It’s All In The Detail

This post is the viewpoint of myself, Scott Collis, and does not represent the views of the United States Department of Energy

Dear readers, I have some exciting career news. For the next twelve months I am going to be detailed, at 25% of my time, to the Department of Energy’s Office of Science. I will be reporting to the division director of the Earth and Environmental Systems Sciences division (EESSD).

EESSD logo used in reports and other materials.

While I have not started yet and the full scope will be determined collaboratively with my DOE colleagues, the first projects I will be tackling will be related to the DOE BER Research Development and Partnership Pilot (RDPP) and Reaching a New Energy Sciences Workforce (RENEW) – Earth and Environmental Systems programs. A focus will be on improving access of typically underrepresented groups to the division and generally increasing the presence and visibility of the division to all scientists. So many of us who have been funded by EESSD for many years know the structure of DOE programs and their funded activities can be difficult to navigate and many of us have benefitted from having others help us understand the myriad of opportunities at DOE.

This old model does not lend itself well to increasing the diversity of EESSD science. If we are going to attract the attention of scientists at typically underrepresented institutions (eg HBCUs and MSIs) we must aid in the navigation of EESSD. This will be achieved with improved clarity of language, having clear and welcoming points of contact, round tables and outreach efforts.

In my view, this work is essential as unintentionally limiting (and to labor the point, not by design) EESSDs science teams to well resourced and well connected institutions the Office of Science will not have the diverse workforce it needs that allow diverse ideas to flourish. Who knows? The next great earth scientist who solves big problems like warm rain onset, representing ice bearing clouds in climate models accurately or how the world’s carbon stocks will change in a changing climate may be sitting somewhere at an institution that has yet to engage with DOE.

2022 ARM/ASR Joint User Facility and PI Meeting – Day One

Impromptu poster session with Monica.

Well, kind of day half! Woke bright (dark) and early at 4am for the 7am flight from O’Hare to the nation’s capital. After a smooth travel day I arrived at the very familiar Rockville Hilton with a small posse of Argonne Scientists.

The isolation (albeit easing) through the pandemic changes one’s brain chemistry. I have not been in a place where so many people know me and I know so many people in a very long time. Furthermore there are people here I have developed professional relationships with via zoom during the pandemic and now I meet them here in glorious, high def, lag free, three dimensions!

Team Argonne-ARM selfie!

One such person is Dr Monica Ihli from Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Monica was plugged into the ARM Facility after the start of the pandemic and she has been working closely with Max Grover (an RSE in my group) on data proximate compute as part of our funded work in workforce development. She is working with Max to build Jupyterlab based cyberinfrastructure right up against the many petabytes of ARM data. We even had an impromptu poster session! That kind of interaction does not happen over zoom.

Latest results from the TRACER Aerosol team.

This first, half day, of the meeting had two sessions that necessitated an early morning flight. A session on the TRACER field campaign that just finished. And, in a new innovation a session on emerging technologies. The TRACER session provided an awesome overarching view of the 1 and a half year deployment to Houston. Numerous partners, already 38TB of data in the archive and, at this meeting, 32 posters being presented mere days after the conclusion of the deployment! Some notables for me was the different temporal and spatial scales of the aerosol (those tiny particles that have big impacts) measurements and early efforts to classify and tag storms impacting the region.

Finishing the day with hot pot with friends.

The new and emerging technology was fascinating. So many technologies that, if realized, would be amazing. One technology I have my eyes on is the Snow Pixel by Particle Flux Analytics. It is like a digital camera for measuring snowflakes by sensing when a flake falls on them. And that was one of many, I have a page of notes to follow up on, especially for our plans for the CROCUS measurement deployment.

A great first day, finished up with some hot pot with fiends.. I am slowly regrowing that Science-Social nexus in my brain again that has gone un-fed for a long time.

The ARM ASR Science Team Meeting

A note: This represents the view of a DOE funded scientist, not the Department or any of its programs.

Screenshot from a talk I gave at the ARM meeting 13 years ago!

I did not have an iPhone back in 2009 when I attended my very first ARM Science Team meeting in Louisville, Kentucky. So I have been unable to find any pictures of the event. I did find my old presentation I gave! I arrived in Ky after flight from Australia which got delayed and an unexpected stop over in LA. I arrived barely in time to give a talk on vertical motions in storms!

