Policy Committee Meeting Summary:

21-22 October 2008


Members UPC Staff
Steven Businger - Chair Ben Domenico
Michael Bevis Jo Hansen
Rich Clark Linda Miller
Brian Colle Terry Mitchell
Vanda Grubisic Russ Rew
Rudy Husar John Caron
Anton Krueger Ethan Davis
David Tarboton Tom Yoksas
  Jeff Weber
Jeff McWhirter
Steve Emmerson
Agency Representatives UOP/NCAR Representatives
Bernard Grant, (NSF/ATM) Mohan Ramamurthy, UOP/Unidata
Peter Griffith (NASA) Steve Worley, NCAR/CISL
Clifford Jacobs (NSF/ATM)
Leroy Spayd (NOAA/NWS)
Committee Representative Not in Attendance
Gary Lackmann (Users Committee Chair) Paul Ruscher, Member
  Jack Fellows, UOP
  Tim Spangler, COMET
  Roger Wakimoto, NCAR/EOL

See: Unidata Acronym/Glossary List

See: Meeting Index

Administrative Matters (Businger)

  • The Draft Agenda was approved
  • The May 2008 meeting notes were approved.
  • Next Meeting Dates: 28-29 April or 5-6 May 2009 at NSF HQ in Arlington, Virginia
  • Review of Action Items and Resolutions from the Fall 2008 meeting:
    • Review of Action Items and Resolutions from the Fall 2008 meeting:
    • Items three and five were complete prior to the meeting.
      1. Further investigation into EPA data should be conducted prior to the fall meeting. This should take place in the context of an action item from the spring Users Committee's meeting which states: Consider EPA datastreams for LDM, possible visualization: Gauge interest and needs of AQ community a.) See Rudy's link describing some of the available datastreams b.) Set up conference call including Rudy Husar, EPA folks, and AQ faculty at some of our institutions
      2. The committee requests that Unidata schedule a presentation on WRF/Chem for the fall meeting.
      3. The committee needs a new NASA representative. Steps to appoint one should be taken prior to the fall meeting. Complete
      4. A future meeting should include a presentation by John Orcutt, UCSD, on the Ocean Observing Initiative cyberinfrastructure.
      5. A draft of the letter to be sent to the GEMPAK community will be circulated for committee comment and suggestions. Complete
      The committee agreed to continue to develop items two and four.
      • Item One Discussion:
        • The committee agreed that new options should be explored. Obtaining data from the EPA is difficult; Rudy suggested that the committee needs to pursue an alternate path in seeking to obtain EPA data.
        • Someone suggested that the Unidata Users Committee could help determine which EPA data the community would be interested in having access to.
        • Finally, because the spring meeting will take place in Virginia, the committee should try to find an EPA representative who would be willing to attend the meeting to discuss data access.

Director's Report (Ramamurthy)

In opening his presentation Mohan welcomed the new members of each committee and bid farewell to the outgoing members. The Users Committee welcomed Larry Oolman, Brendon Hoch, and Brian Etherton while bidding farewell to Chris Herbster, Leigh Orf, and Anton Kruger who has moved over to the Policy Committee which also welcomed Brian Colle and Peter Griffith (as NASA rep) while thanking Michael Bevis and Gene Takle for their service and contributions as committee members.

The review panel for the 2013 funding proposal identified (listed below). Addressing and prioritizing them is the next task to be addressed in the review process.

  1. GEMPAK Transition!! [“The biggest challenge Unidata has faced in its history.”]
  2. Unidata’s priorities, especially given the budget constraints
  3. Vision for the program over the next 5 years
  4. Unidata’s role in cyberinfrastructure
  5. Community characterization
  6. Diversity activities if no funding is available for the requested 0.5 FTE position

Unidata's vision calls for providing comprehensive, well-integrated, and end-to-end data services.

Staffing changes announced include the arrival of GEMPAK developer Michael James which in view of Item 1 (above) is more than noteworthy. In addition, Anne Wilson and Tom Baltzer have both departed the program center staff since the last Policy Committee meeting. Their departure was precipitated by the uncertainty of funding for the LEAD project.

