Joint Unidata Policy Committee and Users Committee

Meeting Summary

18 September 2012

Actions from April 2012 Meeting
Acronym List

Meeting Participants

Polcom Members Usercom Members UPC Staff
Steven Businger (Chair), Univ of Hawaii
Dave Dempsey, San Francisco State Univ
Robert Fovell, UCLA
Bill Gallus, Iowa State Univ
Kevin Kloesel, Univ of Oklahoma
Gary Lackmann, (Outgoing Member), North Carolina State Univ
Kersten Lehnert, Columbia Univ
Jim Steenburgh, Univ of Utah
Lynn McMurdie, Univ of Washington
Michael Piasecki, City College of New York

Users Committee Representative(s)

Tom Whittaker (Outgoing Users Committee Chair)
Kevin Tyle (Incoming Users Committee Chair)
Tom Whittaker (Outgoing Chair), Univ of Wisconsin
Kevin Tyle (Incoming Chair), Univ at Albany
Michael Baldwin, Purdue Univ
Martin Baxter, Central Michigan Univ
Anne Case-Hanks, Univ of Louisiana-Monroe
Jennifer Collins, Univ of South Florida
Bart Geerts, Univ of Wyoming
Steven Lazarus, Florida Inst of Technology
Patrick Market, Univ of Missouri-Columbia
Sam Ng, Metropolitan State Univ of Denver
Russ Schumacher, Colorado State Univ

Usercom Student Representative

Stefan Cecelski, Univ of Maryland
Sean Arms
Tina Campbell
John Caron
Julien Chastang
Ethan Davis
Doug Dirks
Ben Domenico
Ginger Emery
Steve Emmerson
Ward Fisher
Dennis Heimbigner
Linda Miller
Terry Mitchell
Jennifer Oxelson
Russ Rew
Jeff Weber
Tom Yoksas
Agency Representatives UCAR Representatives
Peter Griffith, NASA
Scott Jacobs, NCEP
(For Rebecca Cosgrove and Michelle Mainelli)
Rich Signell, USGS

Agency Representatives Not Attending
Rebecca Cosgrove, NCEP
Bernard Grant, NSF
Michelle Mainelli, NCEP
Leroy Spayd, NOAA
Vanda Grubisic, NCAR/EOL
Mohan Ramamurthy, UCP/Unidata
Tim Spangler, UCP/COMET
Steve Worley, NCAR/CISL

Administrative Items

Before going through the administrative matters, Mohan made the announcement that Jo Hansen, previous Unidata employee, had died suddenly. Jo had worked with Unidata for 15 years and was writer/editor for the program.

Director's Report

Mohan Ramamurthy gave the Unidata Director's Report.

A few highlights:

Budget Report

Unidata program administrator Terry Mitchell provided the following budget report:

Lasting attrition has been the key component of the budget picture for the past two years and continued to play a big part of the budget for FY12. With labor costs and the associated overhead accounting for 85% of the total budget, the long stretch of vacant positions, although a strain on the program, reflected favorably on the financial picture for FY12. The decrease in both the benefit and indirect rates from FY11 was also beneficial for the budget. Along with new funds for the first year of the OPULS project, we were able to leverage our surplus of funds from these combined factors to add two new positions as well as fill two replacement positions in FY12, which made us fully staffed for the first time in over two years. We erased our deficit spending in the core which has positioned us well to take on another year of projected level funding for FY13. Despite the surplus of funds we are continuing our efforts to increase non core funding with more proposal submissions and white papers to various funding opportunities. Those efforts are paying off as evidenced by a 105% increase in non core funding for FY12.

We will continue to leverage our resources with new projects and funding as appropriate to weather these challenging economic times. The financial outlook for FY14 and beyond is uncertain, but with the surplus created this year, along with our carryover for FY13, we are in a good financial position to meet the goals set forth in the 2013 proposal as well as start looking ahead toward the new 2018 proposal.

A committee discussion of impacts of federal cost controls on Unidata followed the budget report. Mohan reiterated the need for Unidata to pursue non-core funding, and committee members wondered about other funding models. The NCAR Research Applications Lab (RAL) model is example of a UCAR organization that brings in significant outside funding. Jim Steenburgh noted that this may not be a good model for Unidata, since member universities depend on access to Unidata products and services at no cost.

