UCAR Community Programs

Double the data: Putting weather observations in the cloud increases access

May 1, 2018 | Meteorologists and other users accessed more than twice as much U.S. weather radar data after the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) partnered with Amazon and the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) to make the data available in the cloud. The collaboration is part of the NOAA Big Data Project. Launched in 2015, the project aims to make NOAA's vast storehouse of environmental data easier to access with the hope that both the public and industry will find ways to capitalize on it and spur new economic growth. Partners in the project include Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform, IBM, Microsoft, and the Open Commons Consortium. The first dataset chosen for the project was from the Next Generation Weather Radar (NEXRAD) Weather Surveillance Radar system, and the first collaborator to put that dataset in the cloud was Amazon. The entire archive of NEXRAD data, which stretches back to 1991, is now available via NEXRAD on AWS, and Amazon has partnered with UCAR's Unidata program to update the database in real time and to provide the tools users need to make sense of the data. "As a leading provider of geoscience data to universities across the country, it made perfect sense to partner with Amazon to explore how cloud computing can expand our reach and provide new capabilities to our users," said Unidata Director Mohan Ramamurthy. "The success of this project has given us a chance to be a part of what the future of data delivery will look like." In a new paper published recently in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, collaborators describe the project's early accomplishments. Chief among them: users are now accessing 2.3 times more NEXRAD Level II data. This data, collected from 160 sites and updated approximately every 5 minutes, characterizes precipitation and winds from across the U.S. and is an important input for weather forecasts. Prior to the NOAA Big Data project, archived Level II NEXRAD data was stored only at NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI). While this archive represents a critical dataset for researchers interested in large-scale analysis of how weather patterns may have changed over time, in practice it was very difficult to use. In part that's because of its size — about 270 terabytes — and in part because of the time and cost to obtain the files. The authors of the new study estimate that it would have cost $203,310 and taken 540 days for NCEI to fulfill one researcher's request to obtain the entire NEXRAD Level II data archive. Now, scientists can access the data on the Amazon cloud at no charge. As a result, about 80 percent of the NEXRAD data accessed by users now comes from the cloud, and only about 20 percent comes from NCEI. Jeff Weber, who leads Unidata's part of the project, said that this kind of easy, open access to geoscience data "removes the friction" of doing the science. Moving forward, Weber envisions having satellite data and weather model output available alongside the radar data."Once we're able to bring all these components together in the cloud, I think we're going to see a huge leap in the science," he said. "When you make it easier for scientists to just focus on the science — and not worry about accessing and storing huge amounts of data — breakthroughs are bound to happen." The collaboration with Amazon has allowed Unidata to test how scientists will respond to data stored in the cloud. Part of Unidata's long-term vision is to take data that it now pushes out to users across the country and move it instead to a cloud platform. Aside from the benefit of scientists being able to access the data from anywhere, moving data to the cloud also addresses the reality that increasingly complex and high-resolution models and observational instruments are straining the physical capacity to deliver data to individual research institutions. "The data volumes are growing exponentially — they are growing so fast that we can't just keep pushing all of the data out to our users," Ramamurthy said. "But just putting data out there in the cloud isn't enough either. We need to train our community on how to access that data and provide them the tools they need in the cloud to make it as easy as possible to use the data that's stored there."About the articleTitle: Unlocking the Potential of NEXRAD Data through NOAA’s Big Data PartnershipAuthors: Steve Ansari, Stephen Del Greco, Edward Kearns, Otis Brown, Scott Wilkins, Mohan Ramamurthy, Jeff Weber, Ryan May, Jed Sundwall, Jeff Layton, Ariel Gold, Adam Pasch, and Valliappa LakshmananJournal: Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, DOI: 10.1175/BAMS-D-16-0021.1Writer/contact:Laura Snider, Senior Science Writer

Wizards work their magic at Super Science Saturday

December 4, 2017 | A number of new and returning volunteer NCAR Wizards helped make this year's Super Science Saturday a rousing success.

