Counting the Cards in Nature's Casino

Rear Admiral David Titley is a panelist Tuesday on national security implications of climate change.
Rear Admiral Titley, a panelist Tueday on national security implications of climate change.

With “New Demands on Science and Services” being the theme of this AMS Annual Meeting in Atlanta, it is safe to say that no demand on climate science is more novel and complex than the national security angle of climate change. Strife in Africa is one area, as we mentioned here, but other flash points include the security of borders once covered by glaciers, water scarcity in numerous regions, and the newly navigable Arctic waterways.
It’s no wonder the Oceanographer of the Navy has gotten involved in this new area.  Rear Admiral Dave Titley, oceanographer of the Navy, who has been charged with the U.S. Navy Task Force Climate Change, will be one of several national security experts featured in the two-part Tuesday Joint Session panel discussions (11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.) on “Environmental Security: National Security Implications of Global Climate Change.”
In an interview on climate change with Armed Services radio, Admiral Titley showed a strikingly forward, mission-oriented viewpoint on the Navy’s interest in climate change, and not just the practical attitude of an officer with a research background.
“We’re operating in Nature’s casino,” he said, “and I intend to count the cards.”

Data Stewardship: A Basis for Change

Today’s Town Hall on Data Stewardship promises to be a good opportunity to consider how the atmospheric science community might reshape itself at the most fundamental level: the data underlying science and services.
According to Unidata’s Mohan Ramamurthy, chair of the AMS Ad Hoc

Mohan Ramamurthy, Unidata director, and chair of AMS Ad-Hoc Committee on Data Stewardship.

committee presenting its prospectus at the session (12:15 p.m.-1:15 p.m.; B211), data stewardship is not just a topic for people who specialize in archiving. Technology has made this a task for all of us. In the following email exchange, Ramamurthy made a good case to The Front Page for how data stewardship is basic to how the entire community interacts and progresses.
Why did AMS form an Ad Hoc Committee on Data Stewardship?
The AMS STAC Commissioner Roger Wakimoto was fielding a number of questions related to data, so in the fall of 2008 he began highlighting the importance of Data Stewardship. According to Roger’s report to the AMS Council in 2009

Our community is generating huge volumes of data from observing systems (especially remote sensors) and enormous outputs via numerical simulations. In addition, topics such as data archival, access (including free access between countries), maintenance, metadata, visualization, life expectancy are becoming critical at many institutions. In light of this background information, it was my suggestion that the AMS needed to propose a formal mechanism to recognize this important area that permeates our entire discipline.

How have stewardship needs changed in recent years?
Data has always been essential to the field. However, advances in computing, information and observational technologies have resulted in larger and larger volumes of diverse data being generated from many sources and they are being used/consumed by more and more people. What used to be the purview of just data centers and providers, has now become a responsibility for many more stakeholders. Also, there is increasing awareness of the importance of data and data stewardship. For example, the term “metadata” was not part of the scientific vernacular until recently, but now many more people understand it and recognize its importance. Similarly, until now there was no expectation that people would share datasets from their scientific studies or link them to publications with others. The best people did was give a URL where a reader of a scientific article could get a few additional plots or products. Today it is (theoretically) possible to link all of the data that went into a study (e.g., model output, model configuration, source code, derived analyses, etc.) in appropriate places in a paper. How to go about it? Who should be responsible for keeping those links and data sets alive in perpetuity?
How does AMS figure in this expansion of the possibilities, and responsibilities, of data stewardship?
We should understand that the AMS is not usually the producer of data sets. So the Society will have to work with data producers and data hosting/holding facilities. And how would AMS get authors to submit not just a manuscript but all of the data? And to where? Each area will have, among others, technical challenges, coordination and collaboration
challenges, and organizational challenges.
Also, data stewardship is a vast area, so we will have to scope it properly (i.e. limit it), or else nothing will get done.  Picking those key areas will be a challenge when the membership is diverse and you have a large number of stakeholders.
What might attendees learn from the Town Hall in Atlanta?
The purpose of the Town Hall is two fold. a) To inform attendees about what the Ad Hoc committee is thinking and our proposed plans/activities. b) To gather feedback on our thoughts/plans/prospectus as well as get additional input on what AMS members would like to see happen in this area.
Who will most benefit from attending?
Almost anyone who is interested in data stewardship issues (scientists, data providers, editors and publication commission folks, librarians, educators, IT personnel) will benefit or can attend and contribute their thoughts. But realistically, I expect a smaller subset of those people who are most interested in this subject to come to the Town Hall.
Will  feedback from attendees influence the committee’s task?
This is a brand new area for AMS. As such, everything is a work in progress. We want our mission and tasks to be shaped by the membership.

