The AMS Summer Policy Colloquium

Do you see the statement on the image of the Earth above that says “an American Meteorology Society Project?” Well, this blog is not the only such project! Today, and for the next several posts, we’ll be talking about another – the AMS Summer Policy Colloquium – an annual event, held here in Washington, DC. The Colloquium is just getting underway this Sunday evening, June 5, and set to run for ten days, through June 14.

Indulge me in a little bit of history. Back in the spring of 2000, I was still working at NOAA, directing the U.S. Weather Research Program, and working across federal agencies as chair of the OSTP-NSTC Subcommittee on Natural Disaster Reduction. [An aside: those titles might seem impressive, but don’t be fooled! Here’s how it works in Washington – your importance is inversely proportional to the length of your job title. So if you have a short job title, like “Senator”, or “President,” then you are powerful – a force to be reckoned with! But if you have a long title, like Director of the US Weather Research Program, and chair of the NSTC Subcommittee on Natural Disaster Reduction, you are in a world of hurt!] At that time I was thinking I’d put in another decade of federal service. I liked what I was doing – looked forward to coming to work every day. How many people can say that? I was satisfied.

There was just one fly in the ointment. I noticed all my friends of similar years of federal service were moving on to other chapters in their lives. And it hit me. I had no exit strategy! I had visions that one future day the ambulance would pull up outside the Silver Spring NOAA complex where I worked. People would look out their windows and say, “I see old Hooke has decided to retire.”

Then, out of the blue, I got a very interesting invitation – from Ron McPherson, then executive director of the AMS, and Dick Greenfield, the director of their newly-formed Policy Program. Both had distinguished careers in federal service – Ron as a numerical modeler, the deputy director of the National Weather Service, and then Director of the National Centers for Environmental Prediction, and Dick as the NSF division director for atmospheric sciences. I admired both men then and do so still to this day!

They asked me to come down and talk. For models of integrity they were a little duplicitous. I think they had muttered something about global climate change as a topic. Anyway, when I got there we started by catching each other up on what we were doing. Then at one point in our conversation Ron asked me what was keeping me from retiring from NOAA and joining them.

!! This was out of the blue, but it took me the merest of instants to warm to the idea. We negotiated a little bit over the next week or so, and I joined them a few months later.

My first week on the job we did a policy study that Ron and Dick had been planning for some months. With some sponsorship from The Weather Channel, they brought government forecasters, broadcast meteorologists, insurers, and emergency managers together to talk a bit about hurricane emergency response.

A fascinating three days. But not long afterwards, Ron called me into his office and sat me down. He said, “Brother Hooke, I don’t know exactly what you’ll do for us here. But one thing I do know. You’re going to start and then run the AMS Summer Policy Colloquium.”

“Ok, Ron, but just what is that exactly?”

“I don’t know, but that’s what you’re going to do.”

More in the next post.

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