Free family fun at Super Science Saturday: Nov. 4

BOULDER, Colo. — Come learn about our wild weather at this year’s Super Science Saturday on Nov. 4 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Mesa Lab in south Boulder.The free, family-oriented event will feature weather balloon launches and a storm-chasing vehicle. Shows by NCAR wizards will include simulations of lightning and fire tornadoes, a special version of a storm surge with an intrepid reporter on the scene, and a "lightning jellyfish."Local science organizations will be on hand with special activities throughout the building."Weather can be scary, but it's also exciting and fun," said Eileen Carpenter, a science education specialist at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), which manages NCAR. "The more you know about wild weather, the more you can enjoy it while staying safe."Free tickets for the scheduled shows or workshops are available at the door. Snacks and lunch items will be available for purchase in the cafe (cash only). Parking will be limited, so please consider carpooling.DetailsWhat: Super Science SaturdayWhen: Saturday, Nov. 4 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.Where: NCAR’s Mesa Lab, 1850 Table Mesa Drive, BoulderWho:  Activities for the entire family, with events especially focused on children ages 6 to 12.Cost:  FreeA weather balloon launch at last year's Super Science Saturday (©UCAR. Photo by Carlye Calvin. This image is freely available for media & nonprofit use.)

NCAR|UCAR hurricane experts available to explain storm behavior, potential impacts

BOULDER, Colo. — As Hurricane Harvey takes aim at Texas, scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and its managing organization, the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), are closely watching the storm and testing high-resolution computer models.Hurricane experts are available to explain issues such as:How we can better predict the possible impacts of hurricanes, including wind damage, flooding, and subsequent spread of disease-bearing mosquitoes;How people respond to hurricane forecast and warning messages and how risk communication can be improvedWhether climate change is affecting hurricanes and what we can expect in the future;The importance of improving weather models to safeguard life and property.Antonio Busalacchi, UCAR president (please contact David Hosansky for interview requests)An expert on ocean-atmosphere interactions, Busalacchi has testified before Congress on the importance of improving the nation's weather forecasting capabilities to better protect life and property, bolster the economy, and strengthen national security. He has firsthand experience with storms along the Gulf Coast as a part-time New Orleans resident, and he is a member of the Gulf Research Program Advisory Board of the National Academy of Sciences.Christopher Davis, director, NCAR Mesoscale and Microscale Meteorology Laboratory, cdavis@ucar.edu, 303-497-8990Davis studies the weather systems that lead to hurricanes and other heavy rainfall events. His expertise includes hurricane prediction and how computer models can be improved to better forecast storms. His NCAR weather lab is running experimental computer simulations of Hurricane Harvey.James Done, NCAR scientist, done@ucar.edu, 303-497-8209Done led development of the innovative Cyclone Damage Potential (CDP) index, which quantifies a hurricane's ability to cause destruction, using a scale of 1 to 10. It can also be used to examine the damage potential for cyclones in the future as the climate warms.David Gochis, NCAR scientist, gochis@ucar.edu, 303-497-2809An expert in hydrometeorology, Gochis studies the causes of floods and how to better predict them. He helped develop pioneering software that is at the core of the National Water Model. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Office of Water Prediction uses this model to provide a continuous picture of all the waterways in the contiguous United States and alert officials to potentially dangerous floods.Matthew Kelsch, UCAR hydrometeorologist, kelsch@ucar.edu, 303-497-8309Kelsch has studied some of the biggest U.S. flood events connected to hurricanes and tropical storms. He trains scientists and forecasters from around the world on emerging hydrology and weather topics.Rebecca Morse, NCAR scientist, morss@ucar.edu, 303-497-8172Morss studies the predictability of hurricane-related hazards, including storm surge and inland flooding, and hurricane and flood risk communication and evauation decision making.Kevin Trenberth, NCAR senior scientist, trenbert@ucar.edu, 303-497-1318Trenberth is an expert on the global climate system. He has been in the forefront of scientists examining the potential influence of climate change on the intensity of tropical storms and hurricanes and the increased widespread flooding that they cause.Jeff Weber, UCAR meteorologist, jweber@ucar.edu, 303-497-8676As an expert on hurricanes and severe weather in general, Weber closely monitors the behavior of individual storms and the larger atmospheric and oceanic conditions that influence them.

