At WeatherFest You're Gods, Not Groundhogs

“I’m a god. I’m not “the* god. I don’t think…”–TV meteorologist Phil Connors, in Groundhog Day
Your alarm buzzed, you woke up and looked at the clock and then realized this was not an ordinary Sunday. There’s a good chance you are in Atlanta, but that’s not the only reason it feels special today. Rather, it is because you are not just anyone: you are a person in the atmospheric or related sciences about to enjoy a rare opportunity to spend this recurring February prognosticators’ headache called “Groundhog Day” together with a few thousand of your closest colleagues.
This god-like feeling is only possible because the AMS meeting schedule bumped the annual gathering into February 2—a rarity, indeed. (On the heels of the recent, not-in-70,000-year Thanksgivvukah, the scheduling deity is on a roll!)
But is that why you feel like a god? Here are some other possible explanations for the wings on your shoes and the trident in your suitcase:

  • Punxsutawney Phil has done a live forecast on an early morning wake-up slot once a year since at least 1886. That’s impressive longevity, even for a rodent, but real meteorologists work all time slots—morning commute, midday, evening drive, evenings and weekends in markets way bigger than the Nielsen ranked 101st in the country. Gary England, Roy Leep, and others have done that and more—calling rare snows and terrifying tornadoes for 40-plus years in the same major market. What’s four decades in groundhog years?
  • Phil is scared by his own shadow. This week we’ll hear our scientists talk about the value of reconnaissance data they collect by flying inside hurricanes (e.g., Yonghui Weng’s talk Wednesday, 11 AM in C204). We’ll hear about the risks they take chasing tornadoes (such as Jennifer Henderson’s poster S168 tonight in Hall C3).  They even endure “poison ivy, nettles, brambles, goatheads, ticks, wasps, and other biting or stinging insects” because maintaining precise automated weather stations in the woods is a passion (and for a passion about the accuracy of mesonets, try, for example, James Kyle Thompson’s poster 64 on Monday 2:30-4 PM).
  • Wouldn’t a real god simply change the shadow instead of turn and hide? David Themens and Frederic Fabry’s presentation on Thursday (4:45 PM, C203)  can perform that miracle, indeed. Looking for high resolution data to constrain temperatures and humidity in convective forecasts, they point out that “while satellite-borne instruments may reach the required horizontal resolution, it is not clear whether they can retrieve the needed information low in the atmosphere over land, especially if the scene is partly cloudy.” Low sun? Cloudy? Shadow time! Punxsutawney Phil stops right there, but not Themens and Fabry. They’re scientists. Like gods, they have a workaround, so they solve the problem by suggesting simple microwave radiometers that gather data close to the horizon.

Oh, and did we mention that science is very cool these days? The alarm just buzzed, the Sun just rose over western Pennsylvania, and the realization just came over us again that we’re expecting over a thousand people to visit us here at the Georgia World Congress Center (Hall C3, noon – 4 PM). They’re going to be dazzled by technology, experiments, talks, and demonstrations of gee-whiz atmospheric, oceanic, and hydrologic mastery-of-the-universe science at WeatherFest.
Some of those kids look up to brainy scientists of weather, hoping to become one some day.  Isn’t that godlike enough, even it’s only one day a year?

