Unidata Users Committee

Summary of the 24-25 October 1994 Meeting

Boulder, Colorado


Members:				        Representatives:
Mohan Ramamurthy, Chair				Tim Spangler, COMET
Denise Hawk
David Knight				       UPC Staff:
James Moore					Dave Fulker
Charles Murphy					Ben Domenico
Paul Ruscher					Sally Bates
Melanie Wetzel					Mitch Baltuch
						Don Murray
ATAC Representative:			     Mike Wright
Harry Edmon					Tom Yoksas
						Linda Miller

Administrative Matters:

The date for the next meeting will be 6-7 April 1995.

Review of actions from February and June meetings took place with two being carried over.

ACTION: Sally Bates will summarize information on LCD panels and video display systems that would be useful for university sites. Sally will take the lead on soliciting this information from the community and post the results to Unidata's WWW server.

ACTION: Jim Moore and Sally Bates will create an article on the site survey results.

Director's Report - Dave Fulker

The UCAR Members Meeting provided a time slot for Phil Smith to report on the summer workshop. He focused on the resolution from the summer workshop that covered providing credit for setting up labs, etc. Fulker presented two overheads with the synoptic and mesoscale suggested courses that came from the wrap-up session of the workshop. A brief summary of Smith's and Fulker's presentation at the Members Meeting was included in the Users Notebook.

Dave gave an abbreviated presentation of IDD. Valuable characteristics of the IDD are:

Unidata already has other data sources: FOS, GOES, NIDS, NLDN, MAPS

Curent usage statistics are being tracked and available on Unidata's WWW server.

Currently existing are: 3 ingesters, 5 relays, 25 leafs, (unmonitored traffic-2 ingesters and 20- leafs and relays). The delivery is timely and in some cases faster than satellite transmission. The exceptions are when the network` fails and lasts more than 30 minutes.

The statistics measuring approach needs to be refined and there is a need to quantify the statistics gathering system to improve warning system operation at source sites. This work is being addressed. Automatic failover will be developed for a future LDM. Currently the switchover is manual. The contract with Alden requires redundancy for the IDD system. Another option would be to work with sites who are getting satellite reception to provide redundancy.

Ben Domenico is leading the effort on working with ANS for backbone configuration of the IDD.

DIFAX will be available from Alden via IDD through paid subscriptions from each site. There will be redistribution constraints. The cost will be the same as the satellite service ($98/month). The data will be in Group 3 facsimile format. The printing display issues are currently unresolved. Fulker created a community e-mail to notify them of the results of the Alden negotiation and to invite community participation to provide a solution to the printing display issue. Alden will provide software for viewing by summer 1995.

Some sites are moving to asynchronous transfer mode (ATM) to improve their networking capabilities. Universities may need to limit their data appetite. The backbone transition will have little effect on performance of the Internet. Currently, new costs are underwritten by NSF, but the long-term impact could be between 10-15% for most universities.

Unidata will assist with data flow configuration of other data if it becomes a widely used data type.

Policy Committee issues to be discussed at the 14-15 November meeting will be:


There was a concern expressed over university departments, which are collocated with NWS forecast offices, redistributing data from the forecast office, using the LDM, to other research and education insitutions. Are there constraints?

NWS is fostering Level II data use of NEXRAD data to universities. The current contract allows NWS to place an extra pipe into the radar for such use.

ACTION: Linda Miller will follow up on direct connect options for universities at NWS Headquarters.

COMET Case Studies - Tim Spangler

Some of COMET's case studies are as large as 2 gigabytes of data. COMET's plan is to move the case studies into GEMPAK format. The COMET classroom is using N-AWIPS which uses GEMPAK developed for the NWS national centers.

By late spring or early summer, COMET will convert about 10 case studies for use in the fall on the N-AWIPS workstations. It is questionable to have satellite or radar data readiness; maybe satellite, probably not radar. COMET's preference is to eventually distribute the case studies through Unidata. A universal case study format has not been defined. They cannot be distributed on CD due to size.