Nationally recognized internship program to reach more students than ever

July 26, 2017 | As a protégé in UCAR's SOARS program during 2003 and 2004, Deanna Hence learned the key skills that would take her through graduate school and beyond, from working with data sets to coping with increasing work demands. Now a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, she credits her college internship in SOARS for her subsequent career success."I would say that SOARS is pretty much 100 percent responsible for me being where I am today," Hence said.SOARS, which stands for Significant Opportunities in Atmospheric Research and Science, tends to get rave reviews from its nearly 200 alumni — about 80 percent of whom have gone on to graduate school and/or careers related to science or math. In just more than two decades, the research and mentoring program led by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) has helped cultivate a new and diverse generation of leaders in the geosciences.As part of its new five-year grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the program is now working to partner with SOARS alumni at universities and develop a network of satellite programs. This will enable the benefits of SOARS to reach more undergraduate students than the 20 or so who participate in each year's cohort, which includes summer research internships at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and other Boulder-area laboratories."We can only accept a limited number of students at NCAR, based on funding and the availability of scientists and engineers who can serve as mentors each year," said Rebecca Batchelor, the director of SOARS. "But now we have the ability to support many more deserving students with the help of our alumni network in the university community."Hence is among the first alumni who will build a SOARS satellite program. The program at the University of Illinois consists of a summer research internship that can be based in Illinois or divided between Illinois and NCAR. Protégés will receive additional support during the year, including guidance on giving presentations, collaborating on research projects, and writing resumes.SOARS protégé Jeremiah Piersante, an atmospheric sciences major at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, shows Deanna Hence results from his research into the diurnal cycle of hail occurrence. (Photo by Jeffrey Thayer.)On the Illinois campus, Hence is recruiting professors and other departmental staff to volunteer as mentors, and the program has begun to enroll the first protégés. This year, one SOARS protégé, Jeremiah Piersante, is spending part of the summer working at NCAR with scientists Sarah Tessendorf (also a SOARS alum) and Roy Rassmussen, and part on campus with Hence. Another protégé, Amy Chen, will begin her graduate research with Hence in the fall."I'm excited about expanding the reach of the SOARS model to our students at Illinois," Hence said. "We want to provide mentoring year round, so students will continue to get consistent support and become more integrated into the department culture."A success from its beginningsLaunched in 1996, SOARS quickly won nationwide attention for its innovative approach to supporting college students interested in atmospheric and related geosciences, especially those from communities underrepresented in the geosciences. In just its fifth year, the program won a Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring.Each protégé has a comprehensive support system that includes research mentors, a writing mentor, a computing mentor, a coach who helps the student navigate unfamiliar territory and stressful situations, and peer mentors. Protégés can participate in the year-round program, including summer internships, for up to four years, bridging the leap from undergraduate to graduate school.More than 120 alumni have earned a master's degree in science or engineering and 40 have earned Ph.D.s.This growing alumni network is powering efforts to reach a new generation of students. For example, Colorado State University's Department of Atmospheric Science has increased enrollment by students from underrepresented groups from 3.5 percent to 16 percent in the last decade, thanks partly to the efforts of a 2005 SOARS protégé, Melissa Burt, who is now the education and diversity manager for the department, as well as a research scientist. The department has taken a SOARS-like approach, with students working on lab research and field campaigns with university faculty mentors and getting early exposure to leadership training.UCAR's satellite initiative goes a step further, ultimately building a network of SOARS programs at universities, led by alumni who are now junior faculty. The NSF grant includes three pilot satellites located at the University of Illinois, the University of Central Florida (led by SOARS alum Talea Mayo), and a third university to be identified later.SOARS staff at UCAR will provide support that may range from helping a department develop career-building seminars on such topics as scientific writing and presentation skills, offering webinars on select issues, or supporting efforts to recruit prospective protégés and mentors."One of the most exciting aspects is we're at a point when we have SOARS protégés who are in leadership positions and now have the ability to bring students into their own institutions," Batchelor said. "So we have this multiplier effect, and that can have a tremendous impact on the next generation of geoscientists."PartnersUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignUniversity of Central FloridaFunderNational Science FoundationWriterDavid Hosansky

