Unidata Users Committee 6-7 April 1995 Boulder, Colorado


Members:                                Visitors:
Mohan Ramamurthy (Chair)                Jim Purdom, CIRA/NOAA
David Knight                            Ken Eis, CIRA
James Moore
Charles Murphy
Paul Ruscher
Melanie Wetzel

Ex-Officio Members:                     UPC Staff:
Russell DeSouza, Policy Committee       Dave Fulker
Harry Edmon, ATAC                       Ben Domenico
                                        Sally Bates
                                        Mitch Baltuch
                                        Peggy Bruehl
                                        Don Murray
                                        Sandy Nilsson
                                        Tom Yoksas
                                        Linda Miller

Administrative Matters

The next UserComm meeting will be 17-18 October 1995.

The action items from the October, 1994 meeting were checked and completed.

It was agreed that the Users Committee meeting summary would be posted to Unidata's WWW server.

Director's Report - Dave Fulker

In general, the community is happy with the IDD. There have been changes on the network, leading to some fluctuation in the reliability of data distribution.

Adaptations of software changes are required for some of the software packages. There is a need to separate decoder development and support within the UPC.

Dave solicited ideas for options for Unidata's presence at the AMS Annual Meeting.

The Committee suggested that Unidata could have booth presence every two years at the AMS, combined with presence at the AGU Annual Meeting in San Francisco.

Considerations for the AGU attendance were discussed:

  1. Unidata would need to change direction in their presence due to a different audience
  2. Unidata would be able to meet a diverse group to introduce the IDD and address the interdisciplinary aspects of data access and distribution
  3. The use of netCDF in the AGU community could be highlighted
  4. AGU presence would provide an opportunity to research new data sets, such as buoy data.

The User Committee recommended that Unidata not have a booth at the next AMS meeting, but rather attend the San Francisco AGU meeting to assess future presence there.

Policy Committee Report - Mohan Ramamurthy

The Policy Committee would like diverse membership to the Unidata User Committee. The Policy Committee, at its last meeting, passed a resolution to expand the Users Committee to nine members on a three year rotation plan. Bob Fox, Chairman, is soliciting nominations for new members as well as nominations to replace members whose terms are expiring this year.

DISCUSSION: Given the increase in the size of the Usercomm, the question of breaking the committee into sub-groups was discussed. Considerations on permanent sub-committee structures consisted of the following:

It was agreed that there should probably be a total of three sub-committees. Committee members felt that the Summer Workshop and Outreach (University Relations) groups could be combined into one, due to the sporadic nature of those activities.

The Policy Committee had suggested that the User Committee create a mechanism for recognizing user contributions. Discussion by the Users Committee included suggestions of Unidata Newsletter profiles, nominations published in the WWW, and informal nominations, rather than monthly, annual, etc. No formal action was taken on this issue.

A resolution from the Policy Committee was for the UPC to take a pragmatic approach on platform support and sunsetting of platform and software packages available to the Unidata community.

The problems associated with administration of OS/2 to Solaris were discussed.

Unidata's proposal to National Weather Service (NWS) to provide the SOOs' support structure for GEMPAK was discussed. NWS funding is currently unavailable, but the proposal will be reviewed again for new FY96 funding potential.

Unidata's WWW Server - Sally Bates

Sally provided handouts to the committee giving examples of the information available to the Unidata community from the UPC. There were suggestions made for changes.

ACTION: Unidata will make the suggested changes to the available WWW information.

Displays - Sally Bates

From a previous action item, Sally conducted a survey of the community on the type of classroom displays being used within their institutions. She received 26 responses.

ACTION: The results from the survey will be placed in the WWW.

NIDS Floater - Russ DeSouza

An overview of floater selection and display was provided. Millersville is managing the floater and, because of the responsibility, obtains their NIDS subscription free (paid by the UPC). Due to the nature of the subscriptions andprices of the NIDS data, an effort is being made to be responsive to the subscribers' requested locations, but is sometimes a challenge.

Information on selection and display principles are in the notebook (Section A).

Software has been developed within the community for use with NIDS products.

