Heliophysics school celebrates 10th anniversary

October 6, 2016 | For the past decade, hundreds of students from all over the world have come to Boulder for a week each summer to learn about connections between the Sun and Earth, including the physics of space weather.

Called the Heliophysics Summer School, the program is funded by NASA and managed by UCAR Visiting Scientist Programs (VSP).

Climate postdocs build community, stretch comfort zones

October 5, 2016 | It's early in a four-day program in Steamboat Springs, and 15 postdoctoral fellows in climate science are being nudged out of their comfort zones.

The night before, eight of the recently minted Ph.D.s jousted in a debate over whether planning for climate adaptation makes it less likely that individuals and communities will take action to reduce carbon emissions.

3D-printed weather stations fill gaps in developing world

BOULDER — Scientists have successfully installed the first wave of low-cost weather stations that are designed to provide critically needed information to farmers and other residents in developing countries. The stations are built largely with 3D-printed parts that can be easily replaced if they wear out in the field. They were created by weather experts at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and its managing entity, the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR). The first five stations, newly installed in Zambia, are beginning to transmit information about temperature, rainfall, winds, and other weather parameters. These measurements and the resulting forecasts can provide weather information for local subsistence farmers deciding when to plant and fertilize crops. They can also alert communities about floods and other potential disasters. A newly installed weather station at the Salvation Army's College of Biomedical Sciences in Chikankata, Zambia. The sensor on the left (with the funnel) is a specially designed tipping bucket rain gauge; the vertical, vented cylinder on the vertical arm of the station is a radiation shield containing temperature, humidity, and pressure sensors; and the horizontal cylinder protruding out the back contains a single-board computer. A wind vane (left), solar light sensor (middle), and three-cup wind anemometer (right) are mounted on the upper arm.  The station is powered by a single solar panel and a backup battery. (©UCAR. Photo by Martin Steinson. This image is freely available for media & nonprofit use.) "It’s a major opportunity to provide weather information that farmers have never had before," said NCAR scientist Paul Kucera, one of the project leaders. "This can literally make the difference when it comes to being able to feed their families." The scientists will next explore the need for low-cost weather stations in other developing countries. The project is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development's Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance and the U.S. National Weather Service. “The bottom line is that 3D-printing will help to save lives,” said Sezin Tokar, a hydrometeorologist with U.S. AID. “Not only can they provide countries with the ability to more accurately monitor for weather-related disasters, the data they produce can also help reduce the economic impact of disasters.” Lack of observations Like many developing countries, Zambia does not have detailed forecasts, partly because weather stations are scarce. The density of stations in Africa is eight times lower than recommended by the World Meteorological Organization. Building out a network can be prohibitively expensive, with a single commercial weather station often costing $10,000 to $20,000, plus ongoing funding for maintenance and replacing worn-out parts. To fill this need, UCAR and NCAR scientists have worked for years to come up with a weather station that is cheap and easy to fix, and can be adapted to the needs of the host country. The resulting stations are constructed out of plastic parts that are custom designed and can be run off a 3D printer, along with off-the-shelf sensors and a basic, credit card-sized computer developed for schoolchildren. Total cost: about $300 per station. Best of all, the host country can easily print replacement parts. "If you want a different kind of wind direction gauge or anemometer, or you just need to replace a broken part, you can just print it out yourself," said project co-lead Martin Steinson of UCAR. "Our role is to make this as accessible as possible. This is entirely conceived as an open-source project." Building out a network Working with the Zambian Meteorological Department and other agencies, Kucera and Steinson installed the first stations earlier this year—three next to radio stations that will broadcast the information to local communities, one by a rural hospital, and one by the headquarters of the meteorological department. The meteorological office will take over the project later this year, with a goal of building out a network of 100 weather stations across Zambia. They will also have the 3D printers, materials, and training to maintain or upgrade the network. The weather station measurements are accessible to local meteorologists and also transmitted over wireless networks in real time to NCAR. After all the weather stations have been installed, scientists will develop a system of one- to three-day regional forecasts for Zambia using the NCAR-based Weather Research and Forecast (WRF) computer model. The forecasts, in addition to helping farmers and other residents, can also alert the country to the threat of impending floods or other weather-related disasters. The system will ultimately be transferred to the Zambian Meteorological Department to run the forecasts. "The objective of the project is to transfer the technology so this will be run by Zambia," Kucera said. Once the technology has been established in Zambia, Kucera and Steinson will turn to other nations that need additional weather stations, such as in Africa or the Caribbean. In addition to improving local forecasts, the additional observations can eventually make a difference for forecasts globally because computer models everywhere will have additional information about the atmosphere. "We’re hearing a lot of interest in using this technology in other countries," Kucera said. "It’s really quite a return on investment." Writer:David Hosansky, Manager of Media Relations

