Be There: Estimating Wind Speeds of Tornadoes and Other Windstorms

Tornado photo

By James LaDue, NOAA/NWS Warning Decision Training Division (symposium co-chair)

Did you know that the AMS is co-branding a standard with the American Society for Civil Engineers and that you can be involved as a member? For the past several years, both organizations have signed together to develop a standard on wind speed estimation for tornadoes and other severe storms. To learn more about this standard, and the methods it’s developing, the standards committee on Wind Speed Estimation is hosting a symposium this Thursday at the AMS 104th Annual Meeting, aptly named “Estimating Wind Speeds of Tornadoes and Other Windstorms.” In this conference you will learn more about how you can be involved in the process.

Ever since the EF scale was implemented in 2007, damage surveyors found reasons for improvement. They formed a grassroots stakeholder group in 2010 and published a paper in 2013 highlighting areas needing improvement. Then after the Joplin, MO tornado of 2011, an investigation led by NIST recommended that a committee be formed to improve the EF scale. But that’s not all there was to estimating wind speeds. New methods were maturing quickly to estimate winds in severe storms: methods such as Doppler radar, tree-fall patterns left behind tornadoes, probabilistic wind speed analysis forensics, multispectral passive remote sensing, and in-situ observations. Many of these methods can also be applied to other windstorm types.

The committee on Wind Speed Estimation, begun within the ASCE in 2015, is devoted to refining all of these methods into an ANSI standard (American National Standard).  Comprised of engineers, meteorologists, architects, forest ecologists, an arborist, and an emergency manager, we are now deep in the internal balloting phase of the standard’s individual chapters. While the ASCE provides the logistical support for our committee, the AMS was added and the standard co-branded under both organizations. The process by which a standard forms is one of the most rigorous vetting processes known in the STEM fields and often can take a decade or more. We’ve been conducting internal ballots for several years, and this may last a couple more. Once the internal balloting phase is over, the standard goes to a public comment phase.  

The Wind Speed symposium is designed to let you know how and why we have this standards process, how the methods are designed in the standard, and how you can be involved, especially when the public comment period commences. We have a panel discussion at the beginning to give you a chance to engage with the committee, followed by more in-depth presentations on the methods. There are also oral and poster presentations regarding new science coming out that could provide more advances in the standard and its application. We hope to see you there! 

Featured image: Photo of tornado with dust cloud near power lines in Matador, TX, taken 21 June 2023. Image credit: James LaDue.

The Estimating Wind Speeds of Tornadoes and Other Windstorms Symposium will be held Thursday, 1 February, 2024 at the AMS 104th Annual Meeting, in Baltimore and online. Learn more about the Symposium and view the program.

AMS 2024 Session Highlight: WRN Asks “What If…?”

Graphic: WRN Asks "What If...?"

Since 2013, the AMS Symposium on Building a Weather-Ready Nation (WRN) has brought together meteorologists and other Weather, Water, and Climate Enterprise partners to discuss efforts in advancing what it means to be “Weather-Ready.” At the 104th AMS Annual Meeting, for the second year in a row, the WRN Symposium will be opening their program Monday morning at 8:30 AM ET in Baltimore with a special, interactive session: “WRN Asks: What If…?” We spoke to one of the program chairs for this Symposium, Trevor Boucher from the National Weather Service, about why this session is unique and why AMS attendees might want to check it out.

What’s so special about this session, and how did it come about?

Trevor: The design and discussion are both very different from a traditional 12-minute presentation or panel session. Weather Ready Nation Symposium was created shortly after the National Weather Service introduced the WRN Initiative as a forum to share lessons learned, successes, and best practices. After a decade of this pursuit, several recurring themes arose: How do we, the Weather Enterprise, target underserved and vulnerable populations? How do we communicate our science effectively? How do we focus on our publics/partners while also maintaining our own well-being? These provocative questions are not easily addressed through the traditional paradigm of science conferences. Last year, the 11th WRN Symposium looked to an interactive, collaborative strategy to address big societal challenges, hosting a special session called, “WRN Asks: What if…?” which embraced the concept of “transformative learning.” We shifted the focus to collective, group discussion, and critically reflecting on what we’ve all learned since 2013.