Pricing of NIDS is an issue among the community. The general consensus of the committee is that the price charged by WSI is high and perhaps Dave Fulker could attempt to negotiate lower pricing for the university subscribers. The Users Committee further suggested that Unidata investigate the possibility of getting NIDS/NOWrad products included in the products for the community. Tom Yoksas has suggested the 15 minute NOWrad national radar composite.

GOES-8 - Jim Purdom

Jim provided a one-hour briefing on the use of GOES-8 digital data and gave many examples. He noted that there is a BAMS article on the use of GOES-8 data, and another paper co-authored by Jim Purdom and Paul Menzel that provides information on using GOES to track icebergs. GOES data can also be used to track "hot spots" to locate forest fires, fog detection, among other things.

Ten-bit data is reduced to 8-bit data and 1x1 resolution is used to track polar icebergs. The display of 3.9 microns (emitted or reflected on visible or infrared) can distinguish water clouds over snow.

GOES-9 is scheduled for a May 19 launch. Following the launch, there will be a five month checkout prior to data delivery.

Rapid Scan is called by Kansas City Severe Forecasting Center and the National Hurricane Laboratory. New scan strategies will be developed. Sounder data is being researched with data provided from SSEC.

CIRA has a homepage providing tutorials on GOES. The URL is:


Satellite Discussion:

The committee members wanted to know if there are cost limitations on what data might be useful to the community. It was suggested that the committee determine what data types would be beneficial to the Unidata community and make the recommendations. The charging algorithm has changed at SSEC, so pricing must be investigated after recommendations are made. The IDD can handle twice the data that is now being used. Recommendations from the committee included:

The immediate concerns are for additional GOES 8 products on the satellite broadcast. Some considerations should be:

  1. Cut off Eastern one-third of GOES-7 (VIS, IR)
  2. Add GOES-8, 8km, 1HR, (1000x600)
    • significant overlap (approximately 1/3rd)
    • VIS, IR, and vapor products hourly
  3. Research floater - Leave it blank for now
  4. Education floater
    • high resolution products

Update, April 27, 1995, the following arrangement was made:

Products for consideration via IDD:

  1. repeat satellite broadcast products
  2. increase (4 times) horizontal resolution (IR, VIS, Vapor)
  3. increase time resolution by a factor of 4 (IR, VIS, vapor)
  4. add full disk hemispheric 3 hourly images (IR, Vapor)
  5. add near infrared (3.9 micron) consistent with 2) and 3).
  6. derived sounder information (delayed)
    • precipitable water
    • lifted index
  7. continue to use floater slots (special interest floaters)

It was agreed that there should be a 30 day warning prior to changes in the data stream for the community to make the appropriate changes to their software.

ACTION: A change to the satellite data stream which would include GOES-8 data will be announced by Unidata and be made in approximately 7-10 days, due to the desire for GOES-8 data. (Subsequently, this time-table has been pushed back to May 22nd due to technical delays and end of semester concerns)

ACTION: At the next Usercomm meeting, arrange for a presentation from an SSEC representative to describe GOES sounder products.

Jim Purdom recommended that the community needed broadscale flow patterns and hourly water vapor.

It was suggested that Jim Purdom recommend some type of workshop or training seminar for use of GOES-8 digital satellite data. NWS SOOs are being trained at COMET using RAMSDIS. It might be possible to obtain additional copies of the COMET modules being created for COMET's purposes for use at universities. There is certainly a need for users to become more sophisticated on the use of GOES data. The course should include GOES, DMSP and Polar Orbitors data. The AMS will be sponsoring a short course in Atlanta forthe 1996 AMS annual meeting. He also indicated that he expected the course to fill up quickly.

Jim Purdom suggested that a regional workshop might be useful. It might be possible to involve the NWS and university people in a joint venture between NOAA and Unidata. He also mentioned that there is an annual satellite users conference sponsored by EUMETSAT. Perhaps suggesting that the AMS, NWS or NOAA should sponsor a similar activity for the university community would be valuable. Jim said that maybe the Unidata community could make a recommendation to NOAA for a similar workshop.

Discussion revolved around a summer 1996 workshop, similar to the 1994 mesoscale workshop held in Boulder. No decision was made on this topic.

Survey Results - Dave Knight

The Users Committee conducted a survey of the community on software and data needs. A summary of the survey results is in Section B of the User Committee notebook.