Helping postdocs find their own path

| Postdoctoral researchers have a lot of specialized scientific knowledge. But transitioning into the next phase of life can be daunting.

With that challenge in mind, nearly 70 National Science Foundation geoscience postdocs from around the country received tailored career development services last week at a first-of-its-kind workshop hosted by NCAR/UCAR.

The 2 1/2-day workshop included expert-led sessions on career management, work-life balance, proposal writing, communication, job interviewing, and salary negotiation.

3D printers promise affordable weather stations for the developing world

July 22, 2015 | A well-knit network of weather stations is critical to making accurate regional forecasts and understanding the long-term impacts of a changing climate. But in parts of the developing world, working weather stations are few and far between. Fixing the problem could require significant international investment, extensive training of technicians, and a bevy of costly meteorological equipment—or maybe just a 3D printer, some off-the-shelf sensors, and a cheap, credit card-sized computer developed for school kids. Technologists Kelly Sponberg and Martin Steinson think the latter is a possibility for filling in the often substantial distances between high-tech weather stations in places like Africa, where the density of stations is eight times lower than recommended by the World Meteorological Organization. Sponberg and Steinson develop new tools for the meteorology community through the Joint Office of Science Support (JOSS), a program of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. Paul Kucera, an NCAR scientist, holds a wind direction gauge while checking connections and cables for a prototype 3D-printed weather station at a test site outside Boulder. The vertical, vented cylinder at right is a radiation shield containing temperature, humidity, pressure, and altitude sensors. The funnel on the left contains a specially designed precipitation gauge. The horizontal cylinder protruding out the back contains a single-board computer. (©UCAR. Photo by Carlye Calvin. This image is freely available for media & nonprofit use.) In countries where resources are tight, it's been a long-term challenge to come up with the funds to pay for weather-observing equipment. Even when money is provided, sometimes by international organizations, it's not uncommon for a broken piece of equipment to stay offline since local technicians rarely have the training or specialized parts needed to come up with a fix. JOSS has been focusing on this problem for years. One past solution involved installing high-end consumer weather stations, each costing around $1,000. These relatively inexpensive installations were good enough to provide some basic observations, but they weren't customizable. When they started to fail, parts couldn't be replaced because the manufacturers had long since quit making them. So Sponberg and Steinson turned their attention to building a weather station that is affordable, made to order, and easy to fix. "It's the right time for something like this," Sponberg said. "There's an explosion of cheaper and cheaper sensors, cheaper and cheaper computing systems, and cheaper and cheaper manufacturing technologies, like 3D printers. All we had to do is bring it all together." Print it, use it, break it—print it again The result is the Micro-Manufacturing and Assembly (MMA) project. The idea is to print the pieces of the weather station—which would vary depending on what the national meteorological service in a particular country wants—plug in off-the-shelf sensors, and use Raspberry Pi, a tiny low-cost computer originally developed by a nonprofit foundation to teach basic coding, as the station's brains. The price of parts and materials is about $200 per weather station. Funding for the project comes from the U.S. Agency for International Development. As pieces break, or a country's meteorological service decides it wants to tweak or expand the station's capabilities, new parts can be printed and sensors can be easily upgraded. "This is an open source project," Sponberg said. "You can design the station and build it yourself, and, after a few years, if you decide you want the anemometer to work better or in a different way, for example, you have the tools to just print that yourself." For the last year, a prototype 3D-printed station has been put through its paces—enduring rain, snow, wind, and the sometimes unrelenting Colorado sunshine—at UCAR's Marshall field site south of Boulder. So far, the materials seem to be holding up well. Once the prototype has proven both sturdy and reliable, the plan is to begin deploying stations in the field, perhaps late this year. Determining where stations are installed, however, will be as important as how well the stations work. For a project to be successful, the local community has to support it, Sponberg and Steinson said. Getting buy-in from the local community requires understanding local needs and how better weather observations—which can ultimately create better local forecasts—can help meet those needs, they said. Involving the community in the design process is also essential. The team is focusing on Zambia for the initial location because they've worked there in the past and can tap into existing relationships to make sure the community is involved. "The community needs to value the weather observations and the weather station," Sponberg said. "The observation network will only survive if there's a human network behind it." UCAR's Martin Steinson examines a rain gauge, one of the key weather station components produced by 3D printing. (©UCAR. Photo by Carlye Calvin. This image is freely available for media & nonprofit use.) Writer Laura Snider Contact David Hosansky Funder U.S. Agency for International Development

