.

Monster Felix Slammed Hurricane Hunter Plane in 2007

A one-two punch inside intense Hurricane Felix in 2007 turned a NOAA hurricane hunter flight into a harrowing rollercoaster ride, causing the mission to be aborted. A study of the extreme event, scheduled for publication in the next issue of Monthly Weather Review, determined a small-scale vortex known as a misocyclone rotating within the Category 5 hurricane’s eyewall is likely what bucked the plane upward nearly a thousand feet before sending it plunging back to its original altitude in less than a minute. The feature is similar to what nearly crashed the same plane inside Hurricane Hugo in 1989.
According to the study, a “routine penetration” into the eye of the hurricane via the northeast eyewall on September 2, 2007 quickly became anything but. First, the horizontal wind speed at the plane’s altitude of about 10,000 feet jumped from 140 mph to nearly 200 mph. At the same time, a standard descent into the eye at a constant 700 mb pressure height quickly steepened and the plane lost more than 700 feet in altitude in 40 seconds. Then a 70 mph updraft punched the plane up 900 feet immediately followed by a 16 mph downdraft that hammered the plane downward 980 feet, in seconds. The on-board radar quit. And gravitational stresses on the aircraft exceeded safety specifications. The mission was scrubbed and the plane then settled into Felix’s calm 12-mile-wide eye at about 8900 feet, circling five times until it could find a safe pass through the southwest eyewall and out of the hurricane.
They were lucky.
The hurricane hunters have unknowingly flown into these updraft-downdraft combinations before. They seem to only encounter them in monster Category 5 hurricanes, which have sustained winds greater than 156 mph. Besides Felix, researchers have documented the extreme events in Hurricanes Patricia (2015), Isabel (2003), and Hugo (1989). The encounter in Hurricane Hugo took place with the same hurricane hunter plane (NOAA42) flying at just 1500 feet, which was typical back then. Not any more. Fists of wind smashed the aircraft downward more than a thousand feet and then back upward, knocking out three of the its four turboprop engines and crippling the plane. It barely made it out, and afterward the rules for hurricane eye penetrations were rewritten.
Back it 1989, researchers thought they had perhaps flown into a tornado in the eyewall. But in Hurricane Isabel, data revealed a vortex a bit larger but no less intense was encountered. Similar in scope but smaller in size to the rotating 5-10-mile-wide updrafts of supercell thunderstorms, which have become known as mesocyclones, the hurricane eyewall vortexes were only a fraction of that—hence the name misocyclones, or small-scale cyclones.
In Felix, a bit of serendipity: just as the plane encountered the misocyclone, researchers released a commonly used tube of instruments called a dropwindsonde into the eyewall to measure temperature, pressure, humidity, and with onboard GPS tracking, wind speed and direction. The dropwindsonde measured details of the wind within the misocyclone, including a shift in the horizontal direction and a speed that jumped to more than 230 mph at about 400 feet decreasing to just 41 mph near the water. The tremendous shear—change in the wind speed in such a short distance—is “8 orders of magnitude larger than those known to lead to […] horizontal shearing instabilities and misocyclone development,” the study noted based on prior research.
It’s only the second time details of a misocyclone have been measured, making them largely mysterious events. For example, researchers aren’t certain how common or unusual they are. “Many very intense tropical cyclones have been sampled with aircraft without encountering these extreme events,” the study states, adding, “It is unknown whether they have been missed by the relatively sparse observations available, because aircraft tend to deviate around the most intense eyewall convection, or if they are truly rare.”
Deepening the mystery is the timing of the extreme event inside Felix—it occurred as with Hugo at the end of a period of rapid intensification, which is when a hurricane’s central pressure drops precipitously ramping up its sustained winds very quickly. Winds in Hurricane Felix increased by 90 mph to 165 mph sustained that day in 2007. It has been thought that extreme features in hurricanes such as lightning, graupel, and eyewall vortices likely occur during periods of rapid intensification, as occurred with Hurricanes Isabel and Patricia. But Felix is the second intense hurricane where such an extreme event took place at the end of a rapid intensity cycle, and learning why while keeping the hurricane hunters safe will require further study.
“The frequency of these features and their ultimate importance in the structural evolution [of hurricanes] remain research questions. It is clear, though, that improved understanding of these features would enhance the safety of flights into very intense tropical cyclones.”