Points of interest made were:

ACTION: Provide information to the community about tutorial availability on McIDAS

ACTION: Provide information to community on how to dump data into ASCII files.

ACTION: Ask Tim Spangler to pursue DMSP data availability from Univ. of Alaska

ACTION: Unidata Director should focus on affordable NIDS prices for the community rather than redistribution rights

IDD Progress Report - Ben Domenico

A summary of the IDD was provided, identifying remaining activities and some of the problem areas.

Reliability problems at Alden with a heavily loaded machine. Alden is working on a Solaris 2.4 and making necessary changes.

Questions that are being considered and discussed are:

Current data rates are approximately 400 MB/day. Unidata is attempting to encourage sites not participating in the IDD to make the change prior to the 31 December 1995 date when the satellite broadcast from SSEC ends. Part of the incentive for the sites to make the change is availability of additional data via IDD. Site administrators are forming teams to deal with IDD issues.

Future plans:


Archiving of data at Unidata versus distributed archive sites, possibly at Regional Climate Centers. The climate centers receive much of their funding through NOAA. The climate centers could coordinate their archives for the community. Questions arise as to the method that would be needed to coordinate such a task; grants, matching funds, etc.

The requests for data usually come from research-oriented projects.

ACTION: Analyze all requests for past data to see which sites are making the requests and the number of of such requests.

ACTION: Dave will prepare a white paper on data storage.

Small Grants - Sally Bates

Cliff Jacobs sent a note requesting input from the Users Committee on how to proceed with a small program on a trial. See Cliff email (Section B) in the notebook. Considerations might be:

ACTION: Sally will propose procedures, criteria in a strawman for review by Users Committee.

Telephone/e-mail Campaign Progress Report

Each committee member reported on site contact progress. See Section B e-mails for additional information. In general the impression of Unidata and its services and support is very favorable.

It was agreed that the site contacts faciliate discussion and provide input from the community. In general, most sites like a person contacting them.

DISCUSSION: The NIDS issue was discussed again. It was suggested that that a thrust for university wide distribution be made to WSI in trade for lower prices. It was also suggested that NSF fund the data stream for the entire community, in a similar manner to Alden's FOS contract.

RESOLUTION: The User Committee requests the Policy Committee consider a selected set of NIDS products to be provided free to all universities and the Users Committee will work on recommending and defining the products.

Satellite Discussion-continued

After contacting SSEC, Tom Yoksas discovered that GOES-7 and GOES-8 products cannot be sent coincidentally, due to scheduling (no exact overlap). The GOES-8 products will be placed in the Unidata/Wisconsin Channel as soon as possible. A one-week notice will be sent to the sites.

WXP Support Issues - Dave Fulker

Background information was presented and the question of WXP community support was raised. Users Committee reaction was solicited. Can McIDAS and GEMPAK do everything that WXP can do? Many of the charts created for the WWW servers are using WXP.

Some decoders or scripts will need to be created for both McIDAS and GEMPAK to make all of the products similar to WXP functionality. Products mentioned were: national radar summary, frontal depictions, national weather summary, MOS, and charts for use with WWW servers.

WXP Status Discussion

Dan Vietor is preparing the next release, which is a complete re-write of WXP. According to Dan, the new release will not have additional functionality, but will be more efficient.

PROPOSAL: Unidata should support WXP through the 5.0 release and distribution

ACTION: Unidata Director should investigate the budget implications of the above proposal.

Acceleration of development of GEMPAK and McIDAS will be pursued by the UPC as resources permit. The characteristics of WXP will be identified and included in the development of GEMPAK and McIDAS.

Dave will work with Dan Vietor on the 5.0 release and identify mechanisms for support.

No sunset date is recommended.

The principles of the above discussion will be provided to the Policy Committee.

The discussion resulted in the following resolution:

RESOLUTION: The User Committee recommends that the Policy Committee endorse the UPC strategy for moving WXP to "community-support" status and directing more resources toward enhancing GEMPAK and McIDAS, especially the ease-of-use factors that reduce the effectiveness of these systems in introductory instructional settings.

Harry Edmon received the first recognition award for trouble shooting missing radar data in 10 minutes! ;-)

This page was prepared by Linda Miller

Questions or comments can be sent to Usercomm@unidata.ucar.edu