Shaping a career in a week

June 9, 2017 | When Christina Speciale was majoring in meteorology at Rutgers University, she knew she wanted to pursue a career in some aspect of the atmospheric sciences. But she wasn't sure what to focus on until she attended the Undergraduate Leadership Workshop (ULW) at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in the summer before her senior year.At the weeklong event in 2010, she enjoyed making connections with meteorology students from other schools and hearing talks by leading NCAR scientists. Something in particular clicked when she saw a presentation by NCAR's Julie Demuth, a social scientist who does research into better communicating the uncertainty of weather forecasts to the public."That's a huge problem in our field," said Speciale, now a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albany, N.Y. "NCAR planted the seed for me on this issue, and to this day it's a big research interest of mine."Christina Speciale in front of the National Weather Service headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland. (Photo courtesy Christina Speciale.)Speciale is one of about 270 undergraduates from across the country who have attended the ULW since its inception in 2002. Every year, the workshop connects students in the atmospheric and related sciences with scientists, engineers, educators, and top managers, exposing them to research areas and career options while training them in leadership and professional skills.So can a one-week workshop really make a difference to aspiring scientists? The answer is yes, according to a new study in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.A team of higher education experts with the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), which manages NCAR on behalf of the National Science Foundation, conducted an anonymous survey of past participants to see if the weeklong workshop had been helpful. The participants overwhelmingly answered that it had."Even if you don't do a research internship, a one-week program can provide career awareness and increased engagement in science, along with a sense of belonging and long-term professional support," said Valerie Sloan, a higher education specialist at UCAR and lead author of the study. "It can be enormously helpful to a student embarking on a career in the sciences."Filling a gapNCAR launched the ULW program to help undergraduate students learn more about opportunities in the fields of atmospheric science and engineering. Studies have shown that many undergraduates don't have a full picture of career options, and not every student can land an internship or devote an entire summer to one in order to gain that knowledge.To fill this gap, the ULW introduces about 20 students, most of them juniors, to various types of research at NCAR, as well as to options for graduate schools and careers in weather and climate. The workshop includes sessions on leadership skills and professional development, such as working in teams and communicating clearly. The participants then share the information with other atmospheric science students at their schools.A total of 269 students from more than 70 universities have taken part.To assess the impact of the workshop on student careers and better understand which program elements have been most helpful, Sloan and her co-authors designed an online survey and brought together focus groups of former students.The survey, which had a response rate of 61 percent of those students for whom contact information was available, showed that the workshop had made a substantial impact on the participants. Some 98 percent of the survey respondents saw the program as a valuable or very valuable experience. In addition, 90 percent said the workshop "provided an experience that helped to prepare me professionally," 84 percent said it "increased my confidence in my ability to pursue my career," and 71 percent said it helped them "decide to go on to graduate school."At least 75 percent have jobs in the atmospheric sciences, working in academia, government agencies, or private and nonprofit organizations. Several alumni are weather forecasters. One reported working as a pilot in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Corps, and another as a bathymetric scientist in the Naval Oceanographic Office.The Undergraduate Leadership Workshop introduces students to various aspects of the atmospheric sciences, including the role of research aircraft such as the NSF/NCAR C-130. (©UCAR. Photo by Valerie Sloan. This image is freely available for media & nonprofit use.) For some alumni, one of the most important aspects of the program is building confidence. "For the first time since high school, I am not afraid of my future," said one recent workshop participant after hearing from several professionals about their often-indirect career paths.UCAR's Tim Barnes, an educational specialist who helped launch the workshop in 2002 and co-authored the new paper, said it has been gratifying to see how much it's helped aspiring scientists."One of the important aspects that we focus on is providing a safe space for the students to be vulnerable and ask questions – not just specific questions about science, but life questions as well," he said. "I think that's made a big difference. It's helped students think more about some major issues, like what's important to them and how they want their careers to unfold."The paper concludes that a short workshop, while not as enriching as a summer internship that offers hands-on research, can nonetheless confer significant benefits. The workshops are particularly helpful if they include career information, conversations with scientists, team-building activities, and communication and leadership activities, the authors found."Based on these findings, we hope that workshops of this scale may be considered at other research centers or in atmospheric science programs so that more students can benefit from this type of training and support," the paper concludes.Original alumnusThe results come as no surprise to an alumnus of the first workshop in 2002. Joel Gratz applied to the workshop because, even after meteorology internships at a TV station and a research lab, he wanted to get a view of the entire spectrum of job opportunities in the atmospheric sciences. The experience introduced him to new directions in the field as well as helping him weed out options that did not excite him.Gratz now runs his own weather company, OpenSnow.com, that issues weather forecasts and powder alerts for skiers and others looking for information about snow conditions across the northern hemisphere. He says the ULW and the American Meteorological Society's annual student conference are the two experiences, outside of the classroom, that were most useful and motivational during his undergraduate and graduate years."I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for these experiences," he said. "The ULW solidified my feeling that meteorology was the career for me while also identifying ways that I could impact the science."About the articleTitle: Long term Impacts of a Career Development Workshop for UndergraduatesAuthors: Valerie Sloan, Rebecca Haacker, Tim Barnes, and Carolyn BrinkworthJournal: Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, DOI: 10.1175/BAMS-D-15-00214.1WriterDavid Hosansky, Manager of Media Relations 