In the software development arena, the release of netCDF 4 is a highlight of the last six months. In a related effort, Unidata's netCDF C library has been enhanced to support the OPeNDAP protocol as the remote access protocol for netCDF data. Other software developments include a prototype development of a program called RAMADDA (demo'ed later in the meeting and described) and the continued growth in IDV use.

Workshops during the period since May include planning for the fall training workshop, a successful regional workshop at Plymouth State, and a Latin American Data Workshop in Sao Paulo. A regional workshop at Emery-Riddle next March is in early planning stages, as is the triennial Users Workshop to be held in 9-13 June in Boulder.

Three Equipment Awards were awarded in responses received to the 2008 RFP. 2008's theme was furthering the use of Unidata tools and systems (e.g., THREDDS, NetCDF, IDV, GIS connections) to support education and research on various aspects of climate. Mohan requested input from the committee on themes for the 2009 RFP.

Finally, Mohan noted that with the exception of a little concern about staffing and budget, the overall state of the program is quite solid.


  • With regard to the vision statement, the committee observed that the community is not defined in it or anywhere else for that matter (point 5, Community characterization) and agreed that the UPC should work to define the community.
  • The committee pointed out that three things: platform independence, the equipment award process, and open source software are principles and activities that enhance item 6.
  • Further discussion of point six, diversity activities, included how Unidata would accomplish this objective if, as expected, insufficient funds are available to implement it; the clarification is that the .5 FTE was never intended to be filled by one person, but rather would be parsed out among several existing staff members.

Budget Report (Mitchell, Ramamurthy)

The overarching theme of FY08 for all of NCAR/UCAR/UOP was the constrained budget environment. Unidata was in a better position than most in FY08, however, with a 2% increase over FY07 in our core funding. Carryover from each fiscal year of the FY04-FY08 award period helped offset our deficit spending in the core. Although not so great for the Program, attrition and vacancies were also favorable for the budget. The change in the merit salary increase schedule to coincide with the start of the fiscal year also favorably delayed those labor expenses.

The cost of doing business in Unidata continues to increase each year, with FY08 CODB figures coming in close to $175k, which represents about a 4% increase from FY07. We ended the five-year award period with a $21.7 million budget and $22.0 million in expenses.

In light of possibly facing the lowest level of non-core funding in six years for FY09, we’ve committed to aggressively pursuing direct funding opportunities as much as possible. To that end, we’ve doubled the number of proposals submitted in FY08 to eight from four submitted in FY07.

We trimmed our proposal budget down from our original request, which is about 9% below our total FY08 budget for FY09. We’ve requested a modest $200k increase in the core for FY09 and are optimistic that NSF will be able to accommodate our request, which would establish a favorable baseline for the start of the new award period.

Users Committee Report (Lackmann)

The Users Committee met 9-10 October just a couple of weeks before the Policy Committee meeting. The committee welcomed its new members and thanked those departing for their service. (See Director's Report for detail.)

The GEMPAK/N-AWIPS transition to AWIPS II was a major focus during the meeting. Each committee member has been asked to write a "user story" for N-AWIPS use at their home institution. There was agreement that there seems to be a fair amount of anxiety in the user community about the transition, and committee members were asked to do what they could to alleviate the anxiety.

The second large agenda item that demanded the committee's attention was planning for the Triennial Users Workshop, which will take place in Boulder summer 2009. Tasks to be completed include writing a proposal to fund the workshop, and inviting presenters with expertise in the workshop topic identified by the committee "Using Operational and Experimental Observations in Geoscience Education." The committee will consider a suggestion that, for the first time, the workshop include a poster component. The dates are set for 8-12 June 2009.

The spread sheet used by committee members to conduct their site surveys needs updating, and members were asked to update that information as they make their contacts prior to committee meetings with the most recent information.

The committee asked for a description of the differences between CONDUIT and NOAAPORT 1-degree data.

