"An Incredible Experience"

The AMS/UCAR Congressional Science Fellowship is a unique opportunity for scientists to become involved in the policy process on Capitol Hill. On Tuesday, the current AMS fellow and two former fellows gathered to discuss some of their experiences and dispense advice to potential applicants.
The 2009-10 AMS Congressional Fellow is Jonah Steinbuck, who received his Ph.D. in environmental fluid mechanics and hydrology from Stanford University in 2009. Steinbuck describes his work as a fellow for Representative Edward Markey (D-MA) in the Select Committee for Energy Independence and Global Warming as an “incredible experience.”
Steinbuck noted that he chose working with Markey and the Select Committee for a number of reasons: 1) because of his interest in climate policy and his belief that the Select Committee gave him the best opportunity to pursue that interest, 2) because “Chairman Markey is one of the leaders in environmental and energy issues,” and 3) because of the Select Committee staff, which allows him to be “a sponge absorbing information” from “some of the best climate policy talent on Capitol Hill.”

Jonah Steinbuck

Perhaps the highlight of Steinbuck’s fellowship thus far was his recent trip to the Copenhagen Summit, where he received a credential from the  State Department and was able to attend the talks. Steinbuck was particularly impressed with the dramatic conclusion when President Obama negotiated the final text of the agreement with other world leaders.
While the Select Committee awaits the final results of the conference, Steinbuck is also currently tracking EPA regulation of greenhouse gases while monitoring a number of bills proposed to block such regulation from stationary sources.
Past fellows Stephanie Herring and Michael Morgan also spoke about their Congressional Fellowship experiences. Herring, who like Steinbuck served under Congressman Markey in the Select Committee for Energy Independence and Global Warming, is currently working on climate science and service issues as a climate policy analyst in the office of the Department of the Deputy Undersecretary at NOAA. During her time as a fellow, Herring worked on the original version of the legislation that eventually became the Clean Energy and Security Act (also known as the Waxman-Markey Bill). She called the fellowship an ideal transition into new pursuits and in this clip responded to a question on how her fellowship experience enhanced her Ph.D. studies.
Morgan, currently a professor at the University of Wisconsin, recalled his time in Senator Benjamin Cardin’s (D-MD) personal office with fondness, even though, as he explained here, it was the exact opposite of what he originally thought he was looking for in a fellowship experience. Morgan explained that one of the most important things he learned on Capitol Hill was that “science is not enough”–senators must consider all their legislative priorities and their constituents’ priorities and determine how science fits into that framework.
The speakers cited numerous characteristics that Congressional Fellowship applicants should have: analytic skills, interpersonal skills, awareness of federal policy, an understanding of the role and limits of science in federal policy, diplomacy and political acumen, a sense of ethics, and perhaps most importantly, a legitimate interest in policy that has been displayed in their academic career. They noted that the competition for the fellowship is considerable and that the scientific records of most applicants is outstanding.
Applications for the 2010-2011 fellowship are due by February 10.

We Told You There Would Be Cake. . .

. . . but we may have neglected to mention that it would be the coolest weather-related cake you’ve ever seen! The confectionary delight was a highlight of Monday’s AMS book launch party and celebrated the 2009 release of The AMS Weather Book by Jack Williams.

Jack Williams receives his ASLI's Choice Award from Maria Latyszewskyj , chair of the ASLI's Choice Award Committee

A few minutes later, in a special ceremony, the accolades for Jack continued when he received an honorable mention ASLI’s Choice Award in the “popular” category. The fifth annual ASLI’s Choice Awards ceremony will be held on Wednesday at 4:45 p.m. at Publisher’s Row in the Exhibit Hall.
Congratulations to Jack on the success of his book!

A World View at the International Forum

John Mungai, center, represented the East African Meteorological Society at the International Forum on Tuesday. (Jenni Girtman / Atlanta Event Photography for AMS)

Attendees mingle at the International Forum. (Jenni Girtman / Atlanta Event Photography for AMS)

Gerald Mills, of Ireland, presents information on the International Association for Urban Climate during the International Forum. (Jenni Girtman / Atlanta Event Photography for AMS)

Mohamed Mhita with the Tanzania Meteorological Agency takes advantage of the question-and-answer period during the International Forum. (Jenni Girtman / Atlanta Event Photography for AMS)

AMS Chapter of the Year Awarded

The AMS North Florida chapter was awarded Chapter of the Year at the local chapters breakfast Tuesday. (Jenni Girtman / Atlanta Event Photography for AMS)

K-12 Education at Home and Abroad

The rewards of teaching the Earth sciences at the K-12 level in the United States are great, but sometimes so are the frustrations. At Monday’s education forum, Sandra Henderson touched on some of these issues in a discussion of recent UCAR surveys of K-12 Earth science teachers.
UCAR, which  supports the professional development of science teachers through their “Windows to the Universe” website and other initiatives, generated almost 1,000 responses from National Earth Science Teachers Association (NESTA) members and newsletter subscribers. While making note of one particularly positive development–that teachers now have reasonably good access to technology and utilize it regularly–Henderson also listed the top 10 concerns of science teachers and summarized the surveys’ findings.
So how can these concerns be addressed? American educators might look to their colleagues across the Pacific for a uniquely successful approach to environmental education. In another forum presentation, Michihiko Tonouchi of the Japan Meteorological Business Support Center in Tokyo described a program in Japanese public schools that teaches students about global warming and other environmental issues.