Nothing but the Truth, Part 2

We noted that Richard Clark challenged his audience at the AMS Student Conference to make the pursuit of truth their purpose in scientific careers. Not surprisingly, others at the conference expanded on that theme. Jon Nese of Penn State gave a talk spanning some of the pros and cons of life in the various sectors of the weather enterprise, but perhaps most striking was his observation of the role that trust plays in scientific endeavors, academic, private, research, operational or otherwise. It’s worth hearing the way Jon expressed the interdependence between the sectors–operational, research, entrepreneurial, and otherwise–in this pursuit of truth as we embark on a meeting week full of discussions of uncertainties, promising findings, and future priorities.

Weather Fun Draws a Crowd

About 5,000 people came in out of the rain to enjoy the weather fun inside at the 9th WeatherFest this afternoon.

Jamal Maxwell, 10, tries his hand at on air broadcast in the WSB-TV booth. (Jenni Girtman / Atlanta Event Photography for AMS)

Ken Heideman tests Israel Farrow, 8, on her knowledege of states and locations of the most tornados, lightning and snowfall across the United States. (Jenni Girtman / Atlanta Event Photography for AMS)

David Wright, 9, gets a close up look at the effect of air. (Jenni Girtman / Atlanta Event Photography for AMS)

Brothers Michael Alton, 8, left, and Kevin Alton, 6, work together to create a tornado. (Jenni Girtman / Atlanta Event Photography for AMS)

In a race to see who can collect the most water from their "clouds," Zach Schwalbe, left, helps Aidan Lussier, 5, as Nolan Doesken, works with Stephen Dragstedt, 10, and Henry Reges encourages 10-year-old Victor Watts. (Jenni Girtman / Atlanta Event Photography for AMS)

Nothing but the Truth

At the Student Conference yesterday, Richard D. Clark of Millersville University addressed the role that scientists play in the community, narrowing it down to one essential word: truth. While acknowledging that there is always uncertainty, a scientist must always strive for “honesty and integrity in pursuit of truth,” according to Clark.
He explained that students–and all scientists–can fulfill this mantra by making certain the information they provide is always based solely on evidence, and also by aspiring to unquestionable ethics (while also passing on those ethical standards to others). Clark stressed the importance of clarifying scientific discussion by quantifying the uncertainty inherent in science.
Clark used Roger Pielke Jr.’s The Honest Broker to analyze the various roles scientists may play in their careers: from information provider (the “pure scientist”) to advisor for decision makers (“the honest broker”). Clark cited a recent poll that ranked scientists as the third-most trusted in a list of 22 selected professions, behind doctors and teachers. He noted that regardless of the role, the scientist ultimately must maintain that trust through the pursuit of integrity and the truth.
Clark recommended several ways that students can foster their pursuit of the truth, including 1) using professional societies and their policy statements for guidance, 2) keeping current on reports from major national organizations like the NRC and NSF, and 3) becoming involved in community activities related to their chosen fields.
The development of trust to facilitate the dissemination and application of scientific data is a currently a hot topic, and a number of presentations at the Annual Meeting are examining the issue, including:
Developing Climate Communication Tools for Integrated Decision Support at the Local and Regional Level (Tuesday, 8:30-9:45 a.m., B213)
A Community Wind Energy Project in Rural Albany County, New York State (Wednesday, 10:30 a.m-12:00 p.m, B202)
Emerging Niche Clienteles for Climate-Based Decision Support: Organic Farmers in Georgia (U.S.) (Thursday, 8:30-9:45 a.m., B212)
Knowing Which Way the Wind Blows: Weather Observation, Belief and Practice in Native Oklahoma– First Impressions (Monday, 2:30-4:oo p.m., Exhibit Hall B2)

Reception Tonight Is a First for AMS

This evening at 8-10 p.m. is the First Annual Reception for
CoRioLiS: LGBTQs & Friends in the American Meteorological Society.
Enjoy refreshments and hear from guest speaker Guy Walton, TWC forecaster, on “Acceptance and Innovation at The Weather Channel.” (By the way, after you hear Walton’s talk at the reception, consider catching his temperature extremes study Tuesday at 11 a.m.).
The reception, in the Juniper Room M2-North Tower of the Omni Hotel, in sponsored by the AMS Board on Women & Minorities, the UCAR Community Building Program, and the National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals (NOGLSTP). For more information, contact Zhenya Gallon at ext. 8607, [email protected],
or see CoRioliS on Facebook.

Get Hands-On at WeatherFest

Ready for some fun and games?  Come to the kickoff of WeatherFest, a huge interactive science fair for weather enthusiasts of all ages. From noon to four on Sunday, nearly sixty exhibitors will feature a variety of displays designed to instill a love of science and learning. Meet your favorite local television meteorologist and learn how weather and climate affects daily life in Atlanta. Try a real weather forecast online at Forecast Central ( or create a “Cloud in a Bottle” at North Wasco District 21’s booth.

Fox 5's chief meteorologist Ken Cook will be one of the local television personalities at tomorrow's WeatherFest.