Distribution will probably be done on tape. The integration of software packages is a question due to the case study issues. No netCDF work is being done at Unidata due to rapid deployment priority of the IDD. NetCDF has no way of storing variable length records so we need to examine that issue to explore what it takes to develop a formal extension for variable length.

Discussions are taking place on common formats for data management, especially within UCAR/UOP.

Heads & Chairs meeting - Tim Spangler

There were approximately 60 who attended the meeting. The AMS salary survey appears in BAMS this month. There has been zero progress in recruiting and hiring minorities; there are about 25% in the meteorology field. Women faculty members are being paid 4-5k less than men.

The next topic recommended meteorology courses to be taken as undergraduate courses. The draft was submitted by Phil Smith. There were minor modifications--24 credits with a mix of courses; differs from Federal standard, can choose correctly to satisfy the Federal standard, but there is a need to tell students that they cannot qualify for a Federal job if the site cannot meet the Federal standard course work standards.

A demonstration of NIDS displayed using WXP was running for viewing in the Unidata computer area. An element of the software requires code from WSI, which is currently proprietary. Dan Vietor is trying to work out an agreement with WSI to make the software available to the university community.

Jim Cowie, COMET, has been developing a NIDS decoder that results in McIDAS AREA files as output. GEMPAK can also use these AREA files. There is work to be done for McIDAS to fully use these AREA files. Full calibration and auxiliary blocks need to be developed for each NIDS product type, and McIDAS routines that understand the calibrations and auxiliary information need to be developed. The intent is that by the end of the year NIDS and NOWRAD products will be viewable with correct navigation. More detailed use of the AREAs may take longer.

The NIDS floater needs to be discussed and action taken by Users Comm. Overview: agreement with WSI for a NIDS floater arrangement. Users can choose where the floater should be directed for each day. Three radars can be chosen for a $50 additional fee/month.


A factor that needs to be considered is the load on the site administering the floater. Currently the satellite floater has been managed by Millersville. They have offered to administer the NIDS floater.

ACTION: The UPC will set up an e-mail mailing list for FLOATER-NIDS subscribers only!

It is the consensus of Users Comm that Millersville will administer the floater, subject to review at each usercomm meeting. The time frame will be determined by Millersville.

ACTION: Fulker should notify Russ DeSouza at Millersville of the User Committee decision for Millersville to administer the NIDS floater.

SSEC Plans & GOES-8 presentation - J.T. Young

Copies of the presentation were distributed at the meeting.

Several new products are available. Among them are:

GOES-8 signal format changes are being performed to add more information. McIDAS is being updated to support the projections used by the ETA and MRF models (Lambert Conformal Tangent projection). The next upgrade for McIDAS is scheduled for June '95.

Young recommended that the Unirec machine should be upgraded and consolidated with the IDD machine.

The timing of the termination of the satellite broadcast needs to be discussed. It could stop transmission of most MD and GRID files. There is a need for more bandwidth, when the IDD is fully deployed and feeding all leaf nodes, for floaters and derived products.

Additional products to be considered may be:

Data access plans--June 95-Abstract Data Distributed Environment--API standardized interface to ask for data by named data groups, specify parameter (matrix, scan). The client looks up on WAN or LAN. Servers for netCDF, GRIB, BUFR, etc., HDF.

SSEC has the goal to make AWIPS and McIDAS operations interoperable.

Joe Friday has suggested one minute data from GOES-J running continuously. Cloud images out to 48 hrs are available on the Gopher server.

separate imager and sounder
2 modes for operation planned

Navigation will not be perfect; it can change throughout the scan. Interuptions in one image presentation--difference is two elements 4km resolution may not be noticeable.

Aspect ratio-Visible is oversampled in the horizontal as compared to the vertical a bit in width (0.571:1).

Full METEOSAT archive will be added to data collection from Germany to Wisconsin.

Total bandwidth-2.11 mbits/sec from GOES-8
515 Megabytes/per 3 hrs--full global scan

SSEC is waiting for Unidata to inform Wisconsin when they want the GOES-8 data.