Yes, We've Got Maps

This point was made at Monday’s Presidential Forum, where Dr. Richard Jackson of UCLA was talking about how much our scientific community offers to the world of public health, and how we might best be able to move decision makers to action based on climatic information.
It is good news. Nobody makes maps more eagerly than meteorologists.
Hardly a session goes by at the AMS Annual Meeting without some sort of map—often of some unexpected variable. For example, today at 10:45 a.m. (Skagit 4), Yonghua Wu (City Univ. of New York) and colleagues pull together trajectory modeling, lidar ceilometer, and satellite observations to map air quality variations due to the interaction of boundary layer conditions with wildfire smoke plumes this past summer over New York City.
blog_logo_final_all_caps_updateThen on Thursday (1:45 PM, Tahoma 2), you can map the New York City area again, in a completely new way: Sina Kashuk of NOAA shows spatial density maps of the 5 million flood-related phone calls across the five boroughs.
Using the top 25 most frequent complaint types ranging from noise to rats, the overall propensity of calling was estimated and mapped. This map was then used to normalize the flood-related complaints. The temporal-spatial analysis was highly correlated with monthly rainfall intensities.
Clearly, no place is mapped in one particular way. Maps say as much about the data and the analysis as about the specific location. Mapping is thus an essential tool for coalescing, analyzing, contemplating, and communicating observations.
Harvard historian Peter Galison takes this point a step further in his studies of the history of observing as evinced by map-making. Through a selection of atlases across the centuries, all made by scientists, he shows how the powers of observation and the expectations and capabilities of science are all intertwined, and all evolving. The idea of observing itself is not the same today, he shows, as it was in Newton’s time or even in Einstein’s. In this lecture from 2011 he uses the atlases to trace the history of objectivity itself in mapping:

Which brings us warily to the title of a presentation this morning (8:30 AM, Room 611) , “Beyond Maps-How Cloud Computing Enables the Future of Geospatial Analysis Services.” Presenter Steve Kopp of ESRI explains:

[W]e now see a technology transformation that is enabling deeper understanding, and will lead to new insights and new discoveries. Early adoption of geospatial cloud computing focused on organizing and sharing data….Map services (a picture of the data) are symbolized data ready to view, and require fewer specialized skills than working with raw data such as GRIB files. More recently organizations have begun providing weather and climate data services. These are feature services like WFS and image services like WCS. Data services allow customization of the symbology and more flexibility in visually combining with other data, but also can be used for analysis allowing the user to ask new questions with the data. The transition to data services feeding into analysis services will have a profound impact on the utility and growth of geospatial cloud computing.

Perhaps someday historians will see this AMS Annual Meeting as a part of shift that led the way to yet another stage in the growth of science itself.

The Future Starts Now with Student Conference

The Annual Meeting kicked off this weekend with one of our biggest Student Conferences ever, as more than 700 students were in attendance. It was a lively, entertaining, and educational event for everyone who participated, as can be seen in these observations taken at the Conference:

Time to Lengthen the Official Hurricane Season?

Last week, the fourth named storm—Danielle—of the Atlantic hurricane season formed. It was the earliest such formation in any of the 165 seasons on record. Tropical Storm Colin preceded Danielle just days into the official season, which runs from June 1 through November 30, and was the earliest-on-record third named storm. And Tropical Storm Bonnie formed in May, prior to the season’s start, a pattern that seems to have increased in the past decade.
It makes one wonder: should the official Atlantic hurricane season be lengthened to accommodate the earlier storm formation? The season for Eastern Pacific tropical storms and hurricanes, which form off Mexico’s coast, already does. It runs from May 15 to Nov. 30, and almost like clockwork, the first storm of that season will typically appear midmonth or after.

In the past decade, half of the Atlantic’s seasons had “preseason” storms. In 2012, two storms—Alberto and Beryl—were named before the season officially started. And last year, Ana formed east of Georgia on May 7. Granted, it was initially a subtropical storm, a hybrid with both tropical features and features of midlatitude cyclones. But waters were warm and Ana became fully tropical in just days, and moved ashore in South Carolina on May 10.

