Policy Committee Meeting Summary:

12-13 May 2009


Members UPC Staff
Steven Businger - Chair Ben Domenico
Rich Clark Jo Hansen
Brian Colle Linda Miller
Anton Kruger Terry Mitchell
Paul Ruscher Russ Rew
David Tarboton  
  UOP/NCAR Representatives
Agency Representatives Mohan Ramamurthy, UOP/Unidata
Bernard Grant, (NSF/ATM)  
Peter Griffith (NASA) Not in Attendance
Leroy Spayd (NOAA/NWS) Jack Fellows, UOP
  Vanda Grubišić, member
  Rudy Husar, member
Committee Representative Tim Spangler, COMET
Gary Lackmann (Users Committee Chair) Roger Wakimoto, NCAR/EOL
  Steve Worley, NCAR/CISL

See: Unidata Acronym/Glossary List

See: Meeting Index

Action Items

Administrative Matters (Businger)

  • The Draft Agenda was approved
  • The Fall 2008 meeting notes were approved.
  • Next Meeting Dates: three sets of dates were suggested: Thursday and Friday, 8-9 October 2009; Thursday and Friday, 15-16 October 2009; Monday and Tuesday, 19-20 October 2009. [Polling subsequent to the meeting seems to indicate a preference for the 15-16 October dates.]
  • Review of Action Items and Resolutions from the Fall 2008 meeting:
    • The committee shall promote the visibility of the ground-based GPS data set. (pending)
      • This item will be carried over. The UPC will contact UNAVCO. The revised action item reads: Carry over item: The committee shall promote the visibility of the ground-based GPS data set. UNAVCO staff member S. Olds will be asked to
        present a seminar as part of the Unidata Seminar Series.
    • The committee asks that Unidata make GPS data available on Motherlode. (pending) Linda Miller has been asked to contact Seth Gutman NOAA/ESRL to explore acquiring access to the NOAA GPS data.This is Action Item Two.
    • A joint meeting with the Unidata Users Committee should be scheduled for the Fall 2009 timeframe. (Agenda Item)

Director's Report (Ramamurthy)

The physical state of the program center is really little changed since the last meeting. Staffing and finances are once again areas of concern, but are neither more nor less ominous than October. Internally, however, there's quite a lot going on. Some highlights:

  • This is Unidata's 25th anniversary year. There will be a year-long series of events, and as a kickoff we have a new logo
  • The UCAR Office of Programs will officially become UCAR Community Programs; it is felt that this name more accurately portrays the management unit's character
  • Two Unidata workshops are coming up in the near future: the triennial Users Workshop will take place 8-12 June in Boulder, and the annual Training workshops will be July 29 through August 15.
  • Progress in remote data access continues. NetCDF-Java, RAMADDA, GALEON, and TDS all contribute to this.
  • IDV: The IDV team received UCAR's Outstanding Achievement Award in Education and Outreach.
    • IDV use has continued to grow
    • The addition of four GEMPAK users to the IDV Steering Committee is expected to facilitate the addition of GEMPAK-like capabilities in the IDV.
  • Unidata continues to work with NWS and NCEP staff on licensing and technical issues related to the migration to AWIPS-II
  • UPC is working to create a way to compile meaningful metric
  • The Equipment Awards project once again awarded a total of 100K. This year to six universities.
  • The UPC is exploring the use of social networks to communicate and interact with its community


Committee members agreed that emphasizing the high success rate in the Equipment Awards could prove to be a useful incentive for future participation.

Budget Report (Mitchell)

As we transitioned to the new core award October - December 2008, we carefully monitored our carryover, which was used to cover expenses during that period. The trending decrease in non-core funding continues to be an issue as we look ahead to the rest of this fiscal year and FY2010. We
have made it a priority to aggressively pursue and solicit additional core and non core support as appropriate to help meet the goals and priorities set for the new proposal.

The vacant LEAD positions have proven beneficial for the budget contributing to the 2.7% decrease in total expenses but the vacancies aren't necessarily good for the program. At the current budget level, we're fully extended in the core at 22.60 FTEs as labor costs continue to account for more than 80% of all expenses.

The $210k increase in core funding will help erase our deficit spending in the core and will establish a favorable baseline for the new award period.

Users Committee Report (Lackmann)

The upcoming Unidata Users Workshop and the AWIPS-II transition were the dominant agenda items at the 6-7 April meeting of the committee. Workshop planning is proceeding smoothly so far. The workshop is 8-12 June in Boulder and is entitled "Using Operational and Experimental Observations in Education."

