WRAL WeatherCenter Blog

AMS Seattle: Talking about the weather

Posted January 23, 2011 3:20 a.m. EST

While the 91st Annual Meeting of the American Meteorological Society (AMS) doesn't officially begin until Monday, a number of conference-related activities got underway today.  I was a part of two of these, the 10th annual Student Conference and a first-of-its-kind joint workshop between the AMS and the National Communication Association (NCA).  The day concluded with a reception and Career (and graduate school) Fair for the hundreds of students in attendance.  (I am proud to say that my alma mater, NC State, was well-represented at the Fair and the Student Conference.  Great job!)

Talking Social Media with the Student Conference

The Student Conference opened this morning with four talks on the topic of professionalism, of which I gave the first.  In addressing professionalism and social media, I encouraged the nearly 500 students in attendance to treat social media as an interactive conversation.  That conversation is held in the public sphere and is recorded, and once something is put out there, it can be passed along without the control or knowledge of the source.  That makes it critical that we get our facts straight and that we ensure we are willing to share any opinions with anyone and everyone, not just those with whom we are Tweeting or Facebooking online.  Once it's out, whether it is a faulty news report, a half-baked hypothesis, or an off-hand comment better left unsaid, there's no putting that cat back in the bag.  Better not to let him out in the first place!

NCAR Scientist: Live "a Life of Excellence"

Dr. Sheldon Drobot, a program manager with the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and a fellow alumnus from the Weather and Society * Integrated Studies (WAS*IS) program, gave the students guidance on how to live their lives as scientists in the "real world".  He discussed his experiences from the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) Leadership Academy.  He was definitely the most quotable speaker of the morning, sharing such gems as:

  • When all else fails, perseverance prevails.
  • Clarity is power!
  • Ask powerful questions.
  • People don't care what you know until they know you care about them.

Hot Topics in Local (to the conference) Weather

The second session focused on weather specific to the Pacific Northwest.  Opening his talk, Dr. Nick Bond from the University of Washington (or "U-dub" as the locals refer to it) said that "real meteorologists" like snow, and that anyone claiming to be a meteorologist who doesn't like snow should "have their badge taken away".  (I think Greg might concur with the spirit of that idea, if not the letter, right?)  He talked about the various ocean-atmosphere interactions and cycles, such as the El Niño/La Niña Southern Oscillation (ENSO) in the Pacific contributes to various patterns of weather.  One big takeaway from his talk: While these and other such patterns (like two we deal with back home, the Arctic Oscillation and the North Atlantic Oscillation) can predispose us to a particular kind of weather, they do not guarantee it nor preclude events that don't fit the pattern.  In other words, El Niño events often correlate with active, wet, and stormy winters along the Pacific coast, but that won't mean there won't be stretches of quiet, pleasant weather, either.

We're Not Just Talking About the Weather

After a break for lunch, I headed over to the first ever workshop on integrating weather, climate, and communication.  This brought together meteorologists as well as some of the pre-eminent scholars in the field of communication to discuss how we "talk about the weather" and how we can go about doing that better.  This first day of the workshop was very well-attended, and there were some lively discussions.  One topic that struck a nerve was the idea between a watch, a warning, and advisory; another is the concept of using computer models to assign probabilities to tornado and severe thunderstorm warnings.  I suspect we will revisit these topics tomorrow when we come back together in small groups, and I am excited to see what comes of the small-group discussion.

King of Tides

Weather here in Seattle was quite nice today.  We had what I would call a partly cloudy day with a good amount of sunshine.  Temperatures this afternoon were pleasantly cool, topping out around 50° for most of the area.  This made walking between various buildings downtown for lunch quite pleasant.  Other than a stretch of generally nice weather in the forecast for next week, people are talking about the upcoming king tides.  That's a term given to the highest tides of the year.  As you know, the moon's gravity is the primary driver of ocean tides, but the sun's gravity contributes, too.  Most of the time the sun's contribution is minimal and canceled out by the moon's pull, but this time of year, the sun and moon are aligned such that both gravitational pulls work in concert to create exceptionally high tides.  These king tides will cause some flooding along coastal areas, and locals are gearing by moving property to higher elevations and piling up sandbags.

The Toteboard

In light of my comment yesterday about how this isn't one meeting but about two dozen running simultaneously, and to give you an idea of just how much there is to absorb, I thought I'd keep a tally of how many of this or that I'm doing while I am here.  I'll update this with daily and running totals through the week.

  • Talks given: 1
  • Talks heard: 15
  • Sessions chaired: 1
  • Time spent perusing exhibits, posters, and displays: 1 hour 15 minutes

More to come!