Unidata Users Committee
Meeting Summary
23-24 September 1996
Boulder, Colorado



Members:					Visitors:
Mohan Ramamurthy (Chair)			Brian Heckman, COMET
Greg Cox					Mary Marlino, USAF Academy
Dave Dempsey					Greg Byrd, COMET
David Knight					Tim Spangler, COMET
Steve Koch					Bill Pennell, UCAR/UOP
Jennie Moody						
Michael Morgan
Charles Murphy
Melanie Wetzel
Doug Yarger

Ex-Officio Members:				UPC Staff:
Harry Edmon, ATAC				Sally Bates
Steve Mullen, Policy Committee			Steve Chiswell
						Ethan Davis
						Ben Domenico
						Dave Fulker
						Linda Miller
						Don Murray
						Sandra Nilsson
						Tom Yoksas

Administrative Matters

The next meeting of the Committee will be 13-14 March 1997.

A review of the Action Items led to another discussion about NIDS (see Director's report).

Steve Mullen reported on Action 1 which involved the question of facilitating membership in Unidata to south of the border (Mexican) sites. Steve had contacted Cliff Jacobs, NSF, about this matter. Mullen reported that there should not be a problem with language barriers because most Mexican sites interested in participation in Unidata speak English. The data exchange issues are probably not as relevant with Mexican sites as with the European community. Unidata should be aware of NSF's Inter-American Institute (IAI) to support such activities.

ACTION 1: Steve Mullen will take the report on south of the border participation to the Policy Committee for discussion and action.

Correction on the dates for the COMET Faculty Course on Satellite Meteorology were made. The course will be held Tuesday, 10 June - Thursday 19 June 1997, followed by the Unidata workshop scheduled for 22-27 June 1997.

Director's Report - Dave Fulker

In an overview of the five year proposal planning, there were three key elements where input was solicited from the Users Committee. These elements are:

  1. General software directions
  2. Growth into other communities
  3. New data sets

Bill Hibbard, author of Vis5D, is planning to develop JAVA classes for data visualization and analysis similar to his recent VisAD package. Unidata is considering collaborations with Bill that would be a natural follow on to netCDF activities. Use of Java would move Unidata toward platform independence.

The NSF has encouraged Unidata to explore working with other disciplines. There are fields within the geosciences that might be mutually beneficial to our current community. The growth should be stimulated by the current community needs, e.g. hydrology. Fulker described his intentions for growth at margins and to expand naturally where current Unidata universities are already interacting.

Because any site can be a data source, the LDM allows new data types to be introduced with ease using the IDD. It has been difficult in the past to measure the need and introduce new data easily because of the difficulty of introducing new data sets into the old satellite broadcast system.

Dave Fulker is attending a CSTAR meeting, hosted by NWS this week. The purpose of the meeting is to discuss collaboration between universities and the NWS. Fulker is a panel moderator at this meeting and intends to propose the IDD method for use with NCEP models, hydrology, ACARS, et al.

Fulker will also point out the advantages of the IDD as a good distribution mechanism for the Level II NIDS data from each WSR-88D. (This was suggested in a letter an submitted to the NWS for the future distribution method for WSR-88D data) Fulker also mentioned another data set that would be useful for the IDD is GPS met data if universities set up their own GPS receiving stations.

COMET-Unidata Initiative

UCAR-Education Research Center (ERC) - COMET has a center currently working with faculty. The question has been raised on whether this function should be performed within UCAR or among universities, e.g. consortium of universities.

Bill Pennell, Director of the UCAR Office of Programs, has suggested that Don Johnson, Dick Johnson and John Snow (current UCAR Board of Trustees members) meet to determine the roles of COMET and Unidata in an education research center. There is a need to study the feasibility of the program and how to engage the university community in the process.

Sally Bates led a discussion based on the Education White Paper

Discussion included the possibility of Unidata assisting universities through a "resource center" approach. This type of initiative needs to be a "grass roots" with faculties defining their needs. It also requires maintenance and support after initial dissemination. The summer workshop could provide a prototype for how this might work. However the current GEM grants might not be large enough. A $50-100k grant may be needed.