Committee members were asked to submit AWIPS/GEMPAK user stories especially those emphasizing GEMPAK's unique functionalities. Other concerns/wishes for the transition and development of NAWIPS-II include:

  • Package should run on standard system, not higher end system
  • Should read and write into Fortran (modelers use Fortran and fully 30% of the research community still use it)

Unidata staff members present at the Users Committee meeting expressed the wish that the committee would facilitate the building of a collection of GEMPAK scripts and outcomes to compare with IDV capabilities.

Agency Reports

NOAA/NWS (Spayd)

The final release of AWIPS I before the migration to AWIPS II is being delayed to fix software problems.

The NWS Strategic Plan focuses on the following items, among others: climate, environmental awareness, the need for timely, accurate weather, water, and climate information, implementation of renewable energy capabilities, and the increasing demand for wind, solar, and tidal forecasts, among others. Leroy noted Unidata staff member, Linda Miller's, contributions to the plan's development.

National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) Preparatory Project (NPP) has experienced significant schedule overruns That have delayed its June 2010 launch date. A Tri-Agency team has assembled options to maintain continuity for the mission.

NOAA is poised to facilitate the growth and scope of the nation's renewable energy. Among its important capabilities to do this are: Advance measurement systems, the ability to deploy observing networks; and to improve weather forecasts and the understanding of climate processes; the ability to enhance environmental data visualization systems and data collection, verification, and distribution systems. The development of renewable energy has the potential to produce many jobs and thus to have a significant positive impact on economic growth.

NSF (Grant)

NSF's 2009 budget outlook is optimistic with a projected increase of 7%. The optimistic picture is further augmented by funds that are expected to be received through the ARRA (American Reinvestment and Recovery Act). Spending of the stimulus funds has to take place quickly. Although the final budget numbers for GEO are not final, they look good.

Four budget priorities will help drive the distribution of GEO's funds: climate change, dynamic Earth, Earth-society interactions, and education and diversity. A projected collaboration with the NSF Directorate for Biological Sciences, will focus on the development and integration of environmental models that link local, regional and global scales. Other topics for collaboration with BIO are emerging and include biogeochemical cycles, the water cycle, with a goal of understanding how biological systems respond to changing physical and chemical conditions, and how the biological systems influence physical and chemical characteristics of soils and sediment, air, or water. A collaboration with ESE would seek to increase collaboration between the geosciences and the social and behavioral sciences.

ATM will experience personnel changes in the future that include the Division Director's retirement, the appointment of Cliff Jacobs to the GEO front office, and the appointment of an interim director.

NASA (Griffith)

NASA's Earth observations were discouraged during the previous administration's tenure. In 2007 the National Academy of Sciences decadal survey document pointed out that the U.S. Earth observing platforms were at great risk from the declining number of missions to provide global observations important to climate science. The improved budget outlook under the new administration is an encouraging development for the joint effort of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program.

The NACP's goals are developing scientific knowledge about, developing the scientific basis for implementing full carbon accounting, and supporting long-term quantitative measurements of fluxes.

The project has created interactive maps that provide scientists and citizens with the capability of visualizing carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel combustion in a project called "Vulcan." In addition, there's a NOAA-developed "Carbon Tracker" that allows scientists, citizens and decision makers to track carbon dioxide uptake and release at the Earth's surface over time. This is a NOAA contribution to NACP.

NCAP community members use Unidata softwares netCDF, IDV, GEMPAK, and THREDDS.


Proprietary Non-Proprietary status of AWIPS-II (J. C. Duh, Jason Tuell, NWS)

NOAA's J.C. Duh announced that Unidata is free to distribute NAWIPS II software to its community. He presented a letter addressed to Mohan containing this information which is signed by NOAA's Director of the Office of Science and Technology, Donald H. Berchoff. The committee has been a part of the ongoing discussions with NOAA/NWS to obtain confirmation that the AWIPS II software will be open source under a licensing arrangement. The NWS is committed to strengthening its relationship with the University community and working with Unidata to affect this outcome is a win-win. AWIPS-II includes software as well as components that may not be suitable or not sufficiently developed for use by the Unidata community. We are in onging discussions to work out remaining details.

NAWIPS Transition to AWIPS-II status (Brent Gordon, NCEP)

Brent's presentation contained the following points (among others):

  • NCEP has ceased all development of the NAWIPS software.
  • AWIPS-II is a merging of NAWIPS and AWIPS
  • NCEP views this as a software/hardware consolidation
  • Transition efforts are on schedule: major releases are scheduled to occur every six months, the first having occurred April 1, 2009.
  • The periodic incremental releases are meant to allow the customers to evaluate the product
  • Version 1 of NAWIPS in AWIPS-II targeted for release October 2010
  • Unidata is involved with the migration to AWIPS-II, and NCEP views Unidata as an important partner for NCEP's total mission.
  • Forward compatibility for GEMPAK users will provide access to the AWIPS-II database.
  • Hardware configuration must be considered in the transition process
  • In NCEP's experience 4G ram is required to run NAWIPS-II

Jason Tuell's presentation offered additional information.


