On February 5, 2014, three Unidata Program Center staff members paid a visit to Professor Sam Ng and his collaborator Chris Kimmett at Metropolitan State University of Denver. We had the opportunity to sit in on Professor Ng's “Weather Analysis Techniques” course for undergraduate meteorology majors in the MSU department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences.
MSU-Denver is the recipient of one of Unidata's 2014 Community Equipment Awards. Their proposal solicited funds to update the meteorology program's Local Data Manager (LDM) server to better handle current data loads and also serve as a beta-test site for the AWIPS II Environmental Data EXchange (EDEX) server, giving students the opportunity to the National Weather Service's most up-to-date forecasting and weather analysis software package. The grant also funded upgrades to the MSU-Denver meteorology department's computer lab, allowing students to access the AWIPS II CAVE client and improving 3-D visualization performance for Unidata's Integrated Data Viewer (IDV).
“The new EDEX server and high-end video cards have allowed students to utilize Unidata software, such as AWIPS II and IDV, to its maximum potential,” says Ng.
Professor Ng began the session with a brief overview of the AWIPS II software. Students were clearly interested in the chance to test-drive the package, and after moving from lecture room to computer lab they were able to do some basic configuration and connect the local CAVE client software to the MSU-Denver EDEX server. While the EDEX configuration Unidata recommends for university use is much less complex than the setup used in the operational setting of a Weather Forecast Office, the MSU EDEX was able to serve data to the eight CAVE clients in the lab without difficulty.
IDV in Action
After poking around the AWIPS II package for the first time, Professor Ng's students moved back to more familiar territory for the bulk of the day's lab exercise: using the IDV to analyze current weather data and forecast model output. Multi-panel displays allowed them to compare output from different forecast models simultaneously, while also investigating current observation data. Although the lab didn't explicitly require the students to use the IDV's 3-D visualization features, Professor Ng did spend some time explaining how they might be used in the context of the questions he had asked them to answer.
“IDV is a great weather analysis tool for any meteorology students due to its flexibility of installation, data acquisition, and user customization,” Ng noted.
A Helping Hand
While it was exciting to see how students at MSU-Denver are benefitting from the equipment purchased as a result of a Unidata Community Equipment Award, the visit was also an opportunity for Ng and Kimmett to bring up difficulties they were experiencing with their installation. Specifically, they had been having trouble with data ingest into their new EDEX server, and asked UPC staffer Jeff Weber if he could help.
Weber was able to determine that data was flowing properly2 through the MSU LDM server, but not all of it was being imported into the EDEX database. Back at the Program Center offices after the visit, Weber and UPC AWIPS II developer Michael James were able to debug the problem, log in to the MSU server remotely, and make corrections. The next day, Ng reported that his AWIPS II installation once again had access to all of the data he expected.
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