Brian Heckman manages the Education Research Center at COMET which works with domestic and international academia and new product development to provide tools, skills, and knowledge for faculty members. The intent is to help faculty build the skills needed to create multimedia for use at their own institution. COMET has been broadening to encompass geosciences and pedagogical fields. Examples already exist within COMET through the programs at UMet in Puerto Rico and DRI. COMET also has a library of weather graphics that they would like to make available to a broader community.

Resolution to Policy Committee:

The paradigm for educating students has shifted in focus toward student centered learning. Faculty members at some Unidata universities are trying to adapt their classroom applications of meteorological data and analysis tools and multimedia technologies to the new paradigm. These efforts have not been well coordinated, and faculty members at many universities who would like to be more involved lack the necessary resources and expertise to participate.

Unidata has expertise developing and supporting meteorological data distribution, analysis and display software; training people to use the software; and fostering communication and collaboration within the meteorological community. The Users Committee recommends that the Unidata Policy Committee consider ways in which Unidata could extend its expertise, to foster and coordinate a national effort to adapt its supported software, plus multimedia instructional technologies, to the new paradigm. This effort should involve UCAR, including COMET, Unidata, and interested universities.

Archived Data Sites - Ethan Davis

In response to Action Item 8, Ethan Davis, provided a demonstration of capabilities of some archived services available through a Web interface. He demonstrated CODIAC which is being adapted for use with COMET case studies. These case studies are being loaded and made available using the Web interface that was created for CODIAC. Also discussed was MEL, a DOD's Master Environmental Library system, and the NGDC SPYDR system used for DMSP data. Ethan's archive list

Some suggestions for building the COMET case studies using CODIAC included the capability of selecting times (hours) for each case study and adding more browsing capabilities would be useful so the user can decide if they want to order the case study.

It was suggested that the use of a COMET case study should be demonstrated by a university user during the summer 1997 workshop.

In a brief discussion about archive capabilities taking place at Unidata sites, it was suggested that sites interested in taking on this responsibility for the community might want to apply for an NSF grant to obtain a juke box.

ATAC Report - Ben Domenico

There are three areas where Unidata is seeking input from the ATAC. ATAC issues

  1. Class packages - object oriented approach with georeferencing
  2. Data access
  3. Analysis and display software approach - consulting with experts in the community for input

The vBNS in the past was used for experiments, but now the Acceptable Use Policy has changed so we can encourage institutions to get on the vBNS through the NSF/CISE grant process. There are solicitations being made every six months. Seed money will be available for two years for these grants. Currently there are nine Unidata institutions already connected through this "connections" program. The use of the vBNS will be instrumental in experimenting with the high volume data being made available from the direct satellite receivers, NEXRAD level II, and regional MM5-type models.

Satellite Products - Melanie Wetzel

The satellite discussion included doubling of both temporal and spatial resolution. Tom Yoksas and Sandra Nilsson contacted SSEC about pricing with the final result of the capability of doubling the spatial resolution and adding a new floater to the Unidata-Wisconsin channel.

ACTION 2: A reminder will be sent to the university community about selection of floater locations. An article will also be written for the next Unidata newsletter.

Workshop Planning - Melanie Wetzel

The COMET Faculty course is being planned by Greg Byrd, Tony Mostek and Melanie Wetzel. The course will be limited to 18 participants. This course will focus on satellite applications and research.

Following an afternoon of discussing options among committee members for the workshop, the following proposal was presented by Melanie Wetzel for the workshop titled, "Using Instructional Educational Technologies and Satellite Data for College-Level Education in the Atmospheric and Earth Sciences," scheduled for 22-27 June 1997.

A five-day workshop is planned on the use of meteorological satellite data as an information source for atmospheric and related scientific education and research. The workshop will demonstrate creative applications of satellite data for multi-media and computer-based teaching in atmospheric and environmental sciences. Invited speakers will make presentations on satellite-related research and teaching activities, remote sensing information resources, educational design principles and instructional technology. The workshop will also include group discussions on specific aspects of instructional design, and computer-based activities for development of instructional resources related to meteorological satellite data.

