2013 Jule G. Charney Award Recipient has an Out-of-this-World View of Earth's Circulations

Alan Plumb, professor of meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), is the 2013 recipient of the prized Jule G. Charney Award. Dr. Plumb is being honored with this award, which is in the form of a medallion, for fundamental contributions to the understanding of geophysical fluid dynamics, stratospheric dynamics, chemical transport, and the general circulation of the atmosphere and oceans.
The Front Page spoke with Dr. Plumb to learn more about his research, including his interests in the dynamics of Earth’s atmosphere as well as the atmospheres of other planets. Though he now mostly focuses on Earth’s circulations, he mentioned that his PhD thesis was on the atmosphere of Venus and interactions of waves on its circulation. More recently, he has been focused on understanding how gravity waves interact with our stratosphere.
Click on the image below to view the interview.

Tropical Meteorology: All in the (Very Big) Family

It’s normal to run into familiar faces in Austin this week–that’s what an AMS Meeting is all about. But running into your parents, your children, well that’s no so common.
Or is it? At Florida State Robert Hart and Josh Cossuth have been getting back to their roots, and embarked on a project to map the entire family of tropical meteorology, tracing lineage back to Bjerknes, Rossby and others. The tree of relations they present this afternoon (Room 19B, 4:15 pm) is intricate and rapidly expanding, with hundreds and hundreds of meteorologists on it. Chances are you may be on it, too.
It can’t feel bad to know you have professional cousins descended from Lord Rayleigh, or that you’re a relative of Enrico Fermi.
You’re with family here at AMS.

Thumbnail of the massive family tree for tropical meteorology. Blue oval highlights entrants to the specialty from other disciplinary training.
Thumbnail of the massive family tree for tropical meteorology. Blue oval highlights entrants to the specialty from other disciplinary training. Magnified version includes names and dates of training.

NOAA's David Titley to Address Satellite Future in Uncertain Fiscal Climate

With dozens of presentations–and a handful of Town Hall meetings–addressing the early successes and possibilities of the new Suomi-NPP satellite, it is ironic that the intended successor missions are already in jeapordy two years before planned launch.
Last September NOAA released a report from a review panel chaired by former Lockheed Martin executive Thomas Martin that criticized the costs and oversight of NOAA’s upcoming operational polar orbiters (the Joint Polar Satellite System). Meeting the scheduled late 2015 launch is already iffy, but with the high cost of these multipurpose missions and low tolerance for Federal spending in general, the review panel findings pushed NOAA to look into trimming back the goals altogether. Among the alternatives would be to replace some of the sensors with older, less sophisticated equipment, or even to ditch some of the non-weather capabilities that serve the climatological community in particular
So while some attendees will be celebrating Suomi-NPP’s successes at a Town Hall (Ballroom G, 12:15 p.m.), at the same time (Ballroom A) other attendees will be contemplating the uncertain prospects for future satellite capabilities at a Town Hall on “The Role of Satellite Data in Environmental Prediction and the Challenges for the Satellite Programs in Today’s Fiscal Climate.” The presenter at the latter session is Dr. David Titley, Deputy Under Secretary for Operations at NOAA.

2013 Verner E. Suomi Award Winner Strives for Uniformity in Global Sounding Observations

Richard H. Johnson, professor of meteorology at Colorado State University (CSU) and head of the Johnson Research Group at CSU, which focuses on cutting-edge research of tropical and mid-latitude weather and dynamics, is the 2013 recipient of The Verner E. Suomi Award. He is being recognized with this esteemed award, which is in the form of a medallion, for exquisite design of rawinsonde networks in field campaigns and insightful analysis of interactions between convective clouds and the large-scale atmospheric circulation.
The Front Page caught up with Dr. Johnson to learn more about his research and field programs. He has been working with rawindsonde data for 40 years to study convective processes, including monsoons, which he notes impact more than half the world’s population. He explains that the biggest challenge working with such data is removing biases, due to nations around the world using as many as 30 different sounding systems to gather the observations.
Click on the image below to view the interview.