Use Your Words

In the halls of Atlanta’s Georgia World Congress Center this week you can say “drought.” You can say “polar vortex” if you please (add some spice and make it “circumpolar“ if you wish).
You will say a lot of things at this 94th AMS Annual Meeting and chances are you won’t get a sidelong glance because you’ll be doing what scientists always do: talk passionately about what words mean and what pixels, patterns, and numbers say.
Out on the street, however, perhaps this is not the place. You may not remember, but amidst a droughty 2011 Georgia was where the governor terminated the state climatologist’s office without warning while they were using the “D” word uncomfortably often. This little scientific wound opened again during the snowfall that became a traffic crisis and finger-pointing exercise this past week in Atlanta. Turns out, it is nice to have a designated expert on hand when—should we say, before?–the weather turns on you.
John Knox, Marshall Shepherd (who are both University of Georgia faculty), and Bill Hooke (of AMS’s Policy Program) have been actively exploring the the flow of scientific information to and from decision makers. But we’re about to get into a week of intense information flow of our own—mostly within our scientific community—so it’s worth taking a moment to appreciate the value of words and finding a time to exchange them properly. This week is our biggest opportunity to talk freely.
In the greater society we are basically retreating from to be here in Atlanta amongst friends and colleagues, words get twisted, become loaded, and generally turn into obstacles. The kerfuffle over the meaning of “polar vortex” has been a classic example this winter. Scientists are forced to shovel up the mess.
This is obviously not a problem in Georgia alone. In California arguments over whether or not to embrace the “D” word reached the highest levels of government this past month.  Of all the arguments to and fro about whether Governor Jerry Brown ought to declare a drought emergency for the state midway through the rainy season, one of the most telling was this:

As Governor Brown considers declaring a drought emergency, perhaps he should look to his own citizens as his audience. A drought declaration would not only draw the attention of federal officials. It would also serve as a wake-up call for Californians, underscoring the crisis at hand. It’s time we get serious about water conservation in the long term. A drought declaration could be the first step to real, sustainable lifestyle changes that keep both our water use and our water crises under control.

Sometimes indeed it takes an act of politics to get people to use an important word like “drought”. By contrast, here in Atlanta all we need is for a few thousand scientists to agree on a time and a place.  The “D” word is everywhere. On Sunday evening a team of Purdue faculty and students show a poster (Hall C3) on thermodynamic soundings in a recent drought. On Tuesday (4:30 PM, C213) Ekaterina Altman of the University of South Carolina discusses the role of indices in drought management. And so on. You might even be sick of the “D” word by the end of the week, but not if Mark Shafer of the Oklahoma Climatological Survey has his way on Thursday (C107, 11 AM):

We’ve been talking about the Southern Plains drought for 3 years now. What is left to be said? Plenty!

Use the “D” word. Let “PV” pass through your lips—whether or not you mean polar vortex or, more likely, potential vorticity. Let the words fly.

Atlanta Roads Lead to Annual Meeting Theme

As society urbanizes, weather impacts are exacerbated in sometimes-unfamiliar ways. Case in point: the snow, ice, and cold that paralyzed much of the southeastern United States this week. More specifically–and more germane to AMS members attending this year’s AMS Annual Meeting–delays caused by gridlock in Atlanta were being measured in days, not hours, and thousands of people were stranded in schools, stores, their cars, and other places that weren’t their homes.
The timing of this unfortunate event is appropriate, given the Annual Meeting’s theme of “Extreme Weather–Climate and the Built Environment: New Perspectives, Opportunities, and Tools.” Even before this week’s events, the meeting was going to be buzzing with discussions about all aspects of weather and climate impacts in urban areas. In the wake of events of this week, that buzz may turn into a roar.
One topic certain to elicit a storm of interest is road transportation–the most visible of the vital, weather-prone infrastructure systems in any urban area. At the Ninth Symposium on Policy and Socio-Economic Research, a session on Wednesday (4:00-5:30 PM, Room C107) titled “Observing Weather and Environment along the Nation’s Transportation Corridors” will feature a look at weather-observation sensors for cars, which offer “the potential of turning vehicles into moving weather stations to fill road weather observation gaps.” An equally salient presentation in that session will explore best practices for getting timely and accurate weather and climate information to transportation decision makers.
The 30th Conference on Environmental Information Processing Technologies will include a session on “Road Weather Applications” (Monday, 1:30-2:30 PM, Room C105). One talk will explore the Maintenance Decision Support System, which “blends existing road and weather data sources with numerical weather and road condition models in order to provide information on the diagnostic and prognostic state of the atmosphere and roadway.” Another presentation will analyze driver awareness during two 2013 winter storms in Utah to examine ways to improve communication of hazard information to the public.
The Second Symposium on Building a Weather-Ready Nation will have a session on “Innovative Partnerships in Public Outreach and Decision Support Services” (Tuesday, 3:30-5:30 PM, Georgia Ballroom 2). Included in that session will be an exploration of how the NWS and Federal Highway Administration are collaborating to improve communication and data sharing before, during, and after weather events that have a significant impact on transportation, public behavior, and emergency response. Another talk will take a broader view by examining ways to enhance nationwide environmental education and create a more weather-ready nation–a goal that this week’s events make clear remains of vital import.