Raising forecasting skills in Africa and beyond

May 9, 2017 | Africa is particularly vulnerable to extreme weather, affecting food and water security and public health. In 2016 alone, Nigeria and South Africa suffered droughts, and Ethiopia's highlands were battered by floods.But African meteorologists have been hindered by a relative dearth of weather observing stations and a lack of access to good forecast tools and training.That's where the African Satellite Meteorology Education & Training Project, or ASMET, comes in. For 20 years ASMET, co-managed by the University Corporation of Atmospheric Research's COMET program, has helped fill the gaps by providing training to African forecasters on how to use satellite data to improve weather forecasts.Part of the African Satellite Meteorology Education & Training Project team that met in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2013. (Left to right) Ignatius Gitonga Gichoni, Kenya Meteorological Department; an unidentified visitor; Abdoulaye Ouerdraogo, African School of Meteorology and Civil Aviation, Niger; Vesa Nietosvaara, EUMETSAT ASMET project manager; Hama Hamidou, EAMAC, Niger; Jannie Stander, South African Weather Service; Joseph Kagenyi, KMD; Lee-ann Simpson, SAWS; and Marianne Weingroff, COMET ASMET project manager. (Photo courtesy Kenya Meteorological Department.)The project is funded by EUMETSAT (the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites), which provides the equipment to download satellite data and the data itself to African meteorological services. EUMETSAT is an intergovernmental organization of 30 European countries."Radar and observations are very limited in Africa, so the main way that forecasters get weather information is through satellite imagery. ASMET develops training on how to use it," said Marianne Weingroff, an instructional designer and COMET's project manager on the international ASMET team."The overall goal of ASMET is to reduce the impact of weather-related disasters in Africa," added Vesa Nietosvaara, ASMET project manager with EUMETSAT.The project began in 1997 when COMET conducted a nine-month training program on the instructional design process at UCAR for four meteorology instructors from the regional meteorological training centers in Kenya and Niger. They produced the first ASMET lessons and have played an instrumental role in bringing new people onto the project as it has expanded to include the weather services in South Africa and Morocco. The team selects topics of regional significance and develops the lessons, many of which are case studies.Since its inception, the ASMET team has produced 20 self-paced learning lessons, offered online and on CDs, in English and French. The lessons have been viewed in 8,100 user sessions in 164 countries, indicating an interest far beyond Africa.Building a better forecastThe lessons focus on satellite image interpretation.  It can be difficult, for example, to distinguish cloud types, and yet such interpretations can be critical in predicting storms. Beyond analyzing satellite images for general weather forecasting, the lessons cover the forecasting of high-impact events such as tropical cyclones, drought, floods, and even aviation weather.ASMET data, such as this rainfall distribution map, recently helped Kenyan forecasters prepare for a drought. (@COMET Standard Terms of Use.)"There were concerns about aviation forecasts in Africa, so several years ago we created a series of case studies to teach forecasters how to improve them by using satellite imagery to predict different types of aviation weather, such as fog and clear air turbulence," Weingroff said.Ignatius Gitonga Gichoni, an ASMET team member with the Kenya Meteorological Service, said ASMET has had a clear, positive impact on forecasting."A good example is the current seasonal drought that affected most of Kenya and neighboring countries," he said. "The forecast for the season, which we call the 'long rains' of March, April, and May, indicated rainfall at depressed levels. We issued alerts and reminders to the authorities so everybody would be aware of the impending situation. "Rallying a diverse group around shared goalsHenk Verschuur, the first ASMET project manager at EUMETSAT, cited the vitality of the program over the years. "It must be remembered that most of the team members work on ASMET outside their regular duties, which makes its longevity and success even more remarkable," Verschuur said.Both the COMET and EUMETSAT ASMET program managers say that the different cultural and religious backgrounds of the team members have made for colorful discussions. At one team meeting, Weingroff recalled, members pored over Google Earth, looking to see where everyone was from, down to their neighborhoods and even houses."For some, it was a huge deal just to finish elementary school and be selected to attend high school. Nevermind advanced training," Weingroff said. "Their lives are complex, with some working extra jobs to make ends meet, etc. I've never known people from such profoundly different backgrounds who work together with such comaraderie and dedication. We work hard but also enjoy each other a lot."Said Bruce Muller, COMET's international manager, "We're really trying to rally a diverse group of people toward the common cause of improving forecasts."Writer/Contact:Jeff Smith, Science Writer and Public Information OfficerFunder:EUMETSATCollaborators:EAMAC/ASECNA (Niger)EUMETSAT (Germany)Kenya Meteorological Department/Institute for Meteorological Training and ResearchMorocco National Meteorology DepartmentSouth African Weather Service 

