Unidata Users Committee
13-14 May 1996
Boulder, Colorado

Members:                                      Visitors:
Mohan Ramamurthy (Chair)                      John Huyler, Facilitator
Greg Cox
Denise Stephenson Hawk
David Knight
Charles Murphy
Melanie Wetzel (portion of meeting)
Doug Yarger
Ex-Officio Members:                           UPC Staff:
Harry Edmon, ATAC                             Dave Fulker
Steve Mullen, Policy Committee                Sally Bates
                                              Steve Chiswell
                                              Ben Domenico
                                              Linda Miller
                                              Don Murray
                                              Sandra Nilsson
                                              Tom Yoksas

Administrative Matters

The next meeting of the Committee ( 23-24 September 1996) will take place prior to the Policy Committee meeting.

A review of the Action Items left four (6, 11, 13) remaining, or in process. Follow up will take place prior to the next meeting.

Directors Report - Dave Fulker

Five topics were covered in Fulker's report.

  1. A BAMS article is being written by Dave Fulker, Sally Bates and Cliff Jacobs on Unidata as a virtual community using technology for sharing resources. The draft title is, Unidata: A Virtual Community Sharing Resources via Technological Infrastructure.

  2. The NWS provided funds through the COMET Agreement to cover one new staff member for Unidata. This person will be responsible for providing the NWS SOOs and university researchers and educators access to COMET case studies by adapting the CODIAC system which has been developed in OFPS. This project will require very close coordination with COMET, OFPS and Unidata.

  3. Unidata provided input to the NWS on the future of the NIDS. The current NIDS contract will expire in 1999 and the NWS has solicited responses from the NIDS providers and Unidata, representing the Unidata university community. The letter was circulated to the PolComm, UserComm, and several NCAR staff for input. There was also a call to the community for input. The final letter was sent to the NWS on 30 April 1996.


    The User Committee recommends that the Policy Committee follow up on Dave Fulkers letter to the National Weather Service regarding the future of NIDS, especially access to Level II data.

  4. Unidata has embarked on several outreach activities to collect information outside our traditional community. Unidata had a booth and hosted a forum at the San Francisco AGU; hosted a forum at the San Diego AGU Ocean meeting, hosted a forum at the annual AMS meeting in Atlanta; and has had meetings with several groups, including the Consortium for Ocean Research and Education (CORE) DODS, WMO and made several contacts at current Unidata sites to ascertain uses of Unidata systems for interdisciplinary activities.

  5. Strategic planning. Fulker and Domenico have combined their information into a Technical Directions working document to be used by the Unidata committees to provide feedback for the next five-year Unidata proposal to NSF.

Discussion: Ben Domenico pointed out that 21 out of 33 Unidata sites contacted are already using Unidata systems in outreach activities. Additionally, netCDF has been downloaded by over 300 different sites in one month's time. These sites are worldwide and consist of private industry, education, institutes, government, et al.

Other highlights from the Fulker/Domenico document include:

Ongoing efforts:

Group Discussion

Unidata should create object-oriented libraries or building blocks for the community to make tools easier to use.

ATAC group recommended looking at new applications and checking out alternate platform support.

Unidata needs to explore options for accessing NOAAport data.

The resolution granting Canadian participation in Unidata was discussed and led to the question of granting participation to Mexico.


Steve Mullen will talk to Cliff Jacobs, NSF, about facilitating membership in Unidata to south of the border (Mexican) sites. He will check on possible funding mechanisms from the Inter-American Institute to support such an activity.

Another issue pertaining to external participation or sponsored participation in Unidata revolves around COSMIC's version of GEMPAK. COSMIC has been providing GEMPAK 5.1. COSMIC has not maintained updates with NCEP.


Unidata will pursue working toward a resolution to this issue to facilitate easier access for potential users.

GOES Summary - Melanie Wetzel

There were 33 respondents to the web-based User Committee GOES survey. The results are here.

In general, 30 min data is in demand with 1 & 4 km resolution for visible and IR images, respectively.

Products that would be useful are:


Melanie will write up a recommendation for distribution to the User Committee on products for consideration for the next fiscal year.

Sounder Products - Tom Yoksas and Melanie Wetzel

Tom Yoksas contacted CIMMS about sounder product availability for the Unidata/Wisconsin IDD. As a test for the summer, we are collaborating with SSEC to add several of the CIMMS-generated research products to the Unidata/Wisconsin datastream as the research floater. These products would be provided with the caveat that they are research in nature, and should not be considered operational. Currently the funding is not in place at Unidata to provide additional products on a regular basis.