What to Do with Data in the Modern World

The last AMS statement related to data issues was written in 2002. But in the last 10 years, information technology advances have revolutionized data services, including how data are provided, accessed, analyzed, managed, shared, and archived. In Monday’s Town Hall Meeting on Free and Open Sharing of Environmental Data, UCAR’s Mohan Ramamurthy introduced a new AMS statement on data policy that is presently in production. Ramamurthy pointed out that unrestricted access to data is fundamental to the advancement of science, and that access should be free as much as possible. But issues of data can lead to difficult questions, some of them fundamental, like “What does free even mean?” Does it refer to access, cost, or both? And when talking about cost, who ultimately bears that cost?
The process of creating an AMS statement involves multiple steps over several months, and development of the new data statement is still in its early stages. Thus, in many cases, questions like the above are still being answered. And the subject of data has numerous angles to be considered in preparing the statement: curation/stewardship, metadata, timeliness, transparency, preservation, citation, and standards, to name a few. One of the more intriguing issues mentioned by Ramamurthy involves the potential for preplanned joint data collection partnerships between governmental and commercial entities during crisis situations. He cited Superstorm Sandy as an instance when the private sector had an abundance of data that was particularly valuable to the government. He compared this situation with what currently occurs between the defense sector and the aviation industry, when the government utilizes aircraft from private airlines for various purposes, and the companies are compensated for such use.
Among the preliminary recommendations made by the statement’s writing team are to design programs that reduce data-sharing barriers between the sectors of the AMS; ensure that all journal articles include sufficient details regarding information and methodology in order to verify the articles’ conclusions; and recognize data science as a career.
Ramamurthy emphasized that crafting the new statement is a process that should involve the entire AMS community. He invited members to comment on the statement by contacting him at [email protected].

More Green for Authors Who Use Color

Good news for authors publishing in AMS journals: starting in April, there will be no extra charges for full-color figures. The change was announced at the Annual Meeting on Monday.
According to Director of Publications Ken Heideman, bringing these costs down to zero has been a major goal since 2005, when it was first proposed by Dave Jorgensen, the outgoing Publications Commissioner.
“We all thought that that was a nice fantasy,” joked Heideman, but he noted that since then the AMS has dropped the prices for color figures several times. “Now we’re using efficiencies and savings in other areas to help subsidize what is the final reduction to zero.”
In the past, several authors had suggested printing figures in black and white but having them in color online, referred to as divergence of content, which is not allowed by the AMS Publications Commission.
“Our print is exactly what is online, including color, and we’re proud of that,” said Heideman.
He also noted that lower overall costs could be a long-term investment in the organization.
“Having zero color charges for full-paying authors will increase submissions, and that’s a positive reinforcement cycle.”
[UPDATE 1/9/13: Note that the new charges apply to articles that are submitted after April 1.]

A Conversation with T. Boone Pickens: Tonight Is about Opportunities

Often, when people talk about T. Boone Pickens–the featured guest at the AMS Annual Meeting special session at 7:30 p.m. tonight (Ballroom D)–they remind you that he got his start as a paper boy. At age 12, Pickens took a newspaper route with 28 deliveries and turned it, through merger and acquisition, into a conglomerate of 156. A penchant for rapid expansion through acquisition was born, and the result was an investor-corporate dynamo.
But we’re AMS, so we’re not here to talk about how he made his billions with Mesa Petroleum or BP Capital Management. Tonight AMS Policy Director William Hooke will undoubtedly ask Pickens how he intends to make his next billion, and–from everything Pickens is saying–he’s going to do it by taking advantage of what science is telling him.