Inside the national assessment

May 22, 2014 | You’ll often find staff from UCAR’s Joint Office for Science Support working to keep field projects and conferences running smoothly. This month JOSS found itself in the spotlight with the release of the 2014 U.S. National Climate Assessment.

Meteorology across the Taiwan Strait

When two nations are at odds, scientists are sometimes among the first who can bridge the gap. During much of the Cold War, Walter Orr Roberts—the founding president of UCAR and first director of NCAR—maintained connections with a number of colleagues in the USSR and visited there often. Richard Anthes, who served as UCAR president from 1988 to 2012, was among the first U.S. scientists to visit China as tensions between the countries began to ease. Careful planning and some last-minute diplomacy were needed in 1989 to produce the first major meeting between atmospheric scientists from Taiwan and mainland China. As Anthes explains below, UCAR was a key part of the story. Rick Anthes • January 24, 2014 | I recently participated in the Hong Kong Meteorological Society’s 25th Anniversary Conference on East Asia and Western Pacific Meteorology and Climate, held in Hong Kong last November 2–4. It was an especially meaningful occasion for me, because in 1988–89 I helped organize and sponsor what would be the first open meeting between meteorologists from mainland China and Taiwan since the Communist revolution in 1949. Participants from two key Hong Kong meetings: (top) the International Conference on East Asia and Western Pacific Meteorology and Climate, held July 6–8, 1989, and (bottom) the Fifth Conference on East Asia and Western Pacific Meteorology and Climate, held November 2–4, 2013. The latter meeting also commemorated the 25th anniversary of the Hong Kong Meteorological Society. Here are high-resolution versions of the 1989 and 2013 group portraits. (Photos courtesy Hong Kong Meteorological Society.) The meeting was held in Hong Kong, a neutral venue at the time because Hong Kong was still a British Crown Colony. (It was transferred to China on July 1, 1997.) As a nongovernmental, science-based, academic organization, UCAR played an important role in making this meeting possible under an extremely difficult political climate. My friend and colleague C.P. Chang, who was then a professor at the Naval Postgraduate School, recently wrote a fascinating history of this first meeting: “The beginning of meteorological exchange across the Taiwan Strait – Recollection of an ice-breaking event two decades ago.” (See English translation [PDF]) C.P.’s essay provides a rare and unusually candid look into the politics and personalities of leaders of the meteorological communities on both sides of the strait at this time, and the courage of a few individuals to take risks in order to start building a bridge between the two scientific communities. Getting beyond “no” In the 1960s and 1970s, the political climate across the Taiwan Straits was extremely hostile. The visit of a delegation of the American Meteorological Society to China in 1974 was a milestone in establishing a somewhat normal relationship between U.S. and Chinese meteorologists. But contact between mainland Chinese and Taiwanese meteorologists was difficult because their meteorological societies were closely associated with government weather services. The Taiwanese government staff was strictly prohibited against contacting anyone from the mainland, and vice versa. In his essay, C.P. writes of one consequence of these hostilities: “In 1979, [Taiwan president] Chiang Ching-kuo issued the official directive