The 2012 AMS Summer Community Meeting…final reflections

The 2012 AMS Summer Community Meeting closed something like 24 hours ago. Most if not all of the participants have made it home. A few last thoughts.

First, this meeting seems to be getting more productive every year. As participants discussed the first day, the US community responsible for Earth observations, science, and services has evolved over the past few years from three rather separate sectors (government, private enterprise, and academia) with only a sketchy understanding of each other’s capabilities, purposes and needs – and all the prejudices and biases (and dysfunction) that go along with that ignorance – to a fuller understanding and appreciation for one another. This increasing harmony has enabled those present to move on to some of the more substantive issues facing the partnership.

Four stand out, at least to this observer. The attendees made good progress toward addressing each.

First is the need for more analysis on the nature and value of the contributions our community makes to society as a whole. How large are we? Are we  big enough that the taxes from the value-added part of the Enterprise, by themselves, pretty much pay for the cost of all those satellites, radars, computers, and other infrastructure? [Some thought we might be pretty close.] What are the benefits of our work? How might our benefits to society best and most quickly be increased? Where should we place our priorities? On that subject, Scott Rayder, UCAR Senior Advisor for Development and Partnerships, gave a keynote talk on status and work of the Weather Enterprise Economic Evaluation Team (WEEET). This WEEET (putting aside whatever feelings you may harbor about the acronym) has been charged with developing a request for proposals for generating, augmenting, and maintaining the knowledge base we need. Scott’s talk triggered a hearty and thoughtful discussion. You can find more details on his presentation here.

Second, society’s need for weather and climate services, and improvements in those services, is compelling and growing more complex year by year. This urgency requires the community to draw on its full resources, across the sectors. In turn this obliges us to transcend sectoral boundaries and other barriers to rapid innovation. These can’t be allowed to inhibit communication across these organizational and institutional lines.

That challenge is daunting by itself. But it’s only the start. We have to make it possible, and natural, for the best and brightest to partner fully and transparently across such interfaces. A panel on open weather and climate services addressed the latest thinking on this subject. The discussion is very much in its formative stages. It will require far more consideration, especially on the part of those in the federal sector.  But we’re off to a good start. More details on the panel presentations should be available soon. When they’re posted on the AMS website, you should be able to find them here.

Third, we need to recognize and realize the full potential of a Weather Ready Nation as a powerful organizing principle. We have to interpret that notion as more than an NWS strategic element; that is, we need to recognize that a weather-ready nation comprises thousands of communities that are locally not only resilient to weather hazards but also alertly opportunistic to weather’s opportunities for economic development and growth. We have to see weather broadly as containing not only acute, highly-localized threats such as lightning, hail, and tornadoes, or hurricane landfall, but also persistent threats that cover broad geographic extent such as cycles of flood and drought. We have to recognize that weather-readiness requires effort not just from the National Weather Service, but other federal agencies, state and local agencies, weather-sensitive business and industry, and the general public.

As we progress in these three respects, we better position ourselves to help the country cope with the fourth challenge…the current fragile condition of the economy, the related parlous state of federal finances, and the bitter partisan rancor that threatens to add to these problems through government shutdowns, sequestration, etc.

The 2011 AMS Summer Community Meeting led to over 90 recommendations. The scratchwork from the wrap-up session probably surfaced a comparable number. So don’t be content with this read, and the four issues highlighted here. Keep a check on the AMS website for further details of the meeting, summaries, etc. They’ll be coming along shortly.

Oh, do you find yourself interested in these topics? Wish you’d been there and could have contributed?

We needed you!

Perhaps you might pencil in the 2013 meeting, scheduled for Boulder about this same time next year. The exact dates should be on the website soon.

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