This year’s “What if…?” session not only fits into the Annual Meeting’s “Living in a Changing Environment” theme but intentionally asks the provocative “elephant in the room” questions that are difficult to have in a traditional session. We designed this session as a “reverse panel,” where moderators provide a 3-minute “state of the science” with respect to their backgrounds and propose an open-ended, “What if…?” question to the audience. Then their role shifts to moderating audience discussion for the remainder of their 20-minute slot. So you might see notable names on the agenda, but they do the least amount of talking. The audience are the true panelists, sharing their opinions, their knowledge, and their concerns about these questions.

Where did this idea come from?

Trevor: To be honest, the design inspiration and name largely came from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). There is an animated series with the same name that explores how certain character storylines would progress in alternate scenarios or timelines. What would the implications be if certain details of these characters changed? Additionally, the show Black Mirror on Netflix is another inspiration, exploring how some seemingly inevitable technological advancements like AI or cybernetic implants may change our society. Similarly, we wanted to explore “What if…?” scenarios around how our science may look if things progress, change directions, or stay the same.

One of last year’s discussion moderators, Dr. Justin Sharpe, helped us also understand how this style of discussion fits very nicely into the concept of Transformative Learning (Mezirow, 1995, 2000) and engendering critical reflection of the audience. For the chairs, this also helps us reflect on how we craft our scientific discussions each year in our program. The single, double, and triple-loop deutero learning model (below) applies to both the audience and the chairs simultaneously.

Deutero Learning: Single, Double and Triple Loop Learning where single-loop learning is primarily related to considering one’s actions — such as improving efficiency; double-loop learning questions priority-setting, such as how solutions are determined (Argyris and Schön, 1978); and triple-loop learning questions underlying values and assumptions, asking, for example, what our goals may be (Sharpe, 2018, 2021, Sweiringa and Wierdsma, 1992).

The goal for this year’s session is to inspire the following year’s call for abstracts. We will be taking notes on everything discussed from the audience and planning follow-up sessions called “What’s Next?” based on the discussion. We hope people will be excited to contribute to these discussions for years to come.

How did the first “What if…” session go last year?

Trevor: Exceptionally well. Even though it was the first time we tried this and it was the opening Monday morning session of the Annual Meeting, with a LOT of competition for the membership to choose from, we had about 40-50 folks and had no problem with participation. In fact, we had to cut discussions off for all four questions proposed. I honestly think everyone who attended spoke up at some point through the 90-minute session.

My favorite part was an idea from Doug Hilderbrand, the creator of the WRN Symposium. He asked all the students in the audience to raise their hand, and promised they would be prioritized in the discussion, since these topics are likely what they will be grappling with throughout their upcoming careers.

What’s in store for attendees this year?

Trevor: Four new moderators with four new questions! And we have become a bit more emboldened to ask even more provocative questions this year. Some of them are excellent examples of #HowtoStartaMetFight (a popular Twitter hashtag from years ago). I personally can’t wait to see where the discussion takes us. The questions include…

“What if all weather information was probabilistic?”
Dr. Sean Ernst (OU’s Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis)

“What if there wasn’t a stigma when talking about climate change?”
Jared Rennie (Research Meteorologist – NCEI)

“What if we didn’t change anything?”
Dr. Tanya Brown-Giammanco (Director – NIST Disaster and Failure Studies)

“What if there was no ego in the weather enterprise?”
Matt Lanza (Managing Editor – Space City Weather)

I’ve been on all our coordination calls and dry runs with these folks and we have had to cut short our 90-minute meetings each time because we just can’t help but discuss these important questions — and that’s just 6-7 of us. I really think AMS attendees will find it to be an invigorating way to begin their week in Baltimore.