of ‘three No’s’ policy for participants of international conferences or activities in which people from the mainland also participated: No contact, No negotiation, and No compromise. As encounters with mainland counterparts in international scientific conferences became inevitable, the three No’s policy had caused too many awkward moments for Taiwan scientists. Mr. Wang Chi-wu, National Science Council’s Vice Chairman in charge of international cooperation, tried to modify the directive to another rather amusing “three No’s” for scientists in international meetings only: No contact, No handshake, and No avoidance. Namely, Taiwan scientists should not have contact with mainland counterparts, yet they should not been seen as withdrawing. This of course created even more awkward situations so that most people ignored at least one of the three.” One meeting within another The July 1989 conference was the first organized scientific meeting of the two meteorological communities, but it was held under the cover of an international meeting on East Asia and Western Pacific meteorology and climate. Its origins go back to 1987, when internationally renowned professors Tao Shiyan and Ding Yihui (Institute for Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing) approached Patrick Sham (director of the Royal Observatory Hong Kong, now the Hong Kong Observatory) to explore whether the observatory might host the meeting. This proved impossible, since the government of Hong Kong was very much opposed to being involved in any activity between Taiwan and mainland China. However, Patrick Sham (who happened to be the first Chinese director of the observatory during the period of British rule), personally supported the idea of a rapprochement between the meteorologists of both sides. To enable and host such a meeting, the nongovernmental Hong Kong Meteorological Society was created, and the meeting was designed as a gathering of individual scientists, rather than national representatives. C.P. Chang at the November 2013 meeting. (Photo by Rick Anthes.) Because of the ongoing tensions, C.P. Chang could not take a visible lead in organizing or supporting the meeting from the U.S. side. He contacted me in 1988 to see if UCAR, as a nonprofit academic organization, would take this leadership role. C.P. knew that I had made several visits to both the mainland and Taiwan since 1982 and had good relations with leading meteorologists in both places. So I welcomed the opportunity to help with the meeting. I contacted Karyn Sawyer (now the director of UCP’s Joint Office for Science Support, JOSS). Karyn had extensive experience in international projects involving the mainland and Taiwanese meteorologists. She enthusiastically agreed to help, and her Joint International Climate Projects/Planning Office, the predecessor of JOSS, provided some crucial funding to the new Hong Kong Meteorological Society to support their organization of the meeting. Organizing a meeting between mainland and Taiwanese meteorologists back then was challenging enough in “ordinary” times, but the difficulties associated with this first meeting exploded with the June 4, 1989, incident at Tiananmen Square, which occurred just a month before the meeting was scheduled to occur. Already-high tensions rose even further, as all international exchanges were suspended by the mainland government and travel across the border between the mainland and Hong Kong border was banned. For a time it appeared certain that the meeting would have to be cancelled. Indeed, in late June mainland Chinese authorities officially notified Karyn that the meeting