AMS 2019 Conference Highlights from the Unidata Staff

At Unidata's AMS booth
Unidata's AMS booth
(click for more)

This year's annual American Meteorological Society meeting, was held January 6-10 in Phoenix, Arizona. While we missed interacting with those in our community who could not attend due to the shutdown of the Federal government, we were happy to see many others participating in the meeting and at our booth in the exhibit hall. As always, we were also glad to meet so many prospective community members at the AMS Student Conference.

With so much going on at the conference, we can't cover everything here. Instead, we present some highlights as recalled by UPC staff members who attended.

18th Student Conference

Career fair
Unidata at the Career fair

As in recent years, Unidata had a table set up for the AMS Student Conference Career Fair, held Saturday and Sunday evenings before the main conference exhibition hall opened. Unidata's table attracted many visitors, with students interested in data and software available from Unidata as well as Unidata's Summer Internship program . We were fortunate to one of our 2018 summer interns, Jon Thielen, on hand to talk with students and describe his experience working at Unidata.

MetPy Short Course
MetPy Short Course

MetPy Adoption Grows

Unidata's MetPy project was a very visible part of the Ninth Symposium on Advances in Modeling and Analysis Using Python. The fun began on Sunday, with a day-long Short Course titled “Python for Synoptic Meteorology Using Metpy”, taught by Unidata developers John Leeman and Ryan May along with community member (and Unidata Users Committee chair) Kevin Goebbert from Valparaiso University. The short course was very well attended, with the bulk of the 22 participants coming from Unidata's core university community. “Many of the attendees were university faculty looking to update existing course materials to use Python,” says May — a community the MetPy project has been working hard to serve.

The MetPy developers also spent a significant amount of time at Unidata's booth in the exhibit hall, demonstrating MetPy and responding to questions by giving short tutorials on the use of Python in the atmospheric sciences. These impromptu teaching sessions proved quite popular, with numerous students and others stopping to listen in.

AWIPS Settles In

Michael James
Discussing AWIPS at the Unidata booth

Unidata has been involved in community-focused development of the National Weather Service (NWS) Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System (AWIPS) for nearly a decade. Although the system was designed for use at NWS Weather Forecast Offices and National Centers, Unidata has worked diligently to create a configuration that is tuned to the needs of university educators and researchers. These efforts have paid off as universities around the Unites States have turned to Unidata to get access to — and technical support for — this modified version of the software. To make using AWIPS even easier for the university community, Unidata also created a cloud-based Environmental Data Exchange (EDEX) servers running in several cloud-computing environments, eliminating the need for some schools to configure and run an EDEX server locally.

Unidata AWIPS developer Michael James also described the current state Unidata's AWIPS development activities to the larger AWIPS community as part of the annual AWIPS System Updates sessions. Unfortunately, many of the presentations planned for these sessions were withdrawn due to the Federal government shutdown in effect during the conference.

MetPy Poster
John Leeman and Ryan May

Talks and Posters

Unidata staff presented a variety of talks throughout the conference. In addition to the Python and AWIPS talks previously mentioned, Unidata director Mohan Ramamurthy and developer Julien Chastang described the beginnings of Unidata's work on a cloud-based Science Gateway, and Yuan Ho talked about developments in the Integrated Data Viewer. A complete list of presentations by Unidata Program Center staff can be found in this post.

The poster sessions were another good place to catch up with various Unidata projects. Wandering the poster hall, you could have run into:

  • Unidata's John Leeman and Ryan May presenting on Unidata's MetPy project.
  • 2018 Summer Intern Jon Thielen describing his work on MetPy features during his internship.
  • Unidata's Sean Arms presenting 2018 Summer Intern Hailey Johnson's poster describing work she did on the THREDDS Data Server. (Hailey presented her poster at the American Geophysical Union conference in December 2018, but could not attend AMS.)
  • Unidata's Ethan Davis discussing Unidata's efforts in support of the netCDF Climate and Forecast (CF) metadata conventions.

In addition, staff members served as chairs or facilitators for a number of sessions, with topics ranging from Python to collection of sensor data to NOAA's Big Data Project and NSF's EarthCube.

NOAA Big Data Project

Unidata Program Director Mohan Ramamurthy has long been involved with NOAA's Big Data Project (BDP), which aims to make NOAA data more easily available through partnerships with commercial and non-commercial cloud service providers. At this year's AMS meeting, Ramamurthy facilitated a Town Hall session to provide the community with an update on the BDP, bringing together panelists from the University of Chicago Center for Data Intensive Science, Amazon Web Services, and Google to discuss the state of the project. (Unfortunately, NOAA representatives were unable to attend.)

Visiting with Community

All in all, the AMS annual meeting provides an excellent opportunity for those of us who work for the Unidata community at the Program Center to catch up with community members, learn what you're doing, and get feedback about what we're doing. But don't feel like you need to wait until we show up in person at a conference or meeting to ask us questions — get in touch any time by writing to and we'll do our best to get you the information, data, or software you need.


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