Russ Schumacher is an assistant professor in the Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University where he teaches and does research in mesoscale meteorology. His academic focus is on extreme precipitation events and flooding. But his interest in such extremes doesn’t end there. He wants to use that knowledge to make the world a safer place. Towards that goal he’s convened a group of graduate students “undertaking research on some aspect of extreme precipitation, flooding, floodplain management, engineering, societal and behavioral aspects of precipitation or floods, etc., with an interest in multidisciplinary approaches and perspectives” to participate in a “Studies of Precipitation, flooding, and Rainfall Extremes Across Disciplines (SPREAD) workshop.”
The workshop’s interesting features are not limited to the multidisciplinary participants or the acronym. The week includes an in-depth look at case studies, with a special focus on the Big Thompson Canyon flood of 1976. The group will make a field trip to the site and hear perspectives from several speakers, including Eve Gruntfest, a social scientist who made a career of studying that flood and who is currently working with the NSF Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences. Ms. Gruntfest also was a leader in the WAS*IS program which ran for several years and helped tap into Mr. Schumacher’s interest in and heart for interdisciplinary work. [Hundreds of other WAS*IS participants were similarly inspired.] During the week, the group will teleconference with Mr. Schumacher’s former Valparaiso instructor and mentor Professor John Knox, now at the University of Georgia, and with Marshall Shepherd, another professor at UGA and this year’s AMS President.
Perhaps most importantly, the SPREAD group will use their time together to develop and design multidisciplinary research projects. They’re scheduled to reconvene in one year to report findings and to plan continuing work.
Expect to hear much more from this promising researcher and the early-career community he’s building over the coming years, as their understanding or extreme weather and its social impacts deepens, and as they SPREAD (forgive me!) the word.
The workshop runs16-21 June 2013 in Fort Collins, Colorado. You can find more complete information here.
 Mr. Schumacher explains the acronym this way: When forecasting rainfall, flooding, elections, or anything else, there is always uncertainty. One way this uncertainty is represented is by the “spread” (i.e., the diversity of different possible outcomes) in an ensemble of forecasts. One focus of this workshop will be on how to understand and communicate that spread or uncertainty in different contexts. (He thanks Clark Evans of UW-Milwaukee for suggesting this name.)