was postponed indefinitely. The easy path would have been one of graceful acceptance and regrouping to try again sometime in the future. But C.P. did not give up. He plunged into many lengthy negotiations by phone, often in the middle of the night, with Zou Jingmeng, administrator of the State Meteorological Administration (now the China Meteorological Administration), as well as other leaders in China. Many mainland scientists did not have home telephones, which made the process even more challenging. At first it looked as if these intensive negotiations had failed. But in mid-June, less than two weeks before the meeting was scheduled to begin, Karyn received word from the mainland Chinese that the conference was back on as scheduled. She immediately sent a telegram to C.P.: “Conference resumed, to take place 6 to 8 July as scheduled.” As C.P. recalls, “This was a big and certainly pleasant surprise!” Chi-ming Shun, director of the Hong Kong Observatory, and Rick Anthes (right), at the November 2013 meeting. Behind Anthes is a roster of previous directors of the observatory, which was established in 1883. (Photo courtesy Rick Anthes.) The meeting was very successful, leading to three more meetings that UCAR helped organize and sponsor, including one each in Hong Kong; Jungli, Taiwan; and Hangzhou, China. The proceedings of these four meetings were published by the World Scientific Publishing Company; the fourth one became the basis of the inaugural volume of the World Scientific Series on Asia-Pacific Weather and Climate, launched in 2000. Progress borne out of uncertain times The fragility of the times in China in the days after Tiananmen Square and the precarious nature of this meeting—the only external scientific meeting allowed by the Chinese government that summer—was illustrated by an anecdote shared at last fall’s 25th anniversary conference. One of the mainland participants told C.P. that when their delegation boarded the airplane from Beijing to Hong Kong to attend the 1989 meeting, they found that the plane was empty. The dozen of them were the only passengers for the whole flight. Despite the enormous change in the political environment in the region from 1989 to 2013, the interactions among the people attending the two meetings were remarkably similar.  Relations were not only cordial and respectful but, perhaps surprisingly, warm.  Difficult subjects were avoided; topics of conversation, as at most meteorological conferences, centered around science, families, personal interests, and of course the weather (Typhoon Krosa was affecting Hong Kong at the November 2013 meeting). During the 25th anniversary conference, the Hong Kong Meteorological Society awarded honorary membership to six scientists for their contributions to the successful organization of the 1989 conference and the establishment of the society. C.P. and I were the U.S. recipients. The others were Ding Yihui from mainland China, Ching-yen Tsay from Taiwan, and Patrick Sham and Chiu-ying Lam from Hong Kong.  A note of thanks I wish to acknowledge the extraordinary leadership of a number of people who created the historic meeting a quarter century ago. Positions are those as of July 1989. C.P. Chang (professor, Naval Postgraduate School) Zou Jingmeng (administrator, State Meteorological Administration) Tao Shiyan and Ding Yihui (professors, Institute for Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences) Patrick Sham and Chiu-ying Lam (director and senior scientific officer, Royal Observatory Hong Kong) Ching-yen Tsay (chairman, Atmospheric Sciences Department, National Taiwan University)  