That meeting was in spring (in the USA) and now we are here in fall 13 odd years later and next week will be first in person ARM-ASR science team meeting since the pandemic started in the USA. I used to work for the Australian Bureau of Meteorology and now I live in Chicago and work for Argonne National Laboratory and my work is a lot closer to ARM’s mission.

Real work gets done. ARM ASR science team meeting in Potomac, March 2013.

I am excited to be back at this meeting in person (in Rockville, Maryland). This will be my first “Programmatic” meeting since the Pandemic began. What is a programmatic meeting? you ask. Well funding bodies like programs within the Department of Energy’s Office of Science will provide support to universities, laboratories etc the same way programs in, say, the National Science Foundation will but they are more mission driven. Programs, like the Atmospheric Systems Research, or ASR, program, need those funded by them to work together.

Breakfast to Beer. Science all day. Tyson’s Corner, 2018.

The science ASR seeks to tackle (making our simulations of the planet more accurate and useful for the nation) can not be achieved by any one investigator. ASR forms working groups and special task forces and these groups meet, along with those who manage the programs, imaginatively called… wait for it… Program Managers, meet once a year. These meetings have many purposes but three are: To allow for DOE supported and associated scientists to understand the needs of the programs (ASR and the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement, or ARM program) and closely aligned programs, to allow the program managers listen and gain a deeper understanding of the breadth of science their programs fund and to allow everyone to interact, learn and forge new collaborations.

The last in person ARM ASR Science Team meeting. North Bethesda, June of 2019.

It is an exhausting week. In some years I have had days containing 7am breakfast meetings right up to 8pm science, dinner and a beer meetings. It is the one time all those I work with are in one physical place and it presents unique opportunities. I joke with Louise that it is the only domestic meeting I come back from jetlagged.

The ARM ASR meeting coming up next week is special. It is the first in person meeting in three years and it has been an eventful three years. Much has happened in all our lives, professionally and personally. There will be a lot of catching up. Those who read my blog know of the TRACER field campaign. That has been planned and executed all in this time. I will be heading to the meeting with excitement and an open mind, 13 years after that excited young man traveled to Louisville and his world changed.

Fallen For Fall

Commuting is back!
Great morning for a club ride.

Louise and I were having a discussion about seasons, economics and.. well.. humanity. I am so lucky to be with someone who is so deeply cerebral and who’s proclivities (going deep and philosophical on a subject) match my own.

I posit Australians who have never experienced boreal fall don’t understand just how seasonal and how much Americans revel in seasonality. We were discussing how the fleeting nature and rarity of spring and fall have spawned many celebrations of its passing. While the depths of winter can seem interminable (but not without its special beauty) and the dog days of summer are long, fall and spring seem fleeting and folks seem keen to soak it up.

Spring and fall are also very colorful. The monochrome of winter giving way to the blues, pinks and purples of spring and the green of summer giving way to the flames of fall (Autumn for those of the Commonwealth). The district change in the weather is also a cause for celebration. The first sweet warmth in March and a crisp morning in October.

On fire!

Strangely due to some work and mental health issues, fall to spring are my peak training times. Cycling makes me happy and being happy makes me cycle. I get busy in summer and forget the love of the bike. Come fall I start thinking to spring races and get my behind into gear. I then curse myself for wasting away the warm 5am starts as I shiver in sub-freezing conditions before work (or wimp out and head to the pain cave to Zwift). Ironically fall is my rebirth, perhaps the reason why it holds a special place in my heart.

This year I am targeting an earlier ride than Barry so I am going to ramp up on the Forge Fat Bike race. So the training has started! Well and truly fallen for fall!

CROCUS Academic Partners and Chicago Field Campaigns

The Community Research on Climate and Urban Science (CROCUS) project has twelve (!) academic partners: Chicago State University, City Colleges of Chicago, North Carolina A&T State University, Northeastern Illinois University, Northwestern University, University of Chicago, University of Illinois Chicago, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, University of Notre Dame, University of Texas – Austin, University of Wisconsin – Madison and Washington University in St. Louis.