Unidata will follow up with CIMMS and SSEC to make arrangements for sounder research product availability.

The question of delivery of RAMSDIS data was discussed. The Committee would like to see some of the RAMSDIS data added to the IDD stream.


Unidata will continue discussions with Jim Purdom and Deb Molinar to see if it is possible to add the RAMSDIS data to the Unidata IDD distribution.

ATAC - Harry Edmon

The ATAC has not met since July, 1995. Harry and Ben discussed the possibility of putting information together for a virtual meeting of the ATAC. Unidata needs their input in the five year proposal planning process for Unidata. It was suggested that the planning document created by Dave and Ben be used as a tool to provide stimulus to collect input from the ATAC.

IDD - Ben Domenico

There are currently 122 sites participating in the IDD.

A number of problems with the underlying Internet has created intermittent difficulties for some sites.

Currently there is no back up source site for FOS products. Unidata is working with CSU to become the back up site.

LDM version 5 is available and running at all relay sites. The sunset date for the LDM version 4 is 15 August.

Near term tasks are:

Future development:

The Committee shared some of their experiences with the IDD and Internet service providers. To summarize - Internet service providers are upgrading their capacity in an attempt to keep up with rapidly increasing demand.

Long term planning includes tracking of RSVP and RMP developments.

Contingency planning has been underway to cope with the data delivery delays. The most obvious plan is to prioritize or subset data at each site. Ben proposed cutting back on the HDS feed if necessary. This position was not totally supported among the group, but some form of cutting back on the data being fed to sites was supported as a contingency for dealing with a situation where we could not get all of the data into the relay sites.

At present, we are not having problems with the relays getting data. The sites are getting data much more reliably than a month or so ago. remains an option if necessary.


The NWS Western Region Headquarters is implementing the IDD, using the LDM, within their own region.

The IDD service at SSEC was discussed. Is there some optional on-call scenario that might be of value for the community? Don Murray indicated that some software is in place at SSEC to provide information to the operators when there are problems with the Unidata/Wisconsin datastream.


Unidata will monitor the Unidata/Wisconsin datastream related outages at SSEC; the frequency of such outages will be reported at the next meeting.


Unidata will draft a plan to alleviate IDD traffic delays and solicit community feedback prior to making changes to the current IDD stream.

Dave Fulker indicated that the UPC planned to support the IDD at about the current level of staffing or with a modest reduction in staffing in the absence of any emergency. However, the IDD remains a top UPC priority and additional resources would be committed in response to a general problem getting data out to sites.

Status reports covering Unidata software and services are available here.


There has been considerable development complete in the netCDF area. Check What's New for the latest.

McIDAS - Tom Yoksas/Don Murray

New versions of McIDAS-X and OS/2 were announced in April, 1996. The current Unidata McIDAS-X and McIDAS-OS2 versions contain the first half of the transformation of McIDAS into a client-server application, in addition to Unidata added applications. During the Committee meeting, Unidata received the latest version of McIDAS from SSEC. We will be attempting to release this version along with our own modifications and additions by August.

GEMPAK - Steve Chiswell

GEMPAK 5.2.1 was released in January, 1996. GEMPAK now displays NIDS and NOWRAD data from their native formats. Unidata has provided read-only capability for netCDF grid point data. Robb Kambic is working on decoders to write surface and upper air data to netCDF. Work will continue at Unidata to provide netCDF access for point source data within GEMPAK.

Three COMET case studies have been released and the fourth is expected to be released this spring. Case studies are fully compatible with the Unidata GEMPAK 5.2.1 release.

COMET is underway with the development of the GEMPAK Analysis and Rendering Program (GARP) to be used in the COMET classroom. Unidata has received the source for the test version of GARP and is porting to their supported platforms. GARP is expected to be released to the community later this summer.

GEMPAK version 5.4 is scheduled for release in June from NCEP. COMET and Unidata will seek to synchronize their releases with NCEP with this distribution. GARP will not be part of the NCEP distribution, but will likely be provided as contributed software.

The Unidata surface observation decoder (satogem) has been modified to accept METAR format bulletins, and has been provided to Unidata sites to allow for a smooth transition. NWS is expected to convert to METAR observations in July.