In that regard, Pickens is clearly not the common businessman. He explains, “The gambling instincts I inherited from my father were matched by my mother’s gift for analysis.”
So, instead of paper routes and corporate raiding, we’re going to remind you that T. Boone Pickens got his start in the oil business with a Bachelor’s Degree in geology. Indeed, while Pickens is the kind of businessman who takes opportunities where he sees them, usually that means seeing the big processes, the glacial but inevitable trends and not just the ephemera blowing in the wind. Actually, he also lost $150 million on wind energy already–abandoning one-time plans to build the world’s largest wind farm in Texas–and so in that sense no one is better qualified than Pickens to kick off the intensive discussions this week about how our science is working to make renewable energy a better bet these days.
Right now, the big picture is telling Pickens that natural gas is the alternative fuel of choice, as a means of ending American dependence on imported energy resources.

As ever, energy is, for Pickens, an opportunity, but it’s also about the big picture–really the biggest picture of where society is heading economically, strategically, politically, socially, geophysically. For us, then, the strategic move is to capitalize not on what science has to tell business, but on what business has to tell science, tonight, in Ballroom D.

Python Town Hall: AMS Special Meeting to Highlight Next Wave in Earth Sciences Computing

Perhaps you’ve heard about this modern, open-source programming language, Python. Maybe you’re wondering what it’s all about and how it relates to the atmospheric and oceanic sciences (AOS). If so, an AMS Town Hall meeting on Monday January 7 is for you.
From 12:15 to 1:15 p.m. local time at the convention center in Austin, Texas, this meeting will describe what Python can do for AOS users. Attendees will learn how Python meets needs and provides abilities in scientific computing that are currently unavailable in existing languages and how, as a result, Python enables AOS researchers to write modeling and analysis programs that enable better and more science to be done. The meeting will also include time where you can ask questions about implementing and supporting Python for AOS modeling and analysis.
Organizers note that this Town Hall meeting will be geared toward non-programmers and decision makers and will focus on how Python can help institutions be more productive.

Correction: You, Not the Birds, Are the First Line of Defense for Space Weather

If you’re here in Austin, along with a few thousand of your closest professional colleagues, you’re not just here to share what you know. You’re here to learn what you need to know for the next great opportunity. Chances are, that opportunity is not at all where you were looking for it just a few years ago. It’s going to take a correction of professional course, and the AMS Annual Meeting is the place to start making that correction.
The next great thing in atmospheric science may be working closer with your colleagues who study the biology and chemistry of air-sea exchanges. It might mean getting to know how to deal with social science. It might mean looking above the clouds and not below, or taking input from different scales of time and space and applying them to your own, or thinking about renewable energy, not just potential and kinetic energy.
If you’re ready to take a hint from community leaders like NWS Acting Director Laura Furgione, UCAR President Tom Bogdan, and others, let alone the National Research Council, it’s time to start learning about the opportunities from outer space, too. In fact it is barely too soon to do so: our economic infrastructure is already completely wrapped up in technology that is highly dependent on the good graces of the sun. One little blip of activity for our massive sun, like a Coronal Mass Ejection, can wreak billions of dollars worth of havoc–and temporary infrastructure paralysis–on our little planet Earth. Space weather is not just one of those next great things in research and forecasting, it’s already crucial.
Yet research shows that right now, the birds likely know more about space weather than the average weather forecaster. That’s right: according to recent laboratory findings, birds have an innate ability, probably due to the chemistry and mechanics of their ears, that enables them to follow Earth’s geomagnetic fields on their long annual migrations. Birds use space weather to find their way. They can hear geomagnetic fields, we can’t.
A number of your colleagues will be correcting that right here in Austin. Some will attend the 10th Conference on Space Weather. (Yes, the 10th! Where have you been? In that time, not only has smartphone usage exploded, but the number of flight operations over the poles has increased by 28-fold–an amazing testament to rapid growth of vulnerability to Space Weather.) The good news for those looking for an opportunity to start making the correction now is that Sunday has two half-day short-course sessions on Space Weather. Students wondering what’s next after their conference ends at noon might be encouraged to know that the afternoon session includes interactive discussion with a blue ribbon space weather panel–and that students are eligible for reduced rate registration!
According to the short course description, “meteorologists are frequently the “first line of defense” for the public.” Clearly this is no job for birds. Time to make that correction, take that opportunity.