A call for nominations for the DeSouza Award will be sent to the user community in the near future.

Agency Reports

NSF (Jacobs)

The presentation's first covered topic was the competition for the management of NCAR. Noting that the three-year process has ended successfully with positive comments from the Review Panel for the proposal.

NSF's FY 2009 budget request is up 16% from 2008's request to $6,854.10B. Noting that FY 08 began with a positive and optimistic slant, and ended with ATM's receiving a zero budget increase, Cliff urged caution in terms of viewing the 2009 ATM's projected allocation of a 13.6% increase. Across the entirety of the federal government all consideration of budget matters is on hold until after the election. The continuing resolution status continues until March 6, 2009. Three possible outcomes are that the continuing resolution will last through FY09, that the allocation will be close to the president's request, or that there will be a budget reduction reflecting the uncertain times that the federal government finds itself in.

Finally, Cliff presented a series of slides to illustrate trends in Geosciences research proposal funding rates compared to NSF 1998-2007. (These are slides 10-21). Trends in # of proposals and funding rates, in average award sizes and duration of awards, Funding rates for women and new PIs, and several others were presented. One slide that graphed average award size and duration by GEO division showed ATM falling somewhere between OCE and EAR. Cliff noted that ATM is proactive in assisting PIs to achieve higher success rates by providing assistance in making decisions on when to submit and providing feedback.

GEO shows an upward trend in new PIs some of whom may be women, but splitting out that percentage is impossible.

ATM is trying to increase no-cost extensions and co-investigator proposals.

NOAA/NWS (Spayd)

Section one of the presentation was devoted to the N-AWIPS to AWIPS II transition. After noting several internal improvements in the AWIPS evolution, the presentation moved to the evolution's roadmap. The presentation noted that Raytheon will provide tools, techniques and advice while the government will be responsible for actual migration. Raytheon will provide technical documentation and inputs for training materials. Finally in the last slide in the series the presentation noted that Raytheon has claimed in bi-weekly meetings with NWS that the software is proprietary. Raytheon had been asked to put their concerns in writing, and at the time of the meeting had asked for a 2 week extension. NWS plans to have NOAA General Counsel to review the agreement with or without Raytheon’s written concerns. Turnovers within the AWIPS program have affected the transition.

Unidata could assist in the process by preparing a Distribution Plan on how it will distribute/support the software and under what conditions/constraints. However, the UPC will need clarification on licensing before developing such a plan.

GOES-R update. GOES-R maintains the continuity of the GOES mission while bringing significant increases in performance that include spatial, spectral, and temporal resolution of products: spatial, spectral, and temporal. Based on an availability analysis of the current GOES I and N-series, a GOES-R launch is required in the 2014 timeframe to maintain mission data continuity

The Geostationary Lightning Mapper, a component of GOES-R will provide increased coverage of lightning strike coverage over both oceans and land. Ocean coverage is limited at this time.

The NPOESS Program Update. NPOESS is looking at all options in case the projected large FY09 funding increase does not occur. In addition, there are difficulties in developing the Visible/Infrared Imager Radiometer Suite (VIIRS).

NASA (Griffith)

New NASA representative, Peter Griffith's presentation focused on NASA use of Unidata tools. This is a difficult task since NASA comprises a range of diverse scientific groups. There is evidence that the tools are used in atmospheric and climate sciences groups, and a need has been identified for advancing collaborative connections for Earth system science.

The North American Carbon Program www.nacp.org program Office encourages and facilitates use of Unidata tools. The CDIAC (Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center) provides products in netCDF format.

Both netCDF and THREDDS are being used in the ORNL.DAAC project.

NASA users have several wishes for enhancements in netCDF and TDS. Among them are:

  1. Improve generalization of netCDF service in TDS
  2. Improved interface for geospatial subsetting
  3. Default WCS client out of the box
  4. Enhance TDS catalog to extract global attributes of a dataset

In addition, a couple of NASA users believe that ease of use needs to be enhanced in the netCDF service in TDS.