Annual Meeting Session to Feature Solar Energy Contest Winners

The AMS Solar Energy Prediction Contest brought together participants from around the world to tackle the problem of improving solar energy forecasting.  The contest was held on Kaggle , a website for hosting worldwide data mining and machine learning contests.  Participants used a set of NOAA Global Ensemble Forecast System reforecasts as input for statistical and machine learning models that predicted the total daily solar energy at 98 Oklahoma Mesonet sites. Over the four-month span of the contest, 157 teams from six continents submitted over 2,500 sets of predictions. The winners were:
First Place:
Lucas Eustaquio Gomes da Silva (Belo Horizonte, Brazil) and
Gilberto Titericz Jr. (São José dos Campos, Brazil)
Second Place:
Benjamin Lazorthes (Toulouse, France)
Third Place:
Owen Zhang (New York, New York)
Top Student Winner:
Gilles Louppe (Liège, Belgium)
The first-place, second-place, and student winners will present their methods at a special session (Wednesday, February 5, 1:30-2:30 p.m., Room C204) of the AMS Annual Meeting. Specialists in renewable energy and data science as well as all interested attendees are invited to learn about the methods used in the contest and to discuss what value the contest results may provide for forecasts of renewable energy and other phenomena.
The contest is jointly sponsored by the 12th Conference on Artificial and Computational Intelligence and its Applications to the Environmental Sciences; the 22nd Conference on Probability and Statistics in the Atmospheric Sciences; and the Fifth Conference on Weather, Climate, and the New Energy Economy.
You can find more information about the contest here. The winners’ model approaches and codes are available here.

Explore the Annual Meeting with New Mobile App

There is almost 4 million square feet of space in the Georgia World Congress Center–the home of the 94th AMS Annual Meeting. The meeting will feature more than 1,500 oral presentations, close to 1,000 poster presentations, about 100 exhibitors in the main exhibit hall, 45 special events, 36 conferences and symposia, and 18 town hall meetings.
That’s a lot of ground to cover and a lot of  activity to keep track of. And we haven’t even mentioned the Student Conference, short courses, lectures…and of course, the most important number of all: approximately 3,500 attendees just like you.  annual app screenshot
The point is that there will be a lot going on at the meeting–so much that you could probably use a little help to keep track of it all. That’s where the new 94th Annual Meeting app for mobile devices comes in. It provides lists of sessions and events, abstracts of presentations, exhibitor information, and maps of the venue. It includes a scheduler that will allow you to set up your day-to-day calendar. It allows you to communicate with other attendees and it provides access to Twitter and Facebook activity. It links to news, photos, and videos related to the meeting that will be regularly updated. In sum, it does a lot to  help make your experience at the meeting more enjoyable and more convenient.
The app is now available for iPhones and iPads (search the app store for “AMS 2014”), Android devices (search the play store for “AMS 2014”), and Blackberry and Windows phones (point your browser to