Read more about the session.

About the AMS 104th Annual Meeting

The American Meteorological Society’s Annual Meeting brings together thousands of weather, water, and climate scientists, professionals, and students from across the United States and the world. Taking place 28 January to 1 February, 2024, the AMS 104th Annual Meeting will explore the latest scientific and professional advances in areas from renewable energy to space weather, weather and climate extremes, environmental health, and more. In addition, cross-cutting interdisciplinary sessions will explore the theme of Living in a Changing Environment, especially the role of the weather, water, and climate enterprise in helping improve society’s response to climate and environmental change. The Annual Meeting will be held at the Baltimore Convention Center, with online/hybrid participation options. Learn more at annual.ametsoc.org

AMS 2024 Session Highlight: Transition to Carbon-Free Energy Generation

A line of wind turbines

The AMS 2024 Presidential Panel Session “Transition to Carbon-Free Energy Generation” discusses crucial challenges to the Energy Enterprise’s transition to renewables, and the AMS community’s role in solving them. Working in the carbon-free energy sector on research and development including forecasting and resource assessment, grid integration, and weather and climate effects on generation and demand, the session’s organizers know what it’s like to be on the frontlines of climate solutions. We spoke with all four of them–NSF NCAR’s Jared A. Lee, John Zack of MESO, Inc., and Nick P. Bassill and Jeff Freedman of the University at Albany–about what to expect, and how the session ties into the 104th Annual Meeting’s key theme of “Living in a Changing Environment.” Join us for this session Thursday, 1 February at 10:45 a.m. Eastern!

What was the impetus for organizing this session?

Jared: With the theme of the 2024 AMS Annual Meeting being, “Living in a Changing Environment,” it is wonderfully appropriate to have a discussion about our in-progress transition to carbon-free energy generation, as a key component to dramatically reduce the pace of climate change. But instead of merely having this be yet another forum in which we lay out the critical need for the energy transition, we organized this session with these panelists (Debbie Lew, Justin Sharp, Alexander “Sandy” MacDonald, and Aidan Tuohy) to shine a light on some real issues, hurdles, and barriers that must be overcome before we can start adding carbon-free energy generation at the pace that would be needed to meet aggressive clean-energy goals that many governments have by 2040 or 2050. The more that the weather–water–climate community is aware of these complex issues, the more we as a community can collectively focus on developing practical, innovative, and achievable solutions to them, both in science/technology and in policy/regulations. 

Jeff: We are at an inflection point in terms of the growth of renewable energy generation, with hundreds of billions of dollars committed to funding R&D efforts. To move forward towards renewable energy generation goals requires an informed public and providing policy makers with the information and options necessary.

Required fossil fuel and renewable energy production trajectories to meet renewable energy goals. Graphic by Jeff Freedman, using data from USEIA.

Since now both energy generation and demand will be dominated by what the weather and climate are doing, it is important that we take advantage of the talent we have in our community of experts to support these efforts. We are only 16 years out from a popular target date (2040) to reach 100% renewable energy generation. That’s not very far away. Communication and the exchange of ideas regarding problems and potential solutions are key to generating public confidence in our abilities to reach these goals within these timelines without disruption to the grid or economic impacts on people’s wallets.

What are some of the barriers to carbon-free energy that the AMS community is poised to help address?

Jeff and John: From a meteorological and climatological perspective, we have pretty high confidence in establishing what the renewable energy resource is in a given area. .. We have, for the most part, developed very good forecasting tools for predicting generation out to the next day at least. But sub-seasonal (beyond a week) and seasonal forecasting for renewables remains problematic. We know that the existing transmission infrastructure needs to be upgraded, thousands of miles of new transmission needs to be built, siting and commissioning timelines need to be shortened, and we need to coordinate the retirement of fossil fuel generation and its simultaneous replacement with renewables to insure grid stability. This panel will discuss some of the potential solutions we have at hand, and what is/are the best pathway(s) forward. 

