Draft Users Committee Summary
Unidata Users Committee
17-18 October 1995
Mohan Ramamurthy (Chair) Dave Johnson, MMM
Ex-Officio Members: UPC Staff:
Harry Edmon, ATAC Dave Fulker
The meeting began with introductions of new Users Committee members; Greg
Cox, Univ of Alabama-Huntsville, Jennie Moody, Univ of Virginia and Doug
Yarger, Iowa State Univ. Steve Chiswell, was introduced as
Unidata's new staff member replacing Peggy Bruehl in GEMPAK support.
Review of the action items from the April Users Committee revealed that
in place of a presentation from a Space Science and Engineering Center
representative describing GOES sounder products, the information in SSEC's
World Wide Web server was useful and provided adequate information for the
The question of Alaska providing DMSP data for the Unidata university
community will be carried over to the next meeting, along with the white
paper on data storage to be written by Dave Fulker.
The next meeting will be in Boulder on May 6-7, 1996.
Director's Report - Dave Fulker
- The overall state of the Unidata program is sound.
- Networking and Data sources are working well. Because of the critical
role that Alden plays in the IDD, Unidata is watching their performance
- The application software area of Unidata was characterized as solid,
though GEMPAK was supported part-time by Don Murray until Steve
Chiswell joined Unidata on 16 October to become the full-time GEMPAK
- Dan Vietor will be completing the latest version of WXP. He will
spend a short time at the UPC to complete the necessary work and to
assure a smooth transition to community support.
- There has been a delineation of responsibilities for McIDAS; Don Murray
is working with OS/2; Tom Yoksas with McIDAS-X (UNIX).
- GUIs are being developed to provide a user friendly approach
- OS/2 users will be able to use all IDD datastreams
- OS/2 sites will not be able to be relay nodes for IDD
- The LDM5 is currently in alpha test. It addresses reliability issues.
Automatic failover is planned for a future release of the LDM5.
- By the first quarter of 1996, we can cease the conventional datastream
from SSEC, providing additional money for other products. This will
remove the bandwidth constraint from the Wisconsin data feed because there
will no longer be a need link to Illinois for feeding the satellite, thus
creating an opportunity for larger satellite images available at similar prices
and different packaging schemes for additional community choices.
- The networking scheme is being revamped and should provide improved
reliability from SSEC. The community must remember that SSEC does not
- Unidata is exploring the feasibility of a NOAAPORT feed. COMET may
have one and perhaps Unidata will be able to share it.
- Issues still need to be resolved with NOAAPORT, such as Ku- or C-band
requirements. Once resolved, several universities might want their own
- Unidata will investigate various options for feeding the IDD, e.g.
segmentation of data streams, regional segmentation (e.g., Western
region feed might interface a NOAAPORT receiver to the LDM, providing
access to their regional satellite images).
- Unidata has been providing links to NOAA/NESDIS NOAAPORT information on the World Wide Web (WWW).
Unidata will continue to keep the community advised on updates.
- The final decision from NOAA/NESDIS should be made by December 1995.
- A recent release of the netCDF software focused primarily on bug
fixes. The next version will include features that enhance
compactness, and additional funding for these developments is being
provided through NSF's Information Infrastructure Technology and
Applications (IITA) initiative. UCAR has received an IITA grant to
increase coherence among data services and related activities at NCAR
and UCAR, and the planned efforts include enhancing the netCDF for use
by climate modelers, a community concerned about compactness.
Under these IITA funds, Harvey Davies--an Australian from CSIRO who
has extensive netCDF experience--will spend time at Unidata adapting
the netCDF to allow user-specified precision and to support pointers
for handling variable length records and similar structures. These
two features will decrease the size of netCDF files carrying certain
types of information, such as thinned grids, bulletins with variable
text fields, and data whose real precision is known to be less than
that of floating-point numbers.
ACTION: Fulker will check to see if there's a GIS package using netCDF.