These partners play a wide range of roles from education and outreach to modeling and, what I will discuss here, bringing state of the art atmospheric observatories to Chicago. I will go into more depth on the CROCUS Measurement Strategy (CMS) later (yes I am kind of doing this backwards). There are two key components: the Chicago Micronet and the CROCUS Comprehensive Field Campaign Strategy (CFCS).

The C-Band On Wheels (COW) radar is part of the UIUC FARM. And it is coming to Chicago!!! Courtesy Stephen Nesbitt.

All partners will play a role in the CFCS. As said in the previous post, CROCUS is inclusive and open. But three partners play an outsized role. Over the course of the five years of the project the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, the University of Wisconsin – Madison and Washington University in St. Louis will be deploying unique atmospheric observational tools in and around Chicago.

Washington University in St. Louis will be deploying state of the art instruments that can detect and analyze the chemistry of tiny particles called aerosols. They will be able to see how these aerosols grow and interact with the urban environment.

The University of Wisconsin – Madison will be brining a systems taylor made to measure how the city interacts with the larger atmosphere. The University of Wisconsin–Madison Space Science and Engineering Center Portable Atmospheric Research Center (SPARC) has some of the best instruments available for measuring how temperature, moisture and winds change with height. This gives our modeling teams what we call “The column”. That is the layer cake of air above the city. This will help us understand how the regional climate influences Chicago and how Chicago influences the climate.

The SPARC trailer. This facility will tell us what is happening in the skies above Chicago. Courtesy Tim Wagner

Finally, The University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign is bringing the Flexible Array of Radars and Mesonets (FARM). This includes the world famous Doppler On Wheels radars which CROCUS will use to get a neighbourhood scale picture of storms that lead to the worst flooding. The current radar networks around Chicago do not adequately capture the spatial resolution of rainfall important to urban flooding the FARM will allow us to zoom in like a microscope to the street level.

All three facilities will address science as identified by our community partners, Blacks in Green, The Puerto Rican Agenda, The Metropolitan Mayors Caucus and the Greater Chatham Initiative. And they will provide unprecedented opportunities for students. Stay tuned! We are a big tent and this is just the start. We also plan to submit a proposal for the ARM Mobile Facility as another building block to create the largest study of the urban environment, ever.

Community Research on Climate and Urban Science

The day has finally come! As is usual with projects funded by the government we find out many weeks ahead we have been funded and are under embargo as the details are sorted out. Let me start by saying to my fellow scientists who were not awarded: I feel your pain. It is unpleasant, to say the least, to work so hard on a vision and be told you can not carry it out (yet).

Charlie Catlett showing a Sage node to Dr Berhe, Director of the Office of Science with Paul Kearns, Director of Argonne National Laboratory.

Community Research on Climate and Urban Science or CROCUS is an Argonne led response to a call for proposals by DoE’s Office of Science. In a nutshell; through modeling and measurements, we will shine a light on climate relevant atmospheric science at the street level IN CHICAGO!

I will be leading the Measurement Strategy Team. We will be doing two very exciting things: Building a network of AI enabled sensors across Chicagoland. This is the Chicago Micronet. And we will be running a series (three) of field campaigns aimed at understanding the urban science behind the three climate elements that impact the people of Chicago: Heat, Water and Air Quality.

Bad air is a result of industry transport and energy, water moves and often where we tell it to through urban hydrological systems and heat KILLS. Heat kills more than tornadoes and is the nation’s most deadly weather phenomena.

Waggle: The cyberinfrastructure that will enable CROCUS!

For the field campaigns (and I almost giggle with excitement) we have partnered with the University of Washington at St Louis, a leader in understanding the science of aerosols (tiny particles, one millionth of a meter across). The University of Wisconsin–Madison Space Science and Engineering Center and their Portable Atmospheric Research Center (SPARC). And The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Flexible Array of Radars and Mesonets (FARM) which includes the famous Doppler on Wheels (DOW)!

This will culminate in the largest, most inclusive, most open, and, most comprehensive study of an urban environment ever on the planet!

Stay tuned for more news including how we will work with partners like Blacks In Green. To our friend in the community who did not fare as well: I feel for you. But, I am personally dedicated to make CROCUS open and welcoming. Come to Chicago, collaborate with us and we will have so much fun equipping the communities in Chicago with the knowledge they need to fight and prepare for climate change.