NCAR to host Air Quality Open House on May 3 in Boulder

BOULDER, Colo. — The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) is marking Air Quality Awareness Week with a family-friendly open house at its Mesa Lab in southwest Boulder from 5-8 p.m. on Wednesday, May 3.A "brown cloud" of smog seen over Boulder, Colorado. (©UCAR. This image is freely available for media & nonprofit use.)The free hands-on event will provide opportunities for visitors to learn about air pollution: what it is, how it's measured, what its impacts are, and how it's regulated. Visitors are encouraged to come with questions, and scientists will be on hand to provide answers, about air quality in general and Colorado's Front Range in particular."This will be everything you ever wanted to know about air quality," said Eileen Carpenter, an education specialist at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), which manages NCAR. "We've partnered with organizations from around the region to bring together experts on a diverse range of air quality topics, from monitoring pollution from space to monitoring methane leaks from oil and gas operations right here on the Front Range."Partner organizations include the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the Regional Air Quality Council, GO3–Global Ozone Project, the University of Colorado Environmental Engineering Program, the National Park Service, Ball Aerospace, Boulder County Public Health, and NASA.Activities will include learning how plants react to smog in NCAR's "ozone garden," exploring a mobile air monitoring lab, and participating in experiments designed to help kids understand how air pollution works. Some organizations will also be displaying the instruments they use to measure air quality, and NCAR will host an ask-a-scientist table.During the event, visitors can also check out the permanent air quality exhibit that was recently installed on the first floor of the Mesa Lab. The exhibit explains the different types of pollution — including ozone and particulates — and allows the viewer to interact with a live feed of air quality measurements taken from instruments on top of the Mesa Lab.What: NCAR Air Quality Open HouseWhere: Mesa Lab, 1850 Table Mesa Dr., Boulder, CO, 80305When: 5-8 p.m., Wednesday, May 3, 2017For more information, visit the event website. Writer:Laura Snider, Senior Science Writer and Public Information Officer