- Unidata user relations seem to be good. There has been a reduction in
cost to sites due to the IDD. Unidata must pay attention to performance, feeds,
etc. It is encumbent upon Unidata to monitor the networking environment
for stability. Tools have been created for statistics.
- Financial status depicted as okay, but the Policy Committee is
concerned due to the equipment budget constraints. The PolComm
suggested that Unidata cannot continue with a level budget forever.
- A discussion was launched by the Policy Committee on the notion Unidata
serving a larger audience? Allan Gaines, NSF Earth Sciences in
GeoSciences Directorate, suggested that Unidata is well positioned with
oceanographers. The need of additional data for oceans (National Centers
for Environmental Prediction, formerly NMC, can make data available);
netCDF is being used by oceanographers. The solid earth community is
different. GIS technologies should be explored to see how they might fit
into the Unidata community. Gaines posed the question - "Does Unidata
want to continue serving the current community on reduced budgets or expand the
program?" Either way, compromises will need to be made.
- Questions that need answers are:
- - How do you expand without compromising current community?
- - Are universities expanding into the same areas?
- - Is it consistent with the directions being taken within our
- - Should the strategy be the mission of atmospheric science
solely, or a larger spectrum?
- NIDS-lower prices should be effective from October 1, 1995. Prices are
provided in notebooks. Prices are not proprietary. The question of
making NIDS products available for special field projects (special time
frame) was discussed.
ACTION : Fulker will pursue the question of NIDS product availability
for special field projects with WSI.
Discussion: The question of the possibility of a 30-day free trial for
use on campus to demonstrate the effectiveness of the service was
discussed. WSI does allow for 30 day free trial subscriptions,
according to one of the UserComm members.
WSI's Intellicast provides
delayed data in the WWW. Interested parties should look to see if that provides enough information
for demonstration purposes.
Can SSEC get specialized products for certain timeframes to fulfill
certain needs? The research floater was designed to support special
needs and campaigns. Field programs support was provided through the
Research Floater for some time, but due to budget constraints had to be
stopped. Should Unidata planning be expanded to support field projects
and facilitate access to additional data?
ACTION: The question of expanded support to field projects and supplying
additional data should be included in the next Users Committee community
Policy Committee Report - Steve Mullen
The Policy Committee would like the Users Committee to consider strategic
planning for Unidata's next proposal due to NSF in May 1997. Bob Fox's
term as chair of the Policy Committee has concluded; UCAR President
Anthes appointed him to another (three-year) term as a
member of the Committee and appointed Otis Brown to assume the
chair. Other new members are: John Merrill, University of Rhode Island,
and Colleen Leary, Texas Tech. There is an attempt at broadening the
committee membership by extending beyond the atmospheric sciences.
Discussion: Unidata will be attempting to define what products
might be useful for the AGU community and to create visibility to
explore the potential for cooperative activities. It was suggested
that Unidata provide aerosol optical depth, aerosol characterization
from the polar orbiter for the atmospheric chemistry research community.
ACTION: Unidata should create WWW information and include an article in
EOS bulletin about Unidata presence at the AGU meeting in December.
Advanced Technical Advisory Committee (ATAC) Summary - Harry Edmon
The first meeting in two years took place in July, 1995 (ATAC meeting
summary is at ATAC
Discussions included IDD-data recovery,
retrospective data, LDM5, and datastream changes. A resolution from the
ATAC to the Policy Committee included recommendations for National
Weather Service to provide improved information on station
location changes, data formats, headings and descriptions.
Resolution 2 referred to the UPC to resume the creation of netCDF decoders for
applications reading. It was determined that a monolithic application is
not the way to go, but the UPC should provide building blocks to
encourage developers of applications to use the building block scheme for
a "plug & play" approach.
Reliable Multicast Protocol (RMP) was
presented by Brian Whetten of UC-Berkeley. This could solve the problems
with redesigning the topology, but the development is still underway and
is too static. The progress is being monitored.
