Great Lakes Meteorology Conference

Recently I was invited to speak at the Great Lakes Meteorology Conference.

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Paying the great lake of Michigan a visit.. This is the southernmost tip of the lake.. So much fresh water!

This is a conference run by the Northwest Indiana chapter of the American Meteorological Society and National Weather Association. The theme was Breaking Boundaries and Building Leaders. I have always wanted to visit Valparaiso University. It is home to the well known Python teacher and Evangelist Kevin Goebbert.  It also has a great reputation for producing graduates who end up going far in their chosen profession. One challenge for this trip: It is in the middle of a dry (alcohol free) month for me in the lead up to Barry Roubaix. Now, maintaining alcohol abstinence at home is one thing, doing so while on the road is another thing altogether. In the evenings at a hotel I love to unwind with some TV and a beer.

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Valparaiso University Teaching Radar

Also, I came down with a killer cold the week before. But with the power of antihistamines and lots of vapor drops I drove on down to Indiana. I grabbed some cheap Thai on the Friday night, and relaxed with a diet Pepsi and a bag of crisps.

I am also in the middle of training for Barry Roubaix which means early mornings, which also meant I was up at 5am on Saturday morning. Great chance to explore the university town and take some photos of the Valpo teaching C-Band Dual Pol Radar! It is very notable for a University to have its own weather radar. Let alone one that does not have a graduate program. This is one thing the fascinates me. Another benefit of the University is a University town brings good businesses, notably: Coffee! A Latte later and I headed to the conference. Attending the first few talks it quickly became apparent the tone of my talk, to be delivered later in the day, was off. I planned to talk mainly on open radar science and then pivot to leadership.

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Forecast exercise using historic data. These students were simulating the NWS Chicago office.

Most presentations (from very distinguished presenters) made leadership the prime focus. I had equations in my talk! My favorite part of the conference was the forecast exercise organized by the local student organization the Valparaiso University Storm Intercept Team (VUSIT). This took me back to my days at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology when I was undergoing forecaster training and we would run Real Time Displace Scenarios (RTDS) which used a program to parcel data out as it would be received by the forecast office. I even got to teach the students a little about the perils of radar doppler velocity alaising!

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Your’s Truly delivering my presentation to the students.

Eventually it was time for my talk. I ended up skipping some of the science and instead focusing on how open source communities build the best leaders. I reiterated to the students that “Leader” is not a job title but a state of mind and if folks wait until they have “Leader” in their position description to display leadership qualities they probably should not be the ones “in charge”. Open source community projects are a great poster child for this point of view. The best packages (think: MetPy) are not run by high executives some where. They are managed, led and promoted by high character front line coders and developers. These developers manage to lead and orchestrate very large groups of people. Leaders to aspire to and leaders I implored these young students to use as role models.

Just a Walk To And From School

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Your’s Truly walking to School

After hearing that the teacher we are working with, walks to and from school I decided to give it a shot this morning! And it was a nice mild one for it at only -25ºc (-13F). The route is 0.8 miles, but I took a wrong turn and ended up walking to the east of the School. That was a little intimidating as it became a little more rural and polar bears were foremost in my mind (my heart rate was nice and high for the walk). In the end I did just over a mile on Strava. A nice way to start the day. The only real failure was not equipment, it was, as my eyes watered a bit in the cold, my eyelashes developed quite the ice accumulation making it hard to blink.

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What I assume is the northernmost US Post office on Earth.

We observed one class in the morning and had some discussions on how the students were learning pattern recognition. Since I had so much fun walking to School (beats the hotel treadmill) I decided to do a repeat performance and walk home! The whole thing seems so novel to a lower 48 ‘er like me but folks here were going on like normal, kids getting off the school bus. We had freezing fog today so even at 1:30pm the light was dull. But, good news, THE SUN COMES BACK TOMORROW! I hope the fog clears enough for us to see it!

Head North Until You Run Out of Land

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Yours truly in the big smoke

The motivation for starting this blog is to have a creative outlet for long form content. This was nucleated by a work trip to Utqiagvik (Barrow) Alaska on a project we are sub-contracting to the Concord Consortium on an NSF eduction grant called Precipitating Change. So what is so exciting about Barrow Alaska? For starters it is home to an ARM Research site, the Northernmost of its fixed network. Second it is the Northern-most city in the United States at 71.29 North, well above the Arctic circle. Yes, it will be dark the whole time we are there.. Well we will get some twilight.

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Barrow at 2pm Courtesy University of Alaska http://feeder.gina.alaska.edu/webcam-uaf-barrow-seaice-images/current/image

And this makes for some very interesting meteorology. In places where the sun comes up we are used to the normal daily dance of the ground heating up and an equilibrium developing between warm air at the surface and colder air above. There are eddys that form that transport heat that develop a change in temperature with height (~1 degree per 100 meters). But no sun = some very funky temperature profiles! This effectively decouples layers of the atmosphere from the surface allowing for great cloud structures as talked about by Dr Joseph Hardin at last years ERAD.

More on the great weather (it’s actually looking ok for our trip with temperatures when we land around -19ºC) later. This trip is to observe 8th graders at the North Slop Borough Middle School interact with a curriculum we have been developing. The key to the curriculum: using the weather to teach computational thinking. Students observe weather phenomena, specifically large-scale circulations (Highs, Lows, Fronts), how they move and build forecasting rules of thumb. They reason out what should happen next at their location: Should it get warmer? Colder? Wetter? Dryer? Our plucky team (part of the larger project) is led by Meridith Bruozas from Educational Programs and Outreach at Argonne National Lab. I am not an education expert.. but I do ok at outreach. So this is new territory for me, both professionally and geographically. I am uncomfortable and I could not be happier!

 

Welcome

Welcome to an experiment in providing some long form thoughts on a variety of subjects. The contents of this blog will be ~70% professional with the occasional thought that varies away from work, but always related to things open and things to do with the sky.