Propose--increase amount of data. Only 60% of bandwidth is being used. The satellite imagery is taking up 2/3 of bandwidth.


Timing issues: Tom Yoksas
Unidata release of McIDAS--one per year in June
Current version does not fully support GOES-8
Introduction of GOES-8 needs to be synchronized with a new release of McIDAS for use with the new data.

OS/2 1.3 sunset by Unidata on 1 January 1995; forces users to move to OS/2 2.1 or 3.0 (SSEC sunsetted OS/2 1.3 1 January 1994; IBM no longer supports OS/2 1.3)

GEMPAK does not support GOES-8 navigation. WXP release is planned for summer, 1995. GOES-8 support is dependent on Purdue getting information on GOES-8 projection.

Solution--(temporary solution to give developers time to add GOES-8 navigation) Remap GOES-8 data for GOES-7 navigation.
8 bit data will be broadcast; not 10 bit.


  1. The User Committee recommends GOES -8 data be remapped into GOES -7 resolution so it can be used by the rest of community and Unidata packages. This is a short-term option; full GOES-8 support should be implemented ASAP (June 1995).
  2. To take advantage of additional features, by June 1995, the User Committee urges other software developers to have their software available by same date.
NOAA has released a software package that does conversions that supports the changes for GOES-8.

SSEC wants a dedicated UNIX workstation so the floater can be changed by a designated administrator which would provide direct control.

Sounder data was discussed. (10 km) Sophistication of users needs to be enhanced. Frequency of soundings are more frequent.

There will be no more satellite feed after Dec 95. One option could be to add products to IDD and not to satellite feed. This would keep the functionality the same for users of the satellite broadcast until the end of December 1995


There is a freeware version of McIDAS--object code only--tailored to specific data sets; NASA/NOAA Pathfinder data sets are available from AMES and SSEC's FTP. Real-time data cannot be accessed. These are available in UNIX on four platforms.

VIS 5D application integration will operate off of same data bases and will eventually be fully supported when complete.

Fulker proposed the following:
Since OS2 cannot function as IDD relays--

  1. Dec 1--OS/2 as leaf for IDD-WI will feed OS/2
  2. Dec 15-GOES-8 on IDD with Alden acting as feed
  3. Dec 15-Software modifications for applications
    1. By Jan 15-GOES-8 minimal (current level of service)
    2. NIDS
    3. By summer-GOES-8 comprehensive - IDD only
  4. McIDAS-XCD--fold software into Unidata allowing move from satellite (images only on WI channel) Note: should consider keeping radar mosaic for those unable to afford NIDS. This could be produced by site(s) running XCD.
  5. This allows sites to have all data sets--decodes everything in conventional data stream Note: dropping non-satellite data from Unidata- WI will not have reduction of service until some other data is available to replace it.
"Would rather have data with no software than software with no data." Dave Knight

ACTION: A sub-group was formed to development a strawman GOES-8 wish list. The members are: Melanie Wetzel, Charlie Murphy, Paul Ruscher, Harry Edmon, Denise Laitsch, SSEC, and Tom Yoksas, Unidata Focal Point. The group will develop recommendations for the short-term and long-term plans.

ACTION: Linda Miller will check on availability of radar composite from NOAA (30 min to hourly)

DIFAX - Fulker

Provided the draft announcement of DIFAX availability via IDD by subscription to Alden with usage constraints. Fulker solicited comments.

Add paragraph in note to Community about possible netpbm coverter and XV viewer.

IDD and KU band - Ben Domenico

To date we have 52 in the application queues.


The recent community announcement (10/23/94) was distributed. Unidata's WWW server has information available to community on the status and activities surrounding the IDD progress.

LDM4.134 is most current version. It is reliable through outages to one hour. Three solid relays are now fanning to eight relays. McTingest can feed OS/2 only sites by plugging into the back-end of the LDM server. This is viewed as a "quick fix", not the final solution.