Prior to ATAC meeting, no one at the UPC was working on decoders. Now there
will be staff working on decoders for "a fully netCDF compliant suite of
applications" per PolComm resolution 1, Sept 25&26, 1995.
ACTION: The UPC should provide feedback on applications packages and
decoder status. UPC needs to maintain information on the WWW on the
development of decoders, netCDF, and information about McIDAS and plans for
IDD - Ben Domenico
IDD milestones were covered.
- 99 sites currently participating in the IDD.
- Non-participating sites have been called and a number of
warnings have been given on the cessation of the Unidata/Wisconsin
- The monitoring system is complete.
Unidata has been experimenting with a non-UNIX server as an option for
non-UNIX sites. Georgia Tech and Rutgers are doing LDM administration
through a WWW interface. Alternate source sites have been set up to allow for
continuous uninterrupted service. Unidata will be coordinating sites receiving all data,
satellite and IDD, to provide backup service for the community.
Unidata will continue tracking the RMP progress at Berkely for potential
use with the IDD. vBNS contacts are being made to cooperate as top level
relay sites. We are looking for more relay nodes. These sites require a
wide bandwidth and a commitment to provide a full-time systems
Coping with NWS Changes - Paul Ruscher
Paul provided a handout identifying data management issues in the area of
surface, upper air, WSR-88D, and text products. He also referred to some
software frustrations with GEMPAK, WXP, McIDAS and
WWW/Gopher/WxUnderground/Blue-Skies ftp servers. He suggested that NWS,
Alden, the UPC, and the Unidata university community could all play a role
in ameliorating the problems.
- Data is becoming available more frequently than hourly.
- The limit is being approached in each application.
- Whose responsibility is it to make necessary changes?
- Can some of these be made in the pqact.conf changes pattern actions?
The surface station table can be provided by SSEC, but Unidata will need
to create a script for updating it on a regular basis.
ACTION: Write newsletter article asking users to share their solutions to NWS data
stream changes and any other software solutions they have developed to
deal with data issues.
ACTION: Can NWS provide area forecast zones information? There is a
need for elevation, lats/lons and types of observations in the NWS
Gopher/WWW (Linda will continue work on this issue)
NCAR Satellite Ground Station - David Johnson, NCAR/MMM
A GOES-8 or -9 receiving station is being installed at NCAR for scientists
and projects. Funding was obtained through discretionary funds from the
NCAR Diretor. It is a commercial system. There is no funding for a
permanent support staff. Support will be performed on an ad hoc basis. The
data rates are high and this data will not be available via the
Internet. There is a local control cost savings, due to not having to
purchase data; provides multi-spectral data, rapid scan modes, full-disk GOES-8 image results in
468MB every 3 hours. Scan modes for GOES independent scanning-flexible
data collected once every 15 min - 25MB to 100MB depending on size of scan.
- Paraclipse Classic - SeaSpace corp.
- 5 channels-visible, IR, (thermal), Watervapor,
runs on Sparc5 workstation,
- proprietary s/w - 2 licenses
- 12 GB of disk
- 650MB/hr at receiving system
- TeraScan data format
The software allows ingest data, lat/lon coordinates, set up on automatic
scripts. The plans include automatically filtering processed data and
staging off on Exabyte tapes. The capability will exist to
send out a limited datastream for non-proprietary purposes. One goal is to archive global images every 3 hrs and have them
on the mass store at Scientific Computing Division at NCAR. There will
not be regular services. Use will be offered to the UCAR university
community, but no support will be provided. There will not be
competition with companies selling the data. The data format is an
issue--native software. There is no conversion routine to area format.