On the other hand, meeting the various state and federal targets regarding 100% renewable energy generation also implicates other unresolved issues, such as:  how will we accelerate the necessary mining, manufacturing, and construction and operation by a factor of nearly five in order to achieve these power generation goals? Not to mention how all this is affected by financing, the current patchwork of … regulatory schemes, NIMBY issues, and a constantly changing landscape of policy initiatives (depending on how the political wind is blowing–sorry for the pun!). And of course, there is the question of the “unknown unknowns!”

What will AMS 104th attendees gain from the session?

Nick: Achieving the energy transition is fundamental for the health and success of all societies globally, and indeed, may be one of the defining topics of history books for this time. With that said, the transition to carbon-free energy will not be a straight line, and many factors are important for achieving success. This session should provide an understanding of the current status of our transition, and what obstacles and key questions need to be overcome and answered, respectively, to complete our transition.

Header photo: Wind turbines operating on an oil patch in a wind farm south of Lubbock, Texas. Photo credit: Jeff Freedman.

About the AMS 104th Annual Meeting

The American Meteorological Society’s Annual Meeting brings together thousands of weather, water, and climate scientists, professionals, and students from across the United States and the world. Taking place 28 January to 1 February, 2024, the AMS 104th Annual Meeting will explore the latest scientific and professional advances in areas from renewable energy to space weather, weather and climate extremes, environmental health, and more. In addition, cross-cutting interdisciplinary sessions will explore the theme of Living in a Changing Environment, especially the role of the weather, water, and climate enterprise in helping improve society’s response to climate and environmental change. The Annual Meeting will be held at the Baltimore Convention Center, with online/hybrid participation options. Learn more at annual.ametsoc.org

Be There: The AMS Student Conference

Photo of Melissa Piper, Angelie Nieves-Jimenez, and Dillon Blount seated next to each other.

The 23rd Annual AMS Student Conference, which takes place 27–28 January (immediately prior to the AMS 104th Annual Meeting in Baltimore), spotlights research by graduate and undergraduate students in the atmospheric and allied sciences, as well as offering networking and other career opportunities, presentations from leaders in the field, and the chance to hone important skills. We spoke with Conference Co-Chairs (pictured above, left to right) Melissa Piper of SUNY Albany, Angelie Nieves Jiménez of Colorado State University, and Dillon Blount of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee about what students will gain from the conference experience.

What’s behind this year’s Student Conference theme?

Melissa: This year’s Student Conference theme is “It’s Our Turn: Tackling Our Changing Environment.” We wanted to adapt the Annual Meeting theme (“Living in a Changing Environment”) to align with the rapid, multi-faceted changes students in the atmospheric sciences currently face. As students, our personal environments are constantly changing: we are going to school, moving for internships, and facing the unknowns of post-student life. On the flipside, our generation is entering adulthood in the face of a climate crisis. As we enter the workforce, we will be faced with developing solutions, conducting research, and adapting with our local communities to climate change. We hope that this year’s Student Conference can help prepare students to tackle these complex changes in all aspects of our lives.

What’s distinctive about the AMS 2024 Student Conference, and who should attend?

Melissa: The Student Conference is planned solely for students, by students from a variety of universities, backgrounds, and interests—so the conference is relevant to current students in the atmospheric sciences. There are professional development and networking sessions alongside research presentations constructed with students in mind (so no presentations that require you to have a PhD to understand!). Even better, the Student Conference Poster Session provides all students the opportunity to present their research at a reduced cost compared to the AMS Annual Meeting. A separate conference [also] gives students an opportunity to meet their peers from all around the world. This is especially important because we will all be each other’s colleagues in a few years!

While most tend to think of the Student Conference as being tailored to undergraduate students, we are making conscious strides in ensuring our conference is relevant to graduate students as well. We have sessions geared towards professional development, discovering lesser-known sub-fields in the atmospheric sciences, networking, jumping out of academia, and more!