Illinois, Washington and MERIT (Univ of Mich) are the 3 top level relays.

Nov 1 there will be a general release of the LDM 4.1 to the community. Ben's presentation was distributed to the committee.

User Workshop Recap - Mitch Baltuch

A new format produced three weeks of workshops. The entire LDM workshop is available in HTML on the WWW server. Use a Web browser which links to exercises, manpages, UNIX commands, etc. It can be found on Unidata's LDM homepage.

Attendees included University sites, government labs and UCAR/NCAR:
McIDAS - 23

WXP - Mike Wright

The WXP workshop was advertised as an advanced workshop. Dan Vietor conducted the workshop. Dan is scheduled to release version 5.0 during late second quarter of 1995.

NIDS software has been created from the original RAD program. It should be available next summer. It supports overlay and looping. Development of WXP is becoming a problem due to Dan's pressures at Purdue. There could be a potential hole in development.

ACTION: Send an acknowledgement of contribution to Dan Vietor from Dave Fulker and Bob Fox with cc to Dan's chairman, Ernie Agee. Dave will draft letter.

GEMPAK - Don Murray and Tom Yoksas

Workshop latest release of GEMPAK was in August. It comprised several bug fixes. NetCDF interface is being worked. GEMPAK help file at MIT is well done-Peggy will get it from MIT in tar file. GUI is being defined with COMET/NMC for GEMPAK development.

N-TRANS is a viewer. N-TRANS version will be the same for universities and Scientific Operations Officers (SOOs). Satellite is part of GEMPAK now. NSAT may not be included. HRS can be used with GEMPAK with bridge software.

WXP station tables are available in GEMPAK form.

McIDAS - Tom Yoksas

Two new versions -one for X and one for OS/2.

Latest version of McIDAS provides Function Key Menus to interface for analysis and overlays.

WETNET browse imagery was added in September.

Tutorial will be placed in Web on McIDAS. Don Murray will be working on it. Availability will be next year.

Tcl/Tk GUI for McIDAS is being developed. Tcl/Tk components in current Function Key Menu right now.

Huffman Matrix - Dave Knight

Background: George Huffman created a table that showed all of the Unidata software packages and common holes. It was meant to allow development. What does Unidata need for applications? Now, the Policy Commmittee wants to know where Unidata needs to go for future.

Refer to David Knight's Huffman summary e-mail, 28 Oct 1994.

The IDL has interfaces to read and write data in netCDF, CDF, or HDF. May use IDL instead of adapting everything to netCDF.

How intuitive is the means for implementation for packages? It becomes subjective. Desired algorithms need documentation from users. How will this be presented to the Policy Committee? What tools are needed to do your work better?
Sharp? Vis5D? Dicer?
Add things that are missing from the current matrix.
What is the purpose of the matrix?
Is there a need for a re-evaluation of current packages?
Is additionall functionality important or should another package be adopted?

New elements need to be added to the matrix. Strengths of each current package needs to be documented in a way to help users choose a package intelligently.

ACTION: User Comm will create a brief community survey of software packages currently being used at Unidata sites. Time frame for the survey--Jan'95 to compile and prepare for April 1995 meeting.

The demise of the Huffman Matrix, as we've known it, was declared and a new multi-dimensional approach must be implemented.

The discussion of the Huffman Matrix led to a discussion about Unidata sites' needs and the dichotomy of needs among the sites. A different approach of obtaining the necessary information required by sites from the UPC may need to be implemented.

Do we need to document the data types available from NWS Family of Service?
Do we need to revise the Unidata fact sheets to provide information in a different form?
What are the Unidata sites missing by way of needs and support?
After a long discussion, the committee agreed to take the following actions:

ACTION: The User Committee will divide the Unidata sites list and telephone the site representatives to discuss their needs and obtain feedback on their relationship with Unidata.

ACTION: A community e-mail reminder of each upcoming User Committee meeting will be disseminated to the community soliciting comments or issues that are relevant for the committee to discuss.

Summary created by Linda Miller
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