Engaging With Blacks In Green (BIG)

“There is a deep connective tissue between Argonne and communities in Chicago. This is not shake and bake” – Naomi Davis (paraphrased)

Blacks In Green in Woodlawn, Chicago.

I am writing this post from the Blacks In Green (BIG) green living room garden. I was asked to come here this week to help translate climate science for a coalition of groups fighting for climate energy justice. What is climate energy justice? To reduce our CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions requires change. As does building resiliency against the worst impacts of climate change. Change, at times, means picking winners and losers so when the United States Government, corporations and communities encourage a transition to a clean energy future it must be a just transition.

Readers of this blog will know I avoid politics. In fact I can not be involved in the crafting of policy or political advocacy in my official role due to the Hatch Act. There IS however the Justice40 initiative which directs agencies to ensure 40% of of benefits from clean energy transitions goes to underserved communities.

Shalanda Baker, Director, Office of Economic Impact and Diversity, DOE.

Now, back to my role here. It is threefold: To give a presentation, in the clearest most understandable terms, of the science behind climate change (modeled in the style of Katharine Hayhoe), to make myself available to this community as a resource and, finally, to respectfully and quietly listen and learn the challenges of communities in Chicago when it comes to weather and climate. This is all part of a long term strategy: Argonne in Chicago.

The stunning garden at Blacks In Green’s The Green Living Room.

Furthermore our proposal to the Office Of Science’s Urban Integrated Field Laboratory call has BIG as well as other communities in Chicago as research partners. We have recognized you do not study communities. Communities do not want to be studied! Rather you work with communities as a trusted partner to empower them with the tools then need to understand the earth air and water where they live, how it will be impacted by a changing climate and equip them with the information they need to drive change and achieve a just energy transition.

Curating Weather Simulation Data. Earthcube Workshop in North Dakota.

“Simulation outputs are important but that does not mean we save them forever” – Gretchen Mullendore

This week I have been attending a workshop on data curation (a key part of open science) specifically on developing guidelines on the data produced by weather and climate simulations. Open science is better science! But a blanket “you must save and provide all data” is not only onerous (especially for underserved institutions) but not what is needed for reproducibility and reusability.

So many great minds focused on open science.

First, this post are my thoughts and do not, necessarily, reflect the views of attendees and organizers. There will be a report. There has been a lot written about measurements and measurements can no be recreated. Model data, to a degree, can be regenerated. By sharing workflows those with the appropriate resources can run the models on provided initialization and configuration data. Furthermore the sharing of workflows allows the exploring of the robustness of conclusions to assumptions (sensitivity) and the reuse of the workflow to address new science questions.

Gretchen kicking off the meeting

I really enjoyed the discussions and applaud the team’s focus on designing rubrics as it brings the conversation up a level and enables the clear measurement of the efficacy of solutions. It was also great seeing a huge diversity in the career stage and “flavor” of participants. We had data creators, curators, representatives from three publishers (AGU, AMS and PLOS), data scientists and more!

Susan from the University of Michigan on data curation.

Also, fittingly, lots of discussions around equity. Open science is better science. Journals are increasingly requiring data to be made available (even FAIR) which can create a burden to institutions without the physical and/or workforce to meet these requirements. There have been discussions of carving out exceptions for underserved communities. My perception is that the community here at the workshop pushed back hard against that idea as, as aforementioned, open science is better science. Rather we need to equip those institutions to meet the open science requirements.

Lots of discussions on just how much data should be required to be made available to be open and how long it should be curated for. Again a focus on designing rubrics to guide the process. The focus should be on the goal and be flexible to aid the scientist in achieving open science and reproducibility and also allow the society driven journals in meeting the aspiration of is members.

A nice atmosphere and a nice atmosphere!

It was great to be back in Grand Forks. The University of North Dakota is a great institution that, in the atmospheric science, punches way about its weight. Two of our recent three hires had a background at UND and I very much enjoy my collaborations with the team there. It was also very nice to be there during a dry cool air outbreak in summer rather than a frigid cold air outbreak in october!

SciPy Thoughts

Subtitle, too busy to blog. Just about finished my time here at SciPy and I am both tired and energized. My excitement has not diminished from my first SciPy back in 2012. Great to meet new people and re-meet people that, due to reasons, many of them pandemic related, I have lost contact with.