Angelie: Additionally, the Career Fair on Saturday and Sunday nights is focused primarily providing students with information about internships and graduate school opportunities! We partner up with the Board of Early Career Professionals to bring professional development sessions for all stages.

The Student Conference takes place prior to the bigger AMS Annual Meeting, which can help students loosen up and prepare for the rest of the week and know what to expect. It also can serve as a trial of whether they wish to pursue the atmospheric sciences further.

Dillon: A conference geared towards students is a great way to get the students involved in the overall community of the American Meteorological Society. As students, we can often feel overwhelmed by the larger Annual Meeting and how to build a network throughout the week. This conference provides a great toolbox to use throughout the week to network and build community. This inclusion of students, and the resources gained at the Student Conference, allows students to help shape the future of the AMS.

What events at the conference are you most excited about?

Angelie: I am excited about the new Community Based Science Session which is inspired by what was previously known as the BRAID (Board on Representation, Accessibility, Inclusion, and Diversity) Session. This year we are focusing on presenting and highlighting the actions taken behind some of the amazing community initiatives.

Dillon: I am most excited about the Sunday keynote speakers! It is not often that students get the opportunity to hear from the top two leaders of the National Weather Service. Ken Graham and Michelle Mainelli’s leadership provides a great insight into what the future of that career field looks like. They are wonderful people, and I cannot wait to hear what they have to share!

Melissa: One of my favorite parts of the Student Conference is the Conversations with Professionals session. This year, we have an incredible lineup of 10 professionals from the private, public, and policy sectors for our students to have informal conversations with—including meteorologist-in-charge of the National Weather Service in Baltimore Mr. James Lee, director of the AMS Policy Program Dr. Paul Higgins, and broadcast meteorologist for WBAL-TV in Baltimore Ms. Ava Marie. It’s a fantastic networking experience!

In Short: Why Attend the AMS 2024 Student Conference?

AngelieDillonMelissa
“The 2023 AMS Student Conference provides a space for students to expand their network, advertise their work and build their confidence as they gain experience in the workforce.”“The student conference provides students the opportunity to explore different careers and opportunities after school whether this includes graduate school or a job. There is a vast amount of experience and advice provided at this conference, from a variety of perspectives from early to late career professionals.”“The Student Conference goes beyond research presentations and the exploration of different careers → it gives you the opportunity to build your toolbox on skills like networking, having a healthy mindset, and technical skills.”

About the AMS Student Conference

The 23rd Annual AMS Student Conference will take place 27-28 January 2024, the weekend leading into the main AMS 104th Annual Meeting in Baltimore. The Student Conference provides opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students to broaden their horizons, cultivate new skills, hear from leaders in the weather, water, and climate enterprise, and network with fellow students and professionals. Attendees also have the opportunity to participate in workshops to help with their professional development, attend the Graduate School and Career Fair to help with planning the next step in their career, and gain valuable experience by presenting their work at the Student Conference Poster Session. Students can attend the conference in person in Baltimore as well as virtually. Learn more and view the program.

Be There: The Kuo-Nan Liou Symposium

Highlighting Key Sessions at AMS 2024

The Kuo-Nan Liou Symposium at the 104th AMS Annual Meeting will celebrate Dr. Kuo-Nan Liou (1943-2021), a giant in the field of atmospheric physics who made crucial contributions in the areas of atmospheric radiation, remote sensing, and the greenhouse impacts of clouds and aerosols. Liou (pictured at right, image courtesy of Penny Jennings), received numerous accolades during his career, including the AMS’s Carl-Gustaf Rossby Research Medal and Charney Award, and he was part of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change team who received the Nobel Peace Price in 2007.

We asked Symposium Co-Chair Ping Yang, University Distinguished Professor and David Bullock Harris Chair in Geosciences at Texas A&M University, about the Symposium and Dr. Liou’s impact. Here are some of his answers:

Dr. Kuo-Nan Liou (image credit: Penny Jennings)

Why are the areas of Dr. Liou’s research so important to understand right now?