Early-Career Professionals to Come Together in Atlanta

The Board for Early Career Professionals (BECP) was created in 2012 to better meet the needs of AMS members who have completed their degrees, landed or are pursuing their first job, and who are looking for opportunities to advance their careers through professional development opportunities, networking, and support through a variety of AMS-sponsored activities. At the 2013 AMS Annual Meeting in Austin, the BECP hosted the First Annual AMS Conference for Early Career Professionals.  It was attended by more than 50 upper-level undergraduates, graduate students, and a cross-section of AMS members entering fields throughout the weather enterprise.
“Our inaugural conference in Austin was a resounding success and demonstrated the Society’s commitment to supporting early-career members,” says BECP chairperson Andrew Molthan.  “For 2014 in Atlanta, we have two outstanding conference chairs–Erik Pytlak and Matt Lacke–who have arranged a series of focused, interactive group and panel discussions targeting professional development. We’ll have great information and feedback from mid- and late-career members of all sectors, candid conversations on the topics you’re interested in, and a chance to interact with the AMS leadership team. It will be a great opportunity to network with your colleagues while bolstering your technical skills with other ‘soft skills’ required for success in the workplace.”
The Second Annual AMS Conference for Early Career Professionals will take place from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, 2 February 2014, as part of the 94th AMS Annual Meeting in Atlanta, Georgia. The conference will kick off with rotating group discussions led by professionals in the atmospheric sciences. The focus will be on what to do after getting that first job and what skills to consider developing. Topics will include how to keep a current job, how to get the next job, how to become a leader, and how to handle working with others.
The second half of the conference will include two interactive panel discussions. One panel with AMS leadership will discuss how the Society can benefit members who are beginning their careers in the atmospheric sciences. The second panel with other early- and midcareer meteorologists from the private, academic, government, and television sectors will discuss early-career experiences and offer advice on topics brought up by attendees.
Following the conference, attendees and other Annual Meeting participants are invited to attend the Fourth Annual AMS Reception for Early Career Professionals planned for Sunday evening.
For more details, visit the Early Career Professional Conference program online here. Additional information on the BECP can be found on Facebook, in the July 2012 issue of BAMS, and in Q&A articles with early-career professionals in recent issues of BAMS.

Annual Meeting Updates

Philip Ardanuy and Eileen Shea, the co-chairs of the 2014 AMS Annual Meeting, and AMS President J. Marshall Shepherd recently sent out this message with updates about the meeting:

Dear Friends and Colleagues,
The 94th American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting is less than three months away, can you believe it? We’ve had some updates to the technical sessions, so please visit the program to view the sessions and set your very own personal schedule. We are also VERY excited to launch our new mobile app, AMS 2014—coming in early December! With this app you will be able to view sessions, view exhibitors, view floor plans, connect with other attendees, and so much more! Below are a few specific events, in addition to the technical sessions, that are new and we’re excited to share them with you!

  • The Presidential Forum’s opening plenary will be entitled “Monday Morning Quarterbacking: Looking to the Past; Preparing for the Future.” This session will provide practical perspectives on the consequences of weather and climate and will allow all of the participants and attendees to explore the Annual Meeting Theme together. It will also set the stage for the week’s exploration of the Weather and Climate Enterprise, which is aimed at improving society’s ability to more effectively anticipate, prepare for, and respond to weather and climate extremes now and in the future.

The Presidential Forum will include a keynote address given by Andrew Revkin, Dot Earth blogger, The New York Times, and Senior Fellow for Environmental Understanding, Pace University. Mr. Revkin will be speaking on “The New Communication Climate: An Exploration of Tools and Traits That Give the Best Chance of Success in Facing a Fast-Forward Media Landscape and Changing Climate.” Additional information can be found here. This address will be followed by a McLaughlin Group-style panel moderated by Margaret Davidson, NOAA Coastal Services Center. Modeled after The McLaughlin Group television program, the panel discussion will be (mostly) unscripted and unrehearsed. Panelists will be invited to express their own opinions and analysis, in anticipation of creating insightful and lively debate. Per The McLaughlin Group policy, we “will defend the right of individuals to express unpopular views . . . Intellectual honesty and argument merit are touchstones…” The panelists for the discussion will be:

o Leslie Chapman-Henderson, President and CEO, Federal Alliance for Safe Homes
o David Perkes, Architect/ Professor, Mississippi State University /Gulf Coast Community Design Studio
o Ellis Stanley Sr., Vice President for Emergency Management Services, Hammerman & Gainer International, Inc.
o Rear Adm. David W. Titley, Senior Scientist and Director, Center on Weather and Climate Risk Solutions, Pennsylvania State University
o Peter Kareiva, Chief Scientist and Director, Science, The Nature Conservancy
  • Didn’t get enough discussion on the Annual Meeting Theme? Then don’t miss the Monday evening Presidential Town Hall Meeting entitled “Adapting to the New Normal—Building, Sustaining, and Improving our Weather and Climate Hazard Resilience” or one of the 18 Themed Joint Sessions that will take place during the week.
  • This year’s Annual Meeting will feature three named symposia to recognize the significant achievements of three scientists in fields served by the AMS. The Stanley A. Changnon Symposium will take place on Tuesday, 4 February, the Edward S. Epstein Symposium will take place on Wednesday, 5 February, and the Donald R. Johnson Symposium will take place on Thursday, 6 February. Please note that while all attendees are invited to attend named symposia, tickets to luncheons for the Changnon and Johnson symposia are not included in the conference registration package and must be purchased separately. There will not be a luncheon for the Epstein Symposium.
  • On Thursday, 6 February, a full day of posters and presentations are dedicated to Superstorm Sandy. Last year, as details were being finalized for the 2013 AMS Annual Meeting in Austin, Texas, Superstorm Sandy was developing. To honor this historic event, a special town hall was added to kick off the formal dialog within the AMS community. In the past year, research and studies on the event allow an opportunity for the community to share the lessons learned, show new tools and techniques, and highlight best practices that have resulted from this devastating event. The day kicks off with a panel discussion looking at President Obama’s Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force and Strategy Report. The remaining three oral presentation sessions will take a look at the weather and climate perspectives, the societal impacts, and the modeling of Superstorm Sandy. A poster session dedicated to Superstorm Sandy has twenty excellent contributions as well. Of note, we had many abstracts submitted from those interested in the event, including from the power industry, the Centers for Disease Control, Swiss Re, and from various social science backgrounds. These insightful presentations and posters should allow further dialog to continue across the weather enterprise, and hopefully create some new connections outside of our traditional weather and climate community as well.
  • Learn more about the AMS Beacons Program, an initiative of the Membership Committee designed to carry on former Executive Director Kenneth Spengler’s legacy of fostering the AMS as an open, inclusive, and welcoming organization.
  • The Short Course Programs, Workshops, and Registration webpages have been updated. Short Courses will be held on Saturday, 1 February and Sunday, 2 February. A workshop entitled, “Inside AMS Publications —Hot Topics” will take place on Tuesday, 4 February. Register before 2 December to get the lowest rates!
  • Don’t forget to Meet the President! One of AMS President J. Marshall Shepherd’s goals during his tenure was to make the leadership of the Society as accessible as possible to the membership. He has set aside some time during the week to answer questions, listen to concerns and suggestions, or just to talk. You can also follow him on @DrShepherd2013.
  • Join us for the Women in the Atmospheric Sciences: A Conversation about the Future session and luncheon on Wednesday, 5 February from 12 to 1:30pm. Lockheed Martin Corporation and Harris Corporation will provide a limited number of box lunches.
  • Please note that the registration deadline for the 13th Annual AMS Student Conference (you must be an AMS student member) and the Second Annual AMS Conference for Early Career Professionals (you must be an AMS member or student member) is 14 January. There will be no onsite registration.
  • Be sure you arrive early enough on Sunday to go to Weatherfest, our free public outreach event, as well as the 94th Annual Review just before the Fellows Awards Reception. The business meeting starts at 4:00 pm and the reception starts at 5:45 p.m.
  • The Front Page, the official blog of the AMS, has started previewing the Annual Meeting. Be sure to check The Front Page periodically for updates. Click “AMS2014” in the tag cloud for stories you may have missed. Or stay up to date by following the AMS on Facebook (ametsoc) and/or Twitter (@ametsoc). The official Twitter hashtag for the 94th Annual Meeting is #AMS2014.
  • Don’t forget to register online and book your hotel room. The hotels are filling up quickly, so keep checking back for updated availability. Also, if you’ve made a reservation but can no longer attend the meeting, don’t forget to cancel that reservation! You’ll not only save yourself a deposit, you’ll open up that room for another person that can attend. And, as always, we appreciate you booking within the AMS block!