Good to be back in the ballroom!

My number one take away from SciPy is: How much better organized the community is and how they, more so than any government program I have worked with, pull in the same direction and work in concert across many projects. The impact of organizations like Chan Zuckerberg is clear as is the orchestrating role of NumFocus. Also a thing to watch is the new Scientific Python organization which is aimed at sustainable growth and enhancement of the ecosystem.


The increasing common language of enhancement projects (PEPs, SPECs, ZEPs etc…) and common governance structures is extremely pleasing and what just blows my mind is how this is completely self organized without any kind of edict from above.

The Scientific Python ecosystem is just that, an evolving ecosystem! It is so pleasing watching it evolve to a sustainable track. As Ben Blaiszik said during his keynote, this software is fundamental science infrastructure and while it needs (very much) more financial support from the agencies who’s science it supports (side eye at DOE) it is now in a place where any funds it (the ecosystem) receives will be used for the good of science.

On a technical note some great things I took home were: New, exciting 3D visualization tools, Pangeo forge forges ahead, cool ways to access HRRR as a X-Array like Zarr store from AWS, James Webb space telescope processing runs on SciPy, new ways to manage conda environments for teams and more.

BBQ and storms!

On a professional note, my greatest enjoyment was from seeing the enjoyment of my team three of whom were at their first in-person SciPy. Joe, Max and Bhupendra seemed to completely immerse themselves in the meeting and made new connections. It was also fantastic seeing our ARM collaborators at Brookhaven Lab , Die Wang and Sid Gupta there. This turned into a mini-science meeting as well with new connections made and new work planned. It also is a sign that open science is growing in the programs I love.

On a personal note, it was fun and a little interesting being in Austin during the pandemic. The city’s homeless problem has gotten worse and many businesses are struggling with hiring and some old haunts have gone out of business. I really enjoyed taking advantage of the scooter scheme clocking up 25 miles of low carbon transport.

Great seeing out DOE EESSD funded open science family grow at SciPy.

The news today of NumFocus taking over from Enthought as the organizing entity for SciPy is great news. Enthought has been spectacular and so supportive but having a genuine not for profit will help in many ways. It also opens the opportunity for SciPy not being in Austin. I am genuinely on the fence about this. Whatever the case I hope NumFocus takes a good look at WHY we have these meetings and comes up with some guiding principles. Define what is trying to be achieved, a north star to guide decisions. Then they and the chairs, committee, etc, can keep coming back to those and be forced to justify decisions. I am excited for the future, be it in Austin or elsewhere (note the contract for Austin in 2023 is signed, this does not mean it has to be in Austin but means there is a cost to not having it in Austin).

I’ll finish this blog post by asserting I need to become more engaged in the community. I need to write in folks like NumFocus, Quantsight, 2i2c et al into grant proposals as collaborators as not only are they better positioned to implement workflows I love to use funding them will give back to the tools I love to use. I also need to make more time to contribute code and continue to support my team in contributing to free open community software, critical international science infrastructure.

SciPy 2022. Kid In a Candy Store.

Short update! I am SciPy bound. My first in person conference since, well, the world stopped. So the pandemic is by no means over and there is some controversy (which I will not go into but you can GTS yourself) but that has not dampened by excitement.

My first SciPy. Red pill all the way.

One super exciting thing is three members of my team, Bhupendra, Max and Joe, are heading to their first SciPy.. I remember my first SciPy. It was like a scene from the matrix where I took the red pill and my world changed forever. I have been in “science” for two decades plus and I have never found a community like the Scientific Python community. The smartest and kindest people I have ever met. Genuine and passionate.

Great day for traveling.

I am excited to re-meet many I have met (please please forgive my memory for names, the pandemic has frazzled the skills I had, already meagre, in that area) meet new people and just learn a lot! I remember clearly in 2012, my first SciPy attending and about to give a talk and wondering what to use to format code (at SciPy they show a LOT of code, it is amazing). And I heard about this cool tool called an iPython Notebook. Yeah, before Jupyter.

And that is the amazing thing about SciPy. You are, as Hamilton would say, in the room where it happens. In the very least you are in the hallway outside the room and are the first to know about what happened and use the tools of said happening. Bring It On!