A teaching aid used in Japan's elementary environmental class. A popular technique is to compare the warming of the Earth to human illness. The text in this picture reads "The Earth has a fever!!".

Weather studies in Japan are now a compulsory subject for elementary school fifth-graders and those in their second year of junior-high school. In the program described by Tonouchi, approximately 100 broadcast meteorologists from the Weather Caster Network (WCN) and 300 engineers from Sharp share teaching responsibilities, with the broadcasters explaining basic scientific principles of global warming and the engineers discussing mitigation and adaptation strategies. Quizzes and hands-on experiments are an important part of the instruction. Along with global warming, alternative energy and recycling are also studied.
A website maintained in conjunction with the program provides a forum for student and teacher feedback, as well as activities, articles, and other resources.  Tonouchi noted that both students and teachers have enthusiastically embraced the program, and said that the program’s organizers would like to expand the project to the U.S. and other parts of Asia.

On Wayward E-mails and Public Perceptions

The session yesterday summarizing findings from the recent report, Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States, put some heat on authors when attendees asked about the impact of the leaked e-mails from the University of East Anglia.
The discussion aired concerns about what scientists can do to overcome  public suspicions generated by the e-mail controversy. To the question, “What concrete steps can we take to get credibility back for our field?”, Tom Karl, Director of the National Climatic Data Center, replied:

I think that’s a very good question, and I don’t think there’s one magic silver bullet. I think the key to our success in this Society and science in general has been the peer review process, and making sure the peer review process is fully understandable not only by our colleagues and peers but the outside world who uses the work that we do. That’s number one.
Secondly, when we actually publish papers, the data upon which the paper is based and the algorithms that are used–we do not have a consistent policy in the world in terms of access to that data. That’s something in our AMS Council meeting we discussed yesterday as to just what our policy should be in making sure it’s explicit. It isn’t quite so clear.
So I think there are some steps that we can take forward. And of course, in addition, the more transparent we can be in making sure that when we do have a paper, we can point to where the data can be found and be accessed–I think those are all important steps, but I’m sure there are others. Again, I don’t think any individual one is going to work. We have to have a multiple front here, and it’s important because it affects all of our work, across the board.

A Pair of Pairs

Washington and Kuettner
Warren Washington and Joachim Kuettner, in 2003.

If you think you’re seeing double at this year’s Annual Meeting it’s not necessarily because of your grueling schedule here in Atlanta. For instance, that’s not one, but two NCAR scientists being honored with named Symposia this week. Today offers sessions honoring Joachim Kuettner; Thursday is reserved for Warren Washington.
Meanwhile, there were indeed two Businger’s at Sunday’s Fellows Reception. Father Joost was celebrated as one of the three new Honorary Members of the AMS, while son Steve was named a Fellow.  We believe this is the first time one family has been so honored at the same Annual Meeting.
Steve and, his father, Joost Businger.

Posters Provide Array of Presentations

Hiroaki Naoe, left, attending from Japan, listens as Richard Lam explains his research during a poster session Sunday evening. (Jenni Girtman / Atlanta Event Photography for AMS)

Attendees study a poster during the presentations Sunday evening. (Jenni Girtman / Atlanta Event Photography for AMS)

Fellows Honored at Review

At the Welcome Reception following the 90th Annual Review and Fellows Awards Sunday night, newly elected Fellows socialized with attendees at the Student Conference and Local Chapter Poster sessions, which were held in conjunction.

New Fellows mingle at the Welcome Reception in their honor Sunday night. (Jenni Girtman / Atlanta Event Photography for AMS)

AMS President-Elect Jonathan Malay and AMS President Peggy Lemone at the 90th Annual Review and Fellows Awards. (Jenni Girtman / Atlanta Event Photography for AMS)

Outgoing AMS President Tom Karl hands over duties to new president Peggy Lemone at the Annual Review and Fellows Awards. (Jenni Girtman / Atlanta Event Photography for AMS)

Public vs. Private: For Students, the Choice Is Theirs

Saturday’s Student Conference forum on “The Job Market” offered advice on what job hunters can expect in their career pursuits, and a clear theme of the discussion was the difference between employment in the private and public sectors.  Trisha Palmer of the NWS Forecast Office in Peachtree City, Georgia, delineated many of the pros and cons of public sector work, noting the security, geographical flexibility, and benefits as some of the most positive aspects. Robert Baron, founder of Baron Services in Huntsville, Alabama, talked about some of the qualities that can lead to success in the private sector.
Additionally, Ryan Boyles of North Carolina State University noted that a new peril of job-hunting in the high-tech world is the plethora of personal information floating around the internet. Boyles recommended that students be very careful about putting personal pictures and other information online that could later be used against them in their job search.
Ultimately, all the speakers could agree that perhaps the most important advice they could give to the students is “do your best.”