The Georgia Aquarium ( will be there with interactive hands-on games and activities. Learn how aquatic animals like penguins, sea otters, and beluga whales have adapted to survive chilly conditions. Georgia Tech Research Institute ( will have a mini-museum on the science and technology of lasers, with applications in meteorology.  With a multitude of schools exhibiting at the event, it’s the perfect venue for both teachers and students looking to advance their knowledge.
For the kids there will be numerous weather games throughout the fest as well as raffle drawings. Check out AccuWeather’s Kids Weather Area featuring games, downloads, and “WheatherWhys,” or toss a balloon or two at CoCoRaHS’s ( Rain Gauge Water Balloon Toss.
WeatherFest is not only fun but free, so come get up close and personal with the weather on Sunday from noon to four in Registration Hall A/B at the Georgia World Congress Center.

Atlanta Tornado and Impacts: Weather 2009

In the evening of March 14, 2008, the Georgia World Congress Center where the 90th Annual Meeting of the AMS is taking place this year was hit by an EF2 tornado. The supercell thunderstorm that produced the tornado was unexpected that day, with an outbreak of tornadoes forecast for, and subsequently realized, the next day.

Portion of 2008 Atlanta tornado track
Track and intensity of Atlanta tornado through downtown. (Adapted from NWS Atlanta tornado report.)

The adjacent Omni Hotel as well as CNN Center and a number of nearby hotels and buildings suffered significant damage in the tornado. CNN Center alone lost more than 1600 windows, and windows are still missing in the tube-shaped Westin Peachtree Plaza tower.
CNN was not broadcasting live from Atlanta that night with programming instead coming from its New York and Washington offices. If the 24-hour network had been live from CNN Center, “It could have been a classic You Tube moment,” says Brandon Miller, a weather producer for CNN International, adding, with “us in the center of the tornado, anchors looking all around, fear on their faces … Fortunately, that didn’t happen.” Miller says CNN didn’t cover the tornado strike itself live, but “covered the heck out of the damage afterwords.”
While this tornado event won’t be presented as part of Impacts: Weather 2009 at the 2010 AMS Annual Meeting, a presentation during this Tuesday session will look at Tornado Effects on a Rural Hospital: Impacts of an EF-3 Tornado that struck Americus, Georgia in March 2007 (2:00 PM, January 19, 2010, B206). A presentation Wednesday morning (9:15 AM, B217) will look at lightning characteristics of the Georgia tornado outbreak the day after the 2008 Atlanta tornado. Its author commented that lightning characteristics of the tornadic storm that struck Atlanta the previous day might also be presented, if time allows.
Also, a poster to be presented Monday will investigate the relationship, if any, between Southeastern tornadoes and drought. A climatological analysis of antecedent drought and spring tornadic activity will be available for viewing during the poster session Observed and Projected Climate Change from 2:30 – 4:00 PM Monday, January 18.

How to Spot a Cloud Enthusiast

Sunday night is movie night at this year’s Atlanta meeting. While weather-related flicks will be playing near continuously at the DVD theater this week, the 7 p.m. showing Sunday is U.S. premiere of the BBC4 program, “Cloudspotting,” a paean to the beauties, mysteries, and wonders of the sky. Narrator Gavin Pretor-Pinney, founder of the Cloud Appreciation Society, draws on art, science, mythology, and a deep love of the sky that will undoubtedly resonate with AMS attendees and their families. We suspect there will be plenty of true cloudspotters in the audience.
For a brief sample of the profound identification with the skies that Pretor-Pinney brings to this visually stunning 90-minute show, check out this little audio clip of him speaking at a recent author’s talk at Google, promoting his book, The Cloudspotter’s Guide.
Or follow up after the movie, when you have time, for the whole lecture:

Take a Dip in the Wild Ocean

If you haven’t gotten your fill of science at the meeting, there’s more at the Fernbank Museum of Natural History. The museum strives to inspire life-long learning of natural history through dynamic programming and interactive science displays.

The forest tower at Fernbank Science Center is festooned with meteorological instruments, contributing to the WeatherBug network.

Along with their permanent exhibits, this month features a special exhibit, “My Favorite Things.” For the exhibit, each department chose a natural history piece from storage to put on display.  The exhibit by nature is designed to appeal to scientists of all ages and fields in its diversity.
Of special interest to oceanographers, “Wild Ocean” is playing at the IMAX theater. Filmed on South Africa’s wild coast, the movie touches on the balance not only between the oceans and people but the relationship between all living things. Showing through March 11, show times are Monday through Saturday 11:00, 1:00, 3:00, and 5:00, with a 9:15 p.m. showing on Friday; and Sunday 1:00, 3:00, and 5:00.
We would tell you about the 7 p.m. extra showing this Friday (shhh!), but instead that’s when Richard Somerville author of the AMS-published book, The Forgiving Air, will give a talk on climate change at the museum.