  • What hardware will be required to run AWIPS-II
    • In this regard the committee felt that appropriate use of the Unidata Equipment Awards could assist community members in being prepared.
    • An important consideration in encouraging sites to submit proposals to the RFP could be to emphasize the high success rate of applicants to the RFP.


Brent's presentation included a CONDUIT discussion. Its close working relationship with Unidata allows NCEP to serve the university community. CONDUIT provides real-time access to higher resolution gridded operational model data. This linked table provides detail on CONDUIT's contents.

CONDUIT would benefit from additional feedback from data users.


The committee requested an updated list of available upper-air products,

Community Evolution (Ramamurthy)


Unidata has evolved considerably throughout its 25-year life. The initial community makeup consisted mostly of mesoscale and synoptic meteorologists who needed access to data. Although data access was the original motivation Unidata systems have consistently been used through the years by many Earth-science data users.

In 2003 Unidata examined the idea of expansion into key GEO disciplines, outreach to institutions beyond the U.D., creating a plan to expand to non-traditional institutions, and leveraging partnerships and technology. Now the program is examining these decisions.

In spite, or perhaps because of, the changes Unidata's community-driven focus has served it well. As the products and services have grown and become more robust Unidata is able to reach users in more disciplines, sectors, and organizations. Managing the growth and evolution has been and will continue to be, challenging.

The promise of long-range lightning detection in better understanding, nowcasting, and forecasting of maritime storms (Businger)

The waveguide between the Earth's surface and the ionosphere allows very low frequency emissions generated by lightning, called sferics, to propagate over long distances. The advent of GPS and microprocessors recently opened the door for the development of specialized long-range lightning detectors to utilize this natural waveguide to monitor lightning activity over the open ocean.

Two results from our PacNet research have facilitated a breakthrough in long-range lightning detection performance. (i) Documentation of the slow signal attenuation over water and increased sensor sensitivity has resulted in much greater network range. (ii) Improved signal processing that ingests the whole waveform allows separation of ground wave from 1st and 2nd ionospheric hops, greatly reducing location errors.

The continuous nature of the LLDN data stream is ideal for data assimilation. Much work remains to be done in this area. Initially we implemented a nudging approach that adjusts the latent heating profile in the cumulus parameterization in areas experiencing lightning. However, a superior balanced approach, such as 4D-VAR, still needs to be developed. It is possible that other proxies for lightning (e.g., water-vapor profiles, stability, surface fluxes, etc.) could provide better simulation results under certain circumstances, such as cases of isolated convection, and these remain to be investigated. Tropical cyclone simulations require high resolution to resolve eye wall dynamics, thus we are developing lightning-data assimilation methods that adjust the explicit cumulus dynamics.

See: http://www.unidata.ucar.edu/committees/polcom/2009spring/statusreports/busingertalk.html

2009 UCAR Survey of Community (Ramamurthy)

UCAR completed a periodic survey of its community in February 2009. The 2009 survey contained three parts. Part one's questions were about the respondents' backgrounds. The second contained questions about specific activities of UCAR, NCAR, and UCP while questions the third part contained questions about specific activities.

The presentation (originally presented by UCAR president, Rick Anthes) compared and contrasted this present survey to two earlier ones in 2000, and 2005.

The input contained in the Unidata sections was nearly overwhelmingly positive with the indication that use of Unidata tools and data is about the same in both education and research at universities. Other endeavors identified as important include the new case studies and equipment awards. Data provided in real time are also pointed out as important.


Most of the discussion of this item focused on the case studies project and the ways in which they can be used for outreach to K-12. While no conclusions were reached, the committee agreed that leveraging from groups that engage in K-12 outreach is the principle way in which Unidata can contribute in this endeavor.

Ideas for 25th Anniversary Event

A joint meeting of the Users Committee and Policy Committee will take place in conjunction with the celebration.

The first day, the 15th, would be set aside for a joint business meeting.

The second day, Friday the 16th, would be reserved for the anniversary celebration. Some suggestions that emerged from the discussion are:

  • A glossy book with detail on how Unidata has influenced science in this period
  • Memories from Unidata's early days:
    • A speech/presentation? By Fulker?
    • A document detailing how the education and research effort has been benefited by the data Unidata provides
  • Venue:
    • Auditorium
      • CG1
      • Mesa lab
  • Create an up-to-date history
    • Might consist of an on-line power point
    • Should detail computing infrastructure
    • Should have a dial-up sound
  • Submit an article for BAMS
  • Submit an article for Weather World

UCAR's celebration in June.

NOTE: planning for the 25th Anniversary event is underway in the Program Center.


See list of Action Items from this meeting.

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