Draft Users Committee Summary

Unidata Users Committee
17-18 October 1995
Boulder, Colorado


Members:                                Visitors:
Mohan Ramamurthy (Chair)                Dave Johnson, MMM
Greg Cox
David Knight
Jennie Moody                            
James Moore
Charles Murphy
Paul Ruscher
Melanie Wetzel
Doug Yarger
Ex-Officio Members:                     UPC Staff:
Harry Edmon, ATAC                       Dave Fulker
                                        Sally Bates
                                        Steve Chiswell
                                        Don Murray
                                        Sandy Nilsson
                                        Tom Yoksas
                                        Linda Miller

Administrative Matters

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 committee.

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

ACTION: Fulker will check to see if there's a GIS package using netCDF. 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 survey.

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 GEMPAK.

IDD - Ben Domenico

IDD milestones were covered. 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 feasibility for 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 administrator.

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.


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.

Specs include:

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:

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 community input.

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:


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 usable format.

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.

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 education.

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

ACTION: 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 information on 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 planning.

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 port McIDAS?

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:

Additional Discussion:
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