From GOES-16 to the world

March 6, 2017 | As atmospheric scientists around the world look forward to seeing extraordinarily detailed images from the new GOES-16 satellite, the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) and National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) are preparing for central roles in disseminating the satellite's data.The first of a series of next-generation National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) satellites, GOES-16 was launched in November and is expected to become fully operational late this year. It will immediately improve weather forecasts with its rapid, high-resolution views of hurricanes, thunderstorms, and other severe events, as well as provide a breakthrough lightning mapping system and more detailed monitoring of geomagnetic disturbances caused by the Sun."Scientists are rightfully excited because this is a revolutionary system," said Mohan Ramamurthy, director of UCAR's Unidata Program. "It's going to truly transform weather forecasting and research."GOES-16 captured this view of the mid-Atlantic and New England states on Jan. 15. (Image by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.) Data from GOES-16 will be transmitted to a new downlink facility at the NCAR Mesa Lab. Unidata, which provides data, software tools, and support to enhance Earth system science education and research, will then make that data widely available.  As the only open-access and free source of GOES data in real time, Unidata's services have become indispensable to scientists as well as to operational forecasters in regions that lack their own downlink facilities, such as parts of Latin America.In addition, NCAR's Earth Observing Laboratory (EOL) will produce customized data products from GOES-16 to support field campaigns. EOL currently uses observations from GOES satellites and other sources to help scientists make critical decisions as they're taking measurements in the field.More data than everFor years, NCAR and UCAR have provided real-time data from a series of NOAA satellites known as GOES (Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite). These satellites, which provide views of the Americas and adjoining ocean regions, are part of a global network of satellites whose observations are shared by forecasters and researchers worldwide.But the advantages of GOES-16 also create new challenges. The satellite has three times as many spectral channels as its predecessors, each with four times more resolution. It can scan the entire Western Hemisphere every 15 minutes and simultaneously generate images of severe weather every 30-60 seconds. All this data will amount to about 1 terabyte per day, more than 100 times the amount of data produced by an existing GOES satellite. And even more data can be expected when NOAA launches additional advanced GOES satellites in coming years.Thanks to a NOAA grant, UCAR and NCAR have installed a direct broadcast receiving station to receive the data, as well as the computers and electronics needed to process and transmit it. In addition to Unidata and EOL, NCAR's Research Applications Laboratory helps operate the downlink facilities for existing GOES satellites and relies on satellite data for the development of specialized forecasting products.The volume of information means that Unidata will continue to move toward making data available in the cloud. It will store GOES-16 data for about 10 days and is in discussions with Amazon over long-term storage options.EOL will customize GOES-16 observations for worldwide field projects, which advance understanding of Earth system science, including weather, climate, and air quality. Such projects deploy teams of scientists with aircraft, ships, ground-based instruments, and other tools. They rely on detailed forecasts and real-time updates about evolving atmospheric conditions."The data from GOES 16 will provide invaluable information for flight planning and decision making during field projects," said EOL director Vanda Grubišić. "This will enable scientists to gather additional observations, further advancing our understanding of the atmosphere and related aspects of the Earth system."EOL will also include the GOES data in their field catalog, along with measurements from field campaigns and other observations. This catalog is widely used by scientists when analyzing results from past campaigns or planning new ones.Other scientists say they are looking forward to the new capabilities that GOES-16 offers."The observations collected by the Geostationary Lightning Mapper on GOES-16 have the potential to help advance our understanding of hurricanes and their intensity changes," said Kristen Corboseiero, a professor in the Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences at the University of Albany-SUNY. "Being able to access this data through Unidata will streamline and expedite our research."In Costa Rica, agencies are planning to use the GOES-16 data from Unidata for weather forecasting and research. In addition, the data will help with monitoring water levels for hydropower to avoid possible power cuts during the dry season, as well as for observing volcanic ash that can affect aviation and farming near San Jose."Several institutions will be using the new GOES-16 data in ways that will help safeguard society from potential natural disasters as well as avoiding energy shortages," said Marcial Garbanzo Salas, an atmospheric sciences professor at the Universidad de Costa Rica (University of Costa Rica). "This is extremely important to us, and we're very pleased that Unidata will be making it available."Writer/contact:David Hosansky, Media Relations ManagerFunder:National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

