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UVisit: Four questions for Mike Mills

Two weeks on campus yield user feedback, inspire collaboration

Mike Mills
Mike Mills (NESL/ACD) spent two weeks at the University of New Hampshire this summer. See the UVISIT website for details and how to apply. (Photo courtesy Dan Marsh, NCAR.)

October 7, 2013 | UCAR’s University Visits in Scientific Interaction and Teaching program launched in 2013, and the first participants are returning from their time with university partners. We checked in with Michael Mills, a scientist in NESL/ACD who also serves as NCAR’s liaison from the Whole Atmosphere Community Climate Model (WACCM) to the university community.

Mike spent two weeks in early July at the University of New Hampshire, where he worked with UNH faculty and students to provide training on the use of the various community models supported by NCAR.

The next submission deadline for staff interested in UVisit is October 18. The UVISIT website has details and application forms.

What sparked your interest in participating in UVISIT?

My supervisor, Dan Marsh, who is currently doing a UVISIT stint at Columbia University, suggested I participate in the program. Given my role as the community liaison for WACCM, it makes sense from an outreach perspective to take advantage of the opportunity to visit with WACCM model users.

The visit to the University of New Hampshire let me spend one-on-one time with users. I had a chance to see exactly how they were using the model, which gave me a better understanding of their needs, as well as an opportunity to address their questions in person. While at UNH, I also answered questions about the other community models that NCAR supports: the Weather and Research Forecasting model (WRF) and the Community Earth System Model (CESM; WACCM is a component of the CESM suite).

How did you benefit from the experience?

My visit gave me an opportunity to talk to UNH researchers and students about how they were using and how they wanted to use WACCM, including the tools and other community model support that NCAR provides. I got great feedback on our tutorials, and that will have community-wide utility as I incorporate their experiences when refining existing and designing new tutorials. I ran several tutorials on interpreting and visualizing WRF results, and I worked one-on-one with a PhD student to produce WRF-derived visualizations of historical and future effects of climate on New England. I also had a chance to participate in strategizing one group's transition to new modeling experiments.

Is there anything you'd like to share with colleagues that might encourage them to participate in the program?

UVISIT is a good opportunity for collaboration and feedback. In my case, the program offered a chance to better understand where more support for WACCM users might be needed and how to best plan for and deliver that support. It gave me a chance to meet some of the people that I’d heard from within the user community, but had not yet met face to face. And it planted seeds for new collaborations.

How do you think UNH, your host institution, benefited from your visit?

I've been hearing from my hosts that the visit helped the UNH team to better understand the components of the WACCM model, as well as the structure of input and output variables for interpreting and visualizing simulation results. Some of our group discussions resulted in the development of algorithms and pseudocode necessary to use differential energy flux from UNH’s EPREM model at the top of the atmosphere and calculate vertical profiles of energy deposition and ion-pair production in WACCM. We worked together to outline the steps required to port WACCM to the university's new Cray machine, which will provide unlimited ability to test the coupled models in-house. And I created a CESM resource guide that provides UNH students and researchers with easy access to CESM help in the form of online tutorial videos, the CESM forum, and NCAR’s helpdesk within the Computational and Information Systems Laboratory, among other resources.