AMS honors four staff members, board chair

October 9, 2012 | The American Meteorological Society tipped its hat to four NCAR and UCP staff members—and the head of UCAR’s Board of Trustees—last week with the announcement of the society’s 2013 award winners. All winners will be honored in January at the AMS Annual Meeting in Austin.

Making the U.S. tornado-ready

February 6, 2012  •  Imagine your cellphone going off at midnight, with this message blinking on the screen: Between 1:00 and 1:30 a.m., there is a 50% chance that a tornado will pass within two miles of your house. The National Weather Service can’t offer that level of precision right now. But an NWS project gaining steam could bring us considerably closer to longer-range, probabilistic tornado warnings by the year 2020. The tornadoes of 2011 extended into autumn: a series of twisters struck the Southern Plains on November 7, including the one pictured above near Manitou, Oklahoma. Later that day, the first November tornado in state history to be rated EF4 destroyed an Oklahoma Mesonet station (pictured below) near Tipton. (Wikimedia tornado image by Chris Spannagle; damage photo © Oklahoma Mesonet.) Such warnings are now issued when a tornado is present or imminent, based on radar signatures and/or naked-eye reports. The name of the ten-year Warn-on-Forecast project signals a paradigm shift: the idea that some warnings could be issued via high-resolution computer models that would predict a thunderstorm’s evolution down to the fine-scale development of a twister itself. Conveniently, it’s the most destructive and deadly tornadoes that could lend themselves best to the Warn-on-Forecast approach, because they emerge from the kind of well-organized, long-lived supercell storms that models are increasingly skilled at depicting. Yet it’s far from clear how best to turn the coming wealth of data into words, numbers, and images that will grab the eyes and ears of the public and motivate people to act. “Warn-on-Forecast is the way to a safer future if we can figure out how to implement it,” says Tim Spangler, director of UCP’s COMET program. Spangler was one of nearly 200 professionals who spent three days exploring the perils and potential of new warning approaches for severe weather on December 13–15 at a meeting in Norman, Oklahoma, coordinated by UCP’s Joint Office for Science Support. It was the first in a series of “national conversations” being conducted by NOAA as part of Weather-Ready Nation, an initiative launched last summer in the midst of 2011’s varied weather disasters. These included the deadliest single U.S. tornado in more than 60 years (the Joplin, Missouri, twister on May 22 that killed at least 158 people) and the most prolific one-day tornado swarm ever recorded (the 2011 Super Outbreak of April 27, which produced around 200 tornadoes in 24 hours). Eleven themes from the December workshop for improving the effectiveness of tornado warnings Integrate meteorology and social science Foster physical science improvements Address dissemination issues Ensure community resilience Address warning performance issues Improve the forecast process Increase standardization Improve public education Clarify hazard communications Strengthen collaborations Address human concerns “If there is one word to describe Weather-Ready Nation, I would say it is a mindset,” said NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco in a message to workshop participants. “Do people hear and understand the information we think we’re providing? And do they respond in ways that protect themselves and their property, whenever possible?” The December workshop drew an uncommonly wide range of experts. A large contingent of social scientists was on hand, along with meteorology researchers, communication specialists, emergency managers, private weather forecasters, and others. “It was the first meeting that I’ve attended where physical and social scientists were on equal footing,” said NCAR director Roger Wakimoto, a longtime tornado researcher. “Indeed, the social scientists dominated the discussion at several of the sessions I attended. This was both refreshing and important if we want to achieve a weather-ready nation.” The eleven themes emerging from the meeting were equally wide-ranging (see box). “There were many good ideas in each category,” said John Ferree, severe storms services leader for the NWS and one of the workshop organizers. Scenes from the workshop:  (top) a journalist interviews John “Jack” Hayes, director of the National Weather Service; (middle) Russell Washington (Federal Emergency Management Agency) addresses a breakout group; (bottom) physical and social scientists joined forces with public safety specialists and others for plenaries and breakouts. (Photos by James Murnan, NOAA Weather Partners.) One message, many actions Just as 2005’s Hurricane Katrina was well forecast yet catastrophically deadly, the tornadoes of 2011 killed hundreds despite the NWS’s best efforts. Everyone in the path of the most violent twisters had been alerted via a tornado watch as much as six hours in advance. And in each case, warnings were issued as much as 30 minutes or more ahead of the tornado’s arrival. What went wrong? Bad luck was partially to blame. Last year’s tornadoes were exceptionally strong and numerous, and many happened to strike populated areas. However, post-storm surveys confirmed a longstanding