We’re excited to see you in Atlanta!
Philip Ardanuy and Eileen Shea
Program Co-Chairpersons, 94th AMS Annual Meeting
J. Marshall Shepherd
AMS President


Annual Meeting Updates

Philip Ardanuy and Eileen Shea, the co-chairs of the 2014 AMS Annual Meeting, and AMS President J. Marshall Shepherd recently sent out this message with updates about the meeting:

Dear Colleagues and Friends of the AMS,
We are happy to announce that most of the conferences have decided to extend their abstract submission deadline. You can view all of the call for papers and updated abstract deadlines here.
Additionally, registration rates have been posted on the AMS 94th Annual Meeting web page and links to register for the conference are now active.
The preregistration (discounted registration) deadline this year is:
2 December 2013
Please remember that ALL attendees must register in order to attend and present at the conference. Registration is separate from the abstract submission fee.
Hotel reservation blocks will open and links to make those arrangements will be available on 5 August.
Thank you in advance for booking at an AMS-contracted hotel, since revenue from sleeping rooms helps offset other meeting costs and is passed down to attendees in keeping registration rates to a minimum.
Thank you and see you in Atlanta!
Phil Ardanuy and Eileen Shea
Co-Chairs, 2014 AMS Annual Meeting
J. Marshall Shepherd
AMS President

Annual Meeting Abstract Deadline Is August 1

Philip Ardanuy and Eileen Shea, the co-chairs of the 2014 AMS Annual Meeting, and AMS President J. Marshall Shepherd recently sent out this message about submitting abstracts for the meeting:

Dear AMS Colleagues,
It’s hard to believe that we’re already actively gearing up for the 2014 AMS Annual Meeting, to take place 2-6 February 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia! With this year’s theme: “Extreme Weather—Climate and the Built Environment: New Perspectives, Opportunities and Tools,” we’re confident that you’ll find lots of interesting, thought-provoking, professionally rewarding, and personally satisfying interactions. Recent events like Superstorm Sandy, the Oklahoma Tornadoes, and flooding in Calgary highlight the importance of the meeting theme, which is increasingly relevant to the science and operational communities, and society as a whole. The theme combines scientific inquiry, technological advances, societal implications, and public awareness through the lens of past, current, and future extreme weather and climate events.
This note is to remind you that the deadline to submit an abstract is fast approaching: 1 August 2013.  Check out the AMS 94th Annual Meeting Web Page: Here, you can find more details on the Annual Meeting theme as well as links to the Call for Papers for each participating conference, and links to submit your abstract online. All other information pertinent to the meeting will be posted to that page as it becomes available.
An abstract fee of $95 (payable by credit card or purchase order) is charged at the time of submission (refundable only if the abstract is not accepted).  The abstract fee includes the submission of your abstract, the posting of your extended abstract, and the uploading and recording of your presentation to be archived on the AMS website. For poster presenters, you will also be able to submit a PDF file of your poster presentation for online viewing. Authors will be notified of acceptance by the beginning of October.
Even if you choose not to submit an abstract for the 94th AMS Annual Meeting, we hope you will come to listen, discuss, learn, and connect with colleagues. Continue to check out the AMS Annual Meeting website for new information on themed joint sessions, scientific and technological presentations, opportunities for social interactions, short courses, exhibiting details, registration, hotel and local area information, and much more.
Be sure to also follow Annual Meeting developments on The Front Page.
See you in Atlanta!
Philip Ardanuy and Eileen Shea

Co-Chairs, 2014 AMS Annual Meeting

J. Marshall Shepherd

AMS President