As one of the most accomplished atmospheric scientists in the world, Dr. Liou made seminal contributions to atmospheric and climate sciences in many areas, particularly in atmospheric radiation. His radiative transfer model has been widely used in weather and climate models and satellite remote sensing implementations, and thus plays a central role in determining the radiation budget of the earth-atmosphere system and cloud-aerosol-radiation interactions and feedback in a changing world.

Radiative transfer is important because almost all the energy that drives the Earth’s atmosphere and ocean currents originates from the sun. Therefore, the climate of the Earth-atmosphere system is mainly determined by the radiation balance at the top of the atmosphere and the surface since radiation is the only mechanism by which the Earth-atmosphere system gains or loses energy.

What can attendees expect from the Symposium?

This symposium honors the legacy of Dr. Kuo-Nan Liou by bringing together researchers to share knowledge, foster collaborations and address current challenges in the fields where Dr. Kuo-Nan Liou left a lasting impact. Attendees, both in-person and virtual, can benefit from gaining insights into the latest research and advancements in these areas. Session topics include “Interactions Among Climate, Radiation, Clouds, Aerosols, and Surface”, “Radiative Transfer Theory & Spectroscopy,” “Remote Sensing of Clouds, Aerosols, and Surface Properties,” and “Light Scattering and Applications.” The Symposium will provide a platform for networking and engaging with experts and a forum for disseminating cutting-edge research findings.

The Symposium will delve into the forefront issues within these research areas. Noteworthy presentation topics include the lidar remote sensing of snow depth and density, sub-millimeter-wave remote sensing of ice clouds, Tibetan Plateau snowpack loss and its connection to extreme events, and more.

The first session aligns with the central focus of the 2024 AMS Annual Meeting, “Living in a Changing Environment.” It features invited speakers Drs. Ruby Leung, Dennis Hartmann, V. Ramaswamy, Zhanqing Li, Jonathan Jiang, and Yongkang Xue. 

How did Dr. Liou influence the fields of atmospheric and climate science?

Dr. Liou’s work left a profound mark on the atmospheric and climate sciences due to his seminal contributions to radiative transfer, atmospheric optics, cloud-aerosol-radiation-climate interactions, and remote sensing. He was a pioneering researcher who demonstrated that atmospheric radiation should no longer be consigned to the fringes of meteorology, but instead should take a central place in the new world of climate science.

His book, “An Introduction to Atmospheric Radiation,” now in its second edition (with the first edition published in 1980), has been an invaluable resource for students and researchers around the world studying atmospheric radiation and its applications in climate science and remote sensing. Accepting the Rossby Medal in 2018, Prof. Liou talked about how his own early-career exposure to books like Chandrasekhar’s “Radiative Transfer” and Born & Wolf’s “Principles of Optics” spurred his innovations. For example, his simplified solutions for understanding solar and heat energy transfer problems, and his application of geometric optics to understand the scattering, absorption, and polarization properties of soot aerosols and irregular ice crystals.

He also humbly thanked his graduate students at the University of Utah and UCLA, saying, “They deserve to share, in equal measure, any recognition I have received, including this great honor from AMS.” We, the organizers of the Symposium, in turn are grateful to Dr. Liou. Along with his exceptional impact on the atmospheric sciences, he was a true role model as a leader and educator.

Kuo-Nan Liou receiving the Carl-Gustaf Rossby Research Medal at the 2018 AMS Annual Meeting and celebrating with his family, students, and colleagues. Photos provided by Liou Symposium co-chairs.

The Kuo-Nan Liou Symposium will be held Tuesday, 30 January, 2024 at the AMS 104th Annual Meeting, in Baltimore and online; it will feature invited presentations and a poster session, along with a special luncheon. Learn more about the Symposium and view the program.