Some difficulties with sharing are:
- where to aim - pointing at GOES-East, GOES-West
- provide window's worth of data
- no advisory committees (management/logistics problems)
- unsure of what data to provide
GOES Sounder Products - Melanie Wetzel
A handout was provided. The handout is part of the class taught by
Melanie at COMET for the SOOs. The information provides the GOES sounder
description, instrument features, channels, noise performance compared
with GOES-7 and POES, GOES-8 sounder profiler retrieval information and
some practical sounder implications. Information was also provided on
GOES integrated with ASOS and GOES-8 sounder derived product images and
sounder model impact.
The presentation was provided to stimulate thinking about sounder
products that might be added to the data being distributed from SSEC and
other locations. Derived product information is distributed from SSEC.
Melanie's presentation provided examples of products available from GOES-8
and GOES-9. The presentation inspired discussion of products,
combinations of products, raw vs derived products, and how to get
A satellite sub-committee composed of Melanie Wetzel (Chair), Tom Yoksas,
Paul Ruscher, Jennie Moody, Charlie Murphy, and Denise Laitsch, SSEC, was
established with the following mission:
- define strawman proposal for changes,
- re-examine distribution of satellite imagery,
- resolution of temporal,
- channels ( 2 ) omitted
- provide examples via web (CIMMS, SSEC, or NASA)
ACTION: comments and conclusions should be presented to the User Committee,
after which it will be communicated to "community."
ACTION: Matt Hicks will create a relative order of importance form for
community input on products. Matt will work with Melanie to create a
ACTION: Sally will write (with Melanie and Paul) a NL article on the new products from GOES=8
and describe RAMSDIS.
Timeframe for sub-committee - end of Nov 15
committee and staff feedback - Dec 1
Community feedback--prior to implementation-Dec 31
Feb 1, 1996 - implementation - changes will occur
Mini-Grants - Sally Bates
Cliff Jacobs provided input for mini-grants by posing a series of
questions for consideration.
- What do we want to produce using mini-grants
- What materials would be needed
- How important is technology
- Would it include equipment grants, projectors, etc
- Will others use it
A range of $5-7K was recommended by the committee for funding a
fellowship for a student to develop coursework. Is it possible to get
money without impact of university overhead?
In the long-term scenario, modules from various funded universities might
create an electronic book. A workshop might be planned to organize the
structure of the program and discuss links and ongoing future activities.
Should talk with COMET to coordinate.
Jennie Moody suggested the idea of an online electronic journal for
research. Peer review is essential for this type of media.
The committee agreed that the mission of the minigrants
should state: Short-term objective: develop instructional
materials freely accessible via WWW, that uses Unidata (and COMET) technologies
and related network-based resources to enhance university geoscience
ACTION: There is a need to advertise WWW pages which provide instructional online
information. These web locations should be announced to the community.
ACTION: Sally will revise Minigrants proposal with Jim Moore and pass it by the Users
committee via e-mail before sending to Cliff.
Family of Services - Don Murray
METAR will come June 1 1996 - McIDAS, WXP decodes METARs. GEMPAK needs
work to decode METARs. NetCDF does not decode METARs. ATAC told UPC to
work on decoders for NetCDF; not GEMPAK.
Station tables-updated from SSEC once per month. The UPC could write
scripts to put in GEMPAK and WXP format. No way of adding stations to
SSEC's information. 0
Linda Miller and Don Murray will check with NCDC to see if they have
updated station information available.
Wednesday, October 18
Sponsored Participation - Dave Fulker
The amended Sponsored
Participation Policy was distributed. The amendment was requested by the Policy Committee to include wording to
cover the international data practices.
The policy covers organizations that are not "core" university
institutions. External organizations interested in participating in
Unidata are now asked to contact a core university participant to arrange
sponsorship through them.
Discussion included data use which continues to be defined as "research
and education" purposes. It is suggested that sites include
their home page about data use for "research and education purposes" per
suggestion by the Policy Committee.
ACTION: The UPC will develop a model caveat statement for universities to use on their
Web pages that have weather data.