Unidata 2013 and related issues (Ramamurthy, others)


Prioritizing the 6 points articulated by the 2013 Review Panel Report (see also list in Director's Report). Point 5, community characterization, was considered by the committee.

Mohan referred to several recent surveys of the community that included the one designed to determine interest among community members in the COSMIC data and the ongoing survey/contacts conducted by the Users Committee before its regularly-scheduled meetings. In addition, surveys are conducted following training, regional, and the Users workshops. The committee agreed that sweeping change is not required at this time, but a more comprehensive survey should be conducted in the proposal's 5-year period of performance.

Other ways to get a handle on the community's makeup include Users Forums. Unidata has set up a dozen or more forums, each of which experiences varying levels or participation: some have been quite successful while others languish. Topical e-mail lists have also been a means for the UPC to glean information about its community's make-up.

WRF's phpBB forum was suggested as a possible model. It's also possible that one of the social softwares could facilitate the interactions that now take place on the GEMBUD e-mail list.

GEMPAK Transition

The GEMPAK transition has been identified as the greatest challenge facing the UPC. Unidata invited Brent Gordon to present NCEP's perspective on it:

NAWIPS Migration to NAWIPS II Transition
: Progress and Plans (Brent Gordon, NOAA/NCEP [(by phone])

Brent's presentation amplified the information available about the NAWIPS transition. The primary goal is to port the full system into AWIPS-II, to "bring it into the 21st century." The transition is projected to bring little change for the end user, but major change for the in-depth user. It is a given that NCEP forecast center participation is required for the success of the project.

The combined system will contain components from AWIPS and NAWIPS and will be a unified, streamlined system. Although some functionality will be implemented directly, starting over will be the case for other functionality, e.g., animation and image manipulation.

In the FY09-10 timeframe several major deliverables come due. Among them are Grid Diagnostics: a generalized scientific computation package in Java and a generalized interface that is no long tied to GEMPAK data files. Specifically, development will be moving away from GRIB/BUFR files having to be converted which means that this step can be accomplished without conversion. All current capabilities in decoders will be retained. It's unclear whether or not the current level of support will remain for the 09-10 timeframe. There's a possibility that no AWIPS-II transition funds will be available in 2011 and beyond. A continuing resolution also would delay development.

In summary, NAWIPS is frozen; only bug fixes are being addressed at this time. The transition to AWIPS-II has started, and continued coordination among the AWIPS program, Raytheon, and Unidata will continue.

A full description of the schedule for Q2FY09 through Q4FY10 is contained in slides 21-24 of the presentation.


  • Mohan made the point the some UPC staff members have signed a non-disclosure agreement with NOAA which allows them to review AWIPS-II releases as they become available.
  • Don Murray assured the committee that from Unidata's point of view there will be a smooth transition to AWIPS-II and expressed his gratitude that Unidata is able to work with NCEP on the transition

Synergy between Geodesy and Meteorology (Mike Bevis)

Professor Mike Bevis of OSU made a spirited presentation of the potential synergy between geodesy and meteorology. Mike covered some of the basic principals that allow dual frequency GPS receivers, with the help of barometers and thermometers at the receiver site, to provide time series integrated precipitable water data to the meteorology community. In addition Mike covered a wide range of multidisciplinary applications of GPS data in collaboration with fields such as hydrology, oceanography, geophysics, climatology, and meteorology, often with surprising results (see the link to his presentation online).

Mike made two key points during his talk, which were discussed by the polcom afterward. i) Japanese and European scientists are outpacing the US in the deployment of meteorology equipped GPS receivers and in the use and investigation of the resulting data streams. He and Dr. Businger suggested that Unidata could help spur interest in the GPS PW time series by raising the profile of the data in the way it's distributed and demonstrating the tools available for viewing the data. Several opportunities for research exist, particularly in the analysis of climatological signals, in development of applications for nowcasting, and in continuous data assimilation using 4D-VAR. ii) The second point Mike put forward is the need on the part of the geodesy community for regional model output in support of kinematic GPS field programs. Some simple tools to parse the model output into the water vapor, temperature, and pressure profiles in areas of field experiment focus would be extremely valuable. Steve Businger suggested that it might be beneficial to consider having Unidata host a small meeting of enthusiastic geodesists and GPS savy meteorologists to create a springboard for development of the needed tools, which could be developed/distributed via a RAMADDA (LANAI*) framework. Dr. Businger has agreed to prepare a short article for the Unidata Newsletter. (these notes were prepared by Policy Committee Chair Businger)