NSF Report

Bernard Grant, Unidata's NSF program officer, was unable to attend the joint meeting. Mohan related that Bernard's guidance to Unidata is flat funding for next year. Also that currently there is no GEO director, Marge Cavanaugh (deputy director) is acting director, and no timetable for replacement. There has been major restructuring at the GEO directorate in the past few weeks; OPP is now under GEO. The Office of Cyberinfrastructure will become a division within the Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering.

NASA Report

Peter Griffith contributed the following items from NASA:


Scott Jacobs from NCEP stood in for Michelle Mainelli to present the NCEP AWIPS II status report. Some highlights:

Unidata AWIPS II Report

UPC's Michael James is mainly working on determining the minimum workable hardware configuration for university use. Some data flow bottlenecks have recently been uncovered in the NWS configuration as supplied by NWS and Raytheon; Michael thinks these can be avoided and that a single-machine server configuration could support multiple CAVE clients in a university setting.

Lunch Break

During the lunch break committee members gathered outside FL-4 for a group photo. On returning to the conference room for lunch, committee members heard brief remarks from Tim Spangler of COMET, who is retiring this year. There were some photos projected from the past, including Tim, Jim Steenburgh, Gary Lackmann and Tom Whittaker througout the years.

RAMADDA Discussion

RAMADDA features are closely integrated into the IDV, however UPC does not have a developer who is actively working on RAMADDA. The question was put to the group: What should the UPC's policy toward RAMADDA be? Contribute to the Open Source project? Provide support to community users? Re-architect the functionality? A wide-ranging discussion ensued:

ACTION 1: UPC should investigate other RAMADDA-like efforts, including at USGS

JS: Question for policy committee-type thinking: What are the core technologies that Unidata should be focusing on, and what are the secondary technologies?

Proposal Planning

Mohan indicated that Unidata's next NSF proposal should be submitted in May 2013, and asked the committee for input on directions and big themes.

Departing Committee Member Talks

For three long-time Unidata governing committee members, this was the last meeting of their tenures. Gary Lackmann, Jim Steenburg, and Tom Whittaker all made brief remarks about their time working with Unidata. Their slide presentations are here:

Kudos to all!

GOES-R Satellite Data

NOAA is encouraging Unidata to become a subscriber to, and distributor of, the GOES-R satellite data feed. There are a limited number of "power user" subscriptions available, but Steve Goodman, the chief scientist who visited the UPC in September 2012, said this in an e-mail message discussing the situation with individuals within NOAA and at the UPC:

In my mind, NOAA would be a fool not to have Unidata be one of the 200 power users and then in turn have Unidata send satellite data to the 150+ University users, as they do today for GOES data.

UPC is preparing a proposal to NOAA for funding to acquire a new satellite dish and electronics. The dish could not be located at UCAR's Foothills Lab campus, but there is a good possibililty that it can be located at the Mesa Lab.

CMC Output

The Canadian Model or CMC Model, is a short and medium range forecast model developed by the Canadian Weather Service. Output from the model is currently delivered to universities via the IDD.

The CMC model will be changing from 60km to 15km output at end of calendar year 2012. Tom Yoksas asked for input from the committees on removing the 60km output earlier. The 60km and 15km output would be included in parallel for one month, and then the 60km would be removed. JW will check in on the LDM mailing list to see if there are any objectsions to the early switch.


Tom Yoksas described a proposal to petition EUMETSAT for real time access to METEOSAT data. Currently, the UPC has access to this data for training purposes, but would like to extend availability to the rest of the Unidata community. A EUMETSAT rep has encouraged a formal request from the Unidata community, as represented by the governing committees.

A letter to EUMETSAT requesting access has been drafted, to be sent from the two Unidata governing committees. Some minor wordsmithing of the draft letter was done in the meeting.

ACTION 2: Tom Yoksas will re-review the letter with his EUMETSAT contact and submit.


Sean Arms and Jen Oxelson demonstrated a tool they have created for translating data formats. Spurred by ACADIS folks who wanted help with their data logger output which is in csv format.

The tool is written in Java and intended to be available through a web interface.

Currently csv to CF-compliant NetCDF, although other formats could be converted


Dinner at Mesa Lab

Linda Miller and Doug Dirks
Community Services - Unidata
University Corporation for Atmospheric Research
P.O. Box 3000
Boulder, CO 80307-3000
303 497-8646 fax: 303 497-8690