In an e-mail exchange with James Franklin, branch chief of the Hurricane Specialist Unit of forecasters at the National Hurricane Center, he noted that the current 6-month Atlantic hurricane season was established in 1965 and was based on the formation dates of roughly 97% of the total annual tropical cyclone activity in the Atlantic basin, which includes the northern hemisphere Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico.

Franklin pointed out that tropical cyclones have formed in every month of the year, including Hurricane Alex this year in January. (Its formation was considered a very late entry in the 2015 hurricane season, despite its “A”-name designation in the calendar 2016 season.) He also pointed out that moving the season up to May 15 wouldn’t have prevented an out-of-season start in half of the recent early-season years (in addition to Alex and 2015’s Ana, 2007’s Andrea formed on May 9).

While extending the season might not catch all early storms, it would accommodate an increasing number. Weather Underground’s Jeff Masters and Bob Henson blogged last year with Ana’s early development that it isn’t all that rare to have early-season storms. Adjusting the numbers up by two for 2016, they conclude that 41 preseason tropical or subtropical systems have formed in 33 separate years since record-keeping began in 1851. Since the satellite era began in 1960, which improved detection of tropical systems basin wide, they find that there has been on average about one such system in the Atlantic every 2-3 years.

“Preseason named storms may be getting more common,” they wrote. Of note, they mentioned a 2008 paper published in Geophysical Research Letters by Jim Kossin of the University of Wisconsin, titled “Is the North Atlantic hurricane season getting longer?” that supports an earlier start to hurricane season. Kossin concluded that there is an “apparent tendency toward more common early- and late-season storms that correlates with warming sea surface temperature, but the uncertainty in these relationships is high.”
So the question remains: Is it climate change that necessitates a longer season, or natural variability?

Franklin states that there would need to be pretty convincing evidence “to go to the trouble of changing the official season. I don’t think we know whether this ‘uptick’ is real or apparent, or whether it will persist,” he writes. “I think we’d want to see a definitive trend in the long-term climatology before contemplating such a change.”

Makes sense. However, if we have too many seasons like these past several years, with multiple storms in May, starting hurricane season on June 1 may begin to appear arbitrary.

What do you think?

Rare, Early Season Hurricane Party in the Tropics

You’ve likely heard the rumors that wherever the AMS Annual Meeting takes place, unusual and sometimes awful weather befalls that particular city. San Antonio, Texas, for example: AMS Annual has been there twice—in 1982 and 2007—and both times ice storms besieged the city, much to the dismay of residents and especially the city’s politicians. There’s nothing other than coincidence to this, of course; a convergence of meteorologists can no sooner conjure up furious tempests than AGU meeting attendees can deliver a mega disaster of geophysical proportions to their host city.
But … as the 2016 AMS Annual Meeting draws to a close, the tropical record books are coincidentally being rewritten: Hurricane Pali had been whipping the Central Pacific near Hawaii for much of the week, and, now, another hurricane—named Alex— has formed in the Atlantic Ocean. In January! And a hurricane warning has been issued for the Azores Islands. Did we mention … it’s January!!
It’s unprecedented: simultaneous tropical cyclones in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans in the first month of the year. The average date of the first Atlantic named storm is July 9th. The first named storm in the Central Pacific also usually forms in July.
Pali this year is not surprising—with one of the strongest El Ninos on record in full swing, the tropical Pacific is like bathwater. But an Atlantic  hurricane? Forming in January, the middle month of winter? That’s happened only once in the 165-year Atlantic hurricane record. In 1938, an unnamed tropical storm formed way beyond the Lesser Antilles on January 3rd and became a hurricane on the 4th. The naming of Alex makes 2016 the second-earliest start to a hurricane season on record.
Two other January tropical storms in the Atlantic were also “tailenders”—stragglers from the previous year’s season—but formed in December and then celebrated the new year at sea. Both Hurricane Alice of 1955* and Tropical Storm Zeta in 2005 formed on December 30th (*Alice was thought to have formed on Jan. 2, 1955, and although reanalysis determined it actually formed three days earlier, it’s in the records as the first storm of 1955 rather than the last storm of 1954) and lasted until January 7 (for Alice, that was 1955, and Zeta was in 2006). Zeta remained at sea west of the Cape Verde Islands, while Alice moved through the northern Leeward Islands with 80 mph winds before dissipating in the Caribbean.
There were also two unnamed subtropical storms, in 1951 from January 4-9, and 1978 from January 18-23. Both churned the Atlantic northeast of Puerto Rico.
So, how is a hurricane in the Atlantic possible now, this year? Are the waters still summer-like?
Well, no. Sea surface temperatures are actually relatively cool: 20°C (68°F), much below the typical threshold temperature of 26.5°C (~80°F) and too cool to support tropical development outright. Alex, however, transitioned from an extratropical storm to a tropical cyclone, which—though rare—can sometimes occur over cooler water due to favorable conditions aloft. This seems to be the case with Hurricane Alex, as the National Hurricane Center explained in its January 14th mid-morning forecast discussion:
“It is very unusual to have a hurricane over waters that are near 20 deg C, but the upper-tropospheric temperatures are estimated to be around -60 deg C, which is significantly colder than the tropical mean. The resulting instability is likely the main factor contributing to the tropical transition and intensification of Alex.”
At the time of this discussion, Alex was packing 85 mph sustained winds and had formed a distinct 20 nm eye within a ring of thunderstorms surrounding the center.
Did Alex form because a bevy of meteorologists converged at the AMS Annual Meeting in New Orleans this week? Fat chance! But stick around that host city a few more weeks and rumor has it you can experience Fat Tuesday—Mardi Gras in French.
Good news: That rumor’s true!