Proposed draft with the workshop schedule

Monday Morning:

Monday Afternoon:

Groups in Lab activity 1 (i.e. hourly rotation through I.1-IV.1 ; see below for list of Labs)

Tuesday Morning:

Tuesday Afternoon:

Groups in Lab activity 2

Wednesday Morning:

Wednesday Afternoon:

Groups in Lab activity 3

Thursday Morning:

Thursday Afternoon:

Groups in Lab activity 4

Friday Morning:

Lab Activities

Note: C1 means COMET classroom computer facilities; C2 means COMET ERC computer facilities, if available

Each one of these activities will be led by at least one COMET staff member, at least two Usercomm members, and perhaps other selected speakers or participants


I.1 Goals (Impediments and Incentives, e.g., time and resource limitations, cultural and curricular constraints, lack of faculty incentives)

I.2 Subject Content

I.3 Classroom Environment (C1)

I.4 Learning Activities (C2)


II.1 Modules (COMET, college, etc) and module segment selection (C2)

II.2 Web-based resources and multi-site web collaboration (C1)

II.3 Data Resources (Unidata, etc), Graphic Databases/Software, COMET Case Studies

II.4 Management of Computer-based Coursework, Computer Resources, Adaption/Integration


III.1 Learning Strategies

III.2 Media Selection (C2)

III.3 Testing (C1)

III.4 Course Evaluation - Quality Assurance-what is needed to ensure quality and rigor of computer-based instruction



IV.2 Graphic Production

IV.3 Authoring Software (IconAuthor, CBTExpress, etc) (C2)

IV.4 Java and Future software tools

Content Areas for Development Groups:

[A] Survey Course in Meteorology and Earth Sciences

[B] Weather Forecasting and Mesoscale Processes

[C] Climate, Hydrology and Earth-Atmosphere Processes

[D] Biogeochemical Cycles and Air Chemistry

Workshop Working Group: Melanie Wetzel, Dave Dempsey, Sandra Nilsson, Sally Bates, Linda Miller, Brian Heckman, Doug Yarger, Charlie Murphy, and Mary Marlino

Other considerations include:

Logistics - rooms, computers (Heckman offered to pay for computers required from COMET's ERC budget)

Additional details will be provided on the format, presenters and logistics after invitations and arrangements have been made.

Due to the emphasis of the workshop being on technologies for teaching satellite remote sensing, the title was massaged by the Committee. The new title (as noted above) is, "Using Instructional Educational Technologies and Satellite Data for College-Level Education in the Atmospheric and Earth Sciences."

Strategic Planning - Ben Domenico

Discussion about Unidata's five-year proposal to NSF was the final agenda item. Currently, there are three main areas that will be incorporated into the proposal.

  1. General software directions
      Java class libraries developed in collaboration with Bill Hibbard and example applications such as VisAD & Vis5D
  2. Growth into other communities
      atr the margins where there are natural affinities (e.g. hydrology)
  3. Taking advantage of new data sources;
      NOAAPORT, WSR-88D Level II, mesoscale models, profiler 6 min, ACARS, etc


- Performance issues including portability, flexibility and the possible augmentation of existing packages are areas that need to be considered as Unidata plans for the future.

- Continued development of current packages should take place as Unidata investigates new directions.

- Unidata could consider researching other image analysis software besides Vis5D and VisAD. This could include IDL to see if they have made concessions for university institutions regarding the proprietary nature of the software. This research could include analysis and display packages used in interdisciplinary activities.

- When considering VisAD, Vis5D and JAVA, the following points were made:

- Unidata needs to work on class libraries, but the community input will be important as applications are developed.

The current implementation of Vis5D will become part of the Unidata mix with the future McIDAS release.

It was suggested that the data from regional models could be exchanged by the sites using regional models and shared with the entire community.

ACTION 3: Unidata should explore the idea of using the IDD for distribution of the regional models (e.g.,MM5) data from sites that are using the models.

ACTION 4: Unidata needs to keep the community apprised through e-mail and Unidata newsletter articles about the future directions being planned.

Provisions will be made for input from the community regarding the JAVA class libraries and especially applications built on top of them, including the functionality of Vis5D and VisAD and current applications.

ACTION 5: Ben Domenico and Linda Miller should continue contacting (via e-mail or telephone) site representatives to find out if Unidata systems are being used for interdisciplinary activities within their institution or in collaborative activities.

Another area that should eventually be explored is how Unidata is now being used in other disciplines and what additional data sets and applications would be useful.

Prepared by Linda Miller

Questions or comments can be sent to Linda Miller