NCAR/Unidata Collaboration (Eric Barron, NCAR Director)

NCAR Director, Eric Barron presented an overview and perspective on new collaborative areas. NCAR is examining the scope of its future mission and determining whether it will remain within the atmospheric sciences (Earth sciences). A second option expanding into the entire arena of environmental sciences, while a third is including social and decision sciences in the mix. While it is true that the problems facing us (the global us) are multifaceted, it is also true that the work in atmospheric and related sciences is worth focusing on exclusively. However, there are budget constraints, and NCAR already serves a clearly defined set of disciplines.

The challenge for NCAR is how to move into the future? Defining the mission and determining where NCAR's collaborations most clearly intersect its mission is a challenge for the organization.

Human health is one example: there are clear ties to health issues and weather and climate. Developing predictive capability would be highly significant. The state of forecasting adverse health outcomes may be in a state similar to that of weather forecasting in the 50s.

There are three options for NCAR: Add human health specialists, work in the weather and climate framework, or deliberately define new partnerships that enhance the collaboration with health and the environment.

If the choice is the latter, NCAR could bring the discipline of forecasting to the health community. It could create an intersection between the relevant disciplines, it could seek NIH (possibly EPA) funding. The health expertise would not reside at NCAR, but NCAR and its community would be key collaborator.

Finally, perhaps the future lies in NCAR's being able to use its mission to enable other disciplines through deliberate partnerships.

Health is just one example. Hydrology is another.


  • The committee wondered whether the development should be organic or deliberate, and seemed to converge on the idea that it had to be deliberate.
  • Other disciplines should be immersed in what NCAR does.
  • Developing both internal and external collaborations is critical.
  • Biosphere was also suggested as a possible area of collaboration

RAMADDA and Next Generation Case Studies (Jeff McWhirter, Jeff Weber)

Jeff McWhirter and Jeff Weber made a presentation and demonstration of the Repository for Archiving, Managing and Accessing Diverse DAta (RAMADDA) system. They showed the LDM/IDD feed being served up by RAMADDA as well as the COMET/Unidata Case Studies. The ability to publish content from the IDV directly into RAMADDA was also shown. A number of potential uses were discussed by members of the Committee including using RAMADDA in other Geoscience disciplines.

  • RAMADDA is a framework, and users can add content that can be shared and published.
  • The software is diverse, and is agnostic.
  • Data can be local, but this it not necessary.
  • Someone suggested that opening a dialogue with seismologists would be advantageous for both communities, and the existing connection with GEON was mentioned
  • There also was the suggestion that field studies and field data would fit nicely into the RAMADDA framework.
  • The software is agnostic and thus has the possibility of broad use.
  • Finally, someone suggested that the acronym could be advantageously changed to LANAI (Local and Network Access Information). No decision on that suggestion was taken.


  • Every committee member expressed some level of interest in the software.
  • RAMADDA complements the THREDDS Data Server; developers are currently investigating possibilities for greater integration.


Action Items from this meeting are:

1. Unidata will prepare a Distribution Plan on how it will distribute/support the AWIPS II software and under what conditions/constraints it will do so. (Pending clarification on licensing.)

2. The committee shall promote the visibility of the ground-based GPS data set. The CommunitE-letter will feature an article on the topic.

3. The committee asks that Unidata make GPS data available on motherlode.

4. A joint meeting with the Unidata Users Committee should be scheduled for the Fall 2009 timeframe.

Please direct comments and questions to jhansen@unidata.ucar.edu