WOW: Half-A-Billion Citizen Observations and Counting

Non-traditional observations of weather conditions from smartphones, driverless vehicles, and other sensor-based platforms are exploding as technology improves and becomes cheaper. But the traditional infrastructure in place to gather observations can’t keep up with the mass influx of new data. WOW. That’s the Met Office in the United Kingdom’s solution to the problem. Its Weather Observations Website is not only up and running. It’s humming.
Since it was launched in 2011, WOW ( has seen more than 700 million observations submitted by more than 10,000 citizen scientists worldwide. WOW focuses on ingesting data from personal weather stations, Simon Gilbert, head of the Met Office observations partnerships, said in his presentation Monday morning at the 96th AMS Annual Meeting in New Orleans. This huge volume of data includes the entire 200-year climate record from Oxford University.
The success of WOW has encouraged the Bureau of Meteorology in Australia, MetService in New Zealand, and KNMI in the Netherlands to implement their own portals into the website. Collectively, they have reported great success in extending their reach, primarily through “really effective partnerships” connecting the public with the private sector, Gilbert says.
A new version of WOW, the WOW Engine, is currently being developed as a more flexible and adaptable data management platform. Using application software to talk to hardware, it will be possible to quickly and easily ingest new sources of observational data, including complex metadata, which will be managed, stored, and visualized through a variety of channels. The metadata will comply with the WMO Integrated Global Observing System (WIGOS) Metadata principles, allowing users to benefit from the potential for WIGOS to create a ‘”network of networks.”
Gilbert reports the use of WOW, which is supported by the UK Department for Education and the Royal Meteorological Society, is expanding in schools as well. Weather stations are being provided to schools, and teachers and students are being encouraged to submit data.
As traditional threshold-based weather warnings transition toward impact based warnings, the need to gather evidence of impacts will be critical. WOW contains this capability and soon will be available for mining data from social media and other live sources.
Harnessing the power of citizen scientists is potentially a game changer for meteorology as the increasing resolution of NWP models is not matched by a corresponding increase in the density of traditional observing networks. The citizen scientist with an app on their phone, or in their car or home, can provide supplementary observations that will provide useful additional detail to modelers and forecasters.
A key challenge is how to manage the balance between quantity and quality of the observations and to identify the most effective ways to use this kind of data, Gilbert says. He personally doesn’t think such crowdsourcing will replace funded observation networks. But even with WOW’s low-level quality control capability, the shear volume of data can be used to identify trends.