Good Bye, Jim Moore, St. Louis University
Acknowledgement for the contributions of Jim Moore were given. It was
Jim's last meeting as a member of the Users Committee and we will miss
his dedication and the cheer he brought to the committee. He turned out
to be a good neighbor after all ;--) THANKS JIM!!!
Campus level OS/2 Support - Don Murray
Small schools seem to have trouble with UNIX. This is due, in part,
to the lack of technical support on campus, or the support is shared
among too many departments. Development being done at the UPC allows the
use of the LDM at these non-UNIX sites to access the data, both satellite and FOS.
The UPC negotiated with CIRA for RAMSDIS. The UPC is waiting for the
latest upgrade to be completed by CIRA and then a decision will be made
as whether the functionality will be integrated directly into McIDAS or
remain available as a stand alone software. RAMSDIS requires a
particular video card and uses two monitors. It provides full resolution
imagery using 8 bit data.
There was a Policy Committee action item directed to the Users Committee
to find out if the UPC policy to support OS/2 is interfering with access
to support on campuses, and if so which operating system would be
preferred. This issue launched a discussion into the area of strategic
Questions of platform support need to be discussed. Should Unidata
invest in Windows NT, MacIntosh, others? Should the Users Committee do a
survey based on platform support questions? There is a need to weigh the
advantages of adding support for additional platforms. It is a balancing
act of current vs future technologies. Will McIDAS ever run on
Windows? Should the UPC explore other platforms and practical ways to
RESOLUTION: The Users Committee advises the UPC to investigate the
feasibility of supporting key, industry-leading, easy-to-administer
platforms as basis for utilizing Unidata capabilities.
Strategic Planning Discussion
The next Unidata proposal to NSF needs to be submitted by May 1997. The
UPC needs input from the Policy Committee, Users Committee and ATAC. A
way of obtaining input from the community might be meetings at the AGU
and AMS for planning and input.
The Users Committee might consider:
- recommending topics for input at AGU and AMS gatherings
- identify vehicles for community feedback, e.g. survey
- broadening of the Unidata community needs to be considered
- how to facilitate synergy through cross-disciplines
- organization of the UPC
- composition of the Users Committee
- impacts on current services and support
- impact on UCAR/NCAR organization
- how can the UPC capitalize on support
- how can the UPC capitalize on a "natural" interaction
- how to deal with community developed software
- how do we deal with needs of:
- needs of research programs
- non-active research programs
- WWW users
- general needs
Should Unidata move closer to the raw data and provide tools to work with
it? Research of JAVA needs to be done to check the synergism of current
Unidata applications and tools. Web browsers are changing constantly.
The UPC needs to track the evolution. We need to ask ourselves if campus
administrators use NT rather than OS/2 or others. Campus administrators
are looking for minimum maintenace. Professors are looking for ease of
use and "plug and play" approach. We need to find out what others offer,
e.g. Illinois and Michigan are generating certain data and maps and
making them available through the WWW. The UPC needs to figure out how
to configure pq.act into a user friendly graphical interface to make it
easier to use. What is the future of UNIX?
Discussion about forms-based interfaces on the WWW have taken place
within the UPC. Consideration of interfaces, network protocols, http and
html standards need to be made. How do we use netCDF? How can netCDF be
interfaced with a web client? It is very important to make the LDM
easier to run.
Should the UPC be coordinating a community wide repository of data for
systematic access of archived data? If so, for what period of time
should the data be available?
We need to think to the year 2003 and beyond. Visualization software
will be a key area. The UPC needs to flexible and responsive.
1997 Workshop Discussion:
The topic of an electronic special journal was suggested for the 1997
community workshop. Consideration could be given to a joint AMS workshop
on applied meteorology. The focus might be toward what sites are getting
from the IDD--observations and research.
ACTION: Jennie Moody will send an email to the Users Committee with a
proposal on a summer 97 workshop.
Prepared by Linda Miller
Questions or comments can be sent to Linda Miller