UCAR staff add climate storybook to Elementary GLOBE's line-up

March 2, 2017 | In a new illustrated storybook, a group of school children travel with a scientist to Greenland and the Maldives to learn about tools used to study climate change and its impacts. After seeing the challenge of melting glaciers and rising seas, the students come back with ideas on how to reduce their own greenhouse emissions.What in the World is Happening to Our Climate? introduces new material to a series of children's adventure science books published by Elementary GLOBE (part of the Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment program).The newest storybook, funded by NASA Langley Research Center, is the product of a partnership between staff in two University Corporation for Atmospheric Research programs: the GLOBE Implementation Office and the UCAR Center for Science Education, or SciEd. SciEd supports the education and outreach efforts of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), which UCAR manages with sponsorship by the National Science Foundation.The climate book is available for download at no charge:Becca Hatheway, SciEd's manager of teaching and learning, said NASA asked UCAR a couple of years ago to create educational resources for children in advance of the installation of the Sage III instrument on the International Space Station to measure ozone and aerosols in Earth’s atmosphere. (Sage III was installed last month).The result was What's Up in the Atmosphere: Exploring Colors in the Sky, a storybook featuring children who learn about the colors of the sky and their relationship to air quality through observations and photos. Hatheway and Kerry Zarlengo, a former elementary school teacher and literacy coach, wrote the book in 2015.During discussions about the air quality project, "we pitched the idea of doing a climate change book as well, and NASA was supportive," Hatheway said. "We've always wanted to do one on this topic — it's in the NCAR wheelhouse."UCAR's Elementary GLOBE's new climate storybook is geared to children in grades K-4. (©UCAR. Illustration by Lisa Gardiner. This image is freely available for media & nonprofit use.)Hatheway co-wrote the text for the climate book with Diane Stanitski, a deputy director at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder. The Elementary GLOBE series, which now numbers seven storybooks, is aimed at introducing K-4 students to Earth system science. The first five books focus on clouds, water, phenology, soils, and the Earth system. NASA is funding an update of those books, some of which are more than a decade old.Books are field tested by teachers, and the modules come with learning activities and a teacher's guide and glossary. The idea is that younger children will be guided in the reading and activities, while older children can learn more independently.Most of the storylines focus on a group of school children who go on adventures to learn and collect data about a topic.Lisa Gardiner, whose role at UCAR includes developing educational resources, has illustrated all of the books in the series. She said the climate book holds special meaning for her."It's at the root of what we do at SciEd," Gardiner said. "A lot of young kids want to know about climate change, but there aren't that many resources for their age group."Gardiner said she tries to make her illustrations as realistic as possible. To learn more about the Maldives, Gardiner asked Alison Rockwell of NCAR's Earth Observing Laboratory for photos from a field campaign several years ago. "I wanted to know what the houses looked like, what the people were wearing."The activities are realistic, too. The climate book's activities include building a model of a coastal community, predicting which features would be at risk of flooding, and then "flooding" the model to see the results.Children learning about wind energy in the new Elementary GLOBE climate storybook. (©UCAR. Illustration by Lisa Gardiner. This image is freely available for media & nonprofit use.)Julie Malmberg, a GLOBE project manager, said the storybooks and learning activities can be downloaded for free, or educators can purchase a hard copy of the entire module for the cost of the printing and binding. She has heard from school officials, such as one in a West Virginia district, using the resources for grade-school teacher training.Most educators, Malmberg said, download the materials. Between 2012-2016, GLOBE recorded 42,533 storybook downloads and 54,197 downloads of learning activities. Do You Know Clouds Have Names, co-authored with NCAR Senior Scientist Emerita Peggy LeMone, is the most popular storybook, while the most popular learning activities are connected to a book called The Scoop on Soils.Hatheway said SciEd plans to provide copies of the climate change and sky color books to teachers who attend its professional development workshops or programs at the Mesa Lab, as well as at conferences SciEd staffers attend. NOAA plans to distribute the climate book at the National Science Teachers Association conference this spring.While the storybooks were developed for the educational community in the U.S., some have been translated into other languages and distributed by GLOBE partners in other countries.The GLOBE Program is an international science and education program that provides students and the public worldwide with the opportunity to participate in the scientific process and contribute to understanding of the Earth system and global environment.Writer/contactJeff Smith, Science Writer and Public Information Officer   


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