finding: many people don’t take cover right away upon hearing a tornado warning. Having seen other watches and warnings come and go without incident, they may choose to wait until the alert is confirmed in some other way—the blast of a siren, a call from a neighbor, or a glimpse of the tornado itself. An NWS assessment found that many residents of Joplin postponed action until the massive tornado and its 200-mph winds were only moments away. Many of the ideas discussed in Norman involved using GPS-based technology to make warnings as specific and coordinated as possible, thus reducing the false-alarm impression that lulls so many into danger. The NWS already uses an automated system that extrapolates the motion of high-risk storms to give an initial estimate of the area at risk. This area is then edited by the warning forecaster and disseminated as a polygon that identifies the locations in its path. These polygons, often shown on weathercasts, are converted into the text-based, county-oriented warning statements read by radio hosts and scrolled across TV screens. Instead of this “on or off” approach (you’re either in a warning or you’re not), the Warn-on-Forecast method would assign probabilities, with the greatest risk toward the center of the area and decreasing probabilities outward from the center. These would be calculated with the help of storm-resolving computer models—some with resolutions of 250 meters (810 feet) or less—that will soon be practical for everyday use. Such models would also assimilate up-to-the-minute data from radar and other sources. In the conceptual model of Warn-on-Forecast, a tornado warning might include probabilities (shaded) that a tornadic signature on radar will affect a particular area, as well as the timing of greatest risk (dashed lines). (Image courtesy Warn-on-Forecast.) Tornado science may be outrunning society, though. Even today’s less-complex warning messages aren’t getting to the public in a consistent way. Municipal sirens are sounded by city staff based on funnel-cloud sightings and other cues that may not match NWS warnings. An increasing fraction of the public doesn’t speak English. And the poorest Americans, those most likely to live in mobile homes and other high-risk structures, are also least likely to carry the smartphones that could be the favored warning delivery devices of tomorrow. As one workshop participant put it, “We can’t pass a law that requires everybody to carry a smartphone.” Among the many ideas floated for addressing these and related problems: using the wide variety of NWS offices and locales to explore different warning strategies taking advantage of social media for storm reports and warnings (the NWS launched its first Twitter feed in 2011, and many tornado damage reports came in through NWS Facebook pages) crafting wording that conveys a spectrum of risk, including the “tornado emergency” tag now used for the most dire threats considering incentives for better home construction, such as a “storm-worthy” designation along the lines of Energy Star efficiency ratings for appliances using GPS-oriented warning data to trigger municipal sirens and other devices, as is now done with NOAA Weather Radio embedding social scientists and stakeholders in NOAA testbeds and inviting forecasters and social scientists to shadow each other Next steps “For me, a large outcome of the workshop was the recognition that in order to save lives, many of the primary actions needed are outside the purview of the weather community,” said economist Jeff Lazo, head of NCAR’s Societal Impacts Program. SIP’s Julie Demuth agrees: “I’m optimistic that we may be seeing the beginnings of a true paradigm shift.” The dialogue launched in Norman will continue at a town hall meeting in January at the annual meeting of the American Meteorological Society (AMS), where participants will be briefed on key priorities identified at the workshop. NOAA will also hold additional symposia, town halls, and other events in 2012 under the Weather-Ready Nation umbrella. “Social science is not a quick fix, and our work takes time and other resources,” noted Heather Lazrus, an environmental anthropologist now on a postdoctoral appointment at NCAR. “We need to understand better how people communicate, understand, and evaluate risks and how they make decisions that may keep them safe.” Lazrus and others, including AMS senior policy fellow William Hooke, emphasized the need to build on existing social-science efforts such as SIP. “We need to strengthen the think tanks we’ve got,” he said. NCAR’s Morris Weisman, who has studied tornado dynamics since the late 1970s, came away from the December workshop encouraged. “We’ve made amazing strides in the science of tornado forecasting and warning. But even if reliable one-to-two-hour forecasts become a reality, it’s not clear how society can or should respond to such information. This meeting was by far the most comprehensive and constructive attempt I’ve experienced at highlighting and promoting such issues.” Video from plenary sessions is available on the workshop’s website. This “word cloud” was created by Greg Carbin, warning coordination meteorologist at the Storm Prediction Center, to summarize key themes from the closing break-out sessions of the Weather-Ready Nation meeting held in December 2011. (Image courtesy Greg Carbin.)


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