There was a request to provide an update on WXP. The status is that Dan Vietor continues to work on version 5.0. Testing is taking place at a number of Unidata sites. The Univ of Wyoming and NC-Asheville have been very active. NOWRAD and lightning data can be displayed using WXP 5.0.

Strategic Planning - Dave Fulker

Dave solicited advice from the User Committee for the next five-year proposal to NSF.


The committee discussed the future directions to take in each of the following areas within the Unidata's mission:

Dave Knight and others felt that the same roles be included int he next proposal.

Ease of Use: Charlie Murphy suggested that commonality of data formats for users be a major emphasis in the proposal.

Greg Cox suggested the use of conversion tools should play a priority role in Unidata's plans. Communication should continue to be highlighted in Unidata's future. The community needs to be informed of the services provided by Unidata.

Denise also suggested that if software was developed in a more user friendly format, additional disciplines would embrace Unidata and participation would increase.

Retrospective Data Discussion:

A discussion about access to retrospective data evolved. This topic appealed to several Committee members. How could this service be achieved for the Unidata community?

A number of issues were discussed involving the selection criteria, query system, tools needed, etc.

It was pointed out that other disciplines also rely on historical data and by providing archive capabilities, Unidata might attract the interest of other disciplines.

One method to facilitate current sites to participate in archiving activities might be through the use of equipment grants to purchase a juke box for archiving data.

Unidata should explore a closer working relationship with CDC (Boulder) and NCDC (Asheville) if there is a move toward a retrospective data mission.

Unidata will need to learn from other disciplines about archived data. Groups such as DODS, IRIS, EOS, HARVEST, etc should be investigated to see if their methods may be adopted by Unidata.


Unidata should coordinate a demonstration of other systems for archive capabilities. Suggested sources included: IRIS (Tim Ahearn) DODS, EOS DAACs (Steve Cox), FERRET at Pacific NW Lab (Steve Hankin), Lamont Doherty at Columbia Univ, CDC (Jim Brown), NCDC and HARVEST (Richard Chinman)

The indexing and cataloging aspects were mentioned as being difficult areas to define. Agreement on this might be difficult due to different needs of the sites. Other questions related to the frequency of purging data and Unidata's function in providing such a service. For examples, should Unidata be a clearinghouse of data and tools?

Virtual Community Discussion:

Should Unidata be moving toward an integrated system (e.g., a CoVis model) for getting educational and training materials, and data made available to all Unidata sites?. This would expand Unidata's mission and build on the theme of a virtual community.

There was a caution extended from the Committee on clarification of the Unidata and COMET missions to be made at the joint meeting of the Unidata Policy Committee and the COMET Advisory Committee. It is good to explore the mutual interests among the communities that each program serves, but there are differences that need to be identified, e.g. COMET compact discs work well for the single NWS office, but not for university students, due to the costs and the number of students and computers required to use the discs.

The new hire who will be working on case study availability using the CODIAC system should strengthen the relationship between the two communities by making the case studies easily accessible via the Web and in a user friendly form.

There was a suggestion of putting COMET modules on the web. This would result in use by the university community and the NWS personnel.

It was suggested that Unidata is the pulse of the community and there is a need to coordinate the community in the aforementioned areas.

Software Discussion:

Software - the need of 3- and 4-D visualization packages exists. Greg Tripoli's use of Vis5d software was provided as an example. A slicer/dicer method needs to be created or adopted for community use.

There was a discussion about the usefulness of netCDF to overcome the data format obstacles. Getting the data in proper format is a problem.

Denise Stephenson Hawk suggested that GIS-compatible data are needed for interdisciplinary studies.

Another suggestion was to create an API that works across disciplines; design the software so it's transparent to the user and can be adapted to other machines (e.g. Java network applets). One model would be that some sites would run low-cost network appliances while others run the full suite of applications. The former approach would require community involvement. SSEC's Abstract Data Distribution Environment (ADDE) works similar to the client-server scenario above.

Unidata needs to continue monitoring the progress of JAVA.

Data Discussion:

Providing access to ensemble forecasting systems should be investigated for the future.

Unidata should look beyond their conventional borders to facilitate international outreach activities. Perhaps Unidata could use data from other nations or international projects.

NIDS Level II data needs to be accessed for use by universities. This data is useful for:

Follow the development of GPS technology. GPS sounder data should be made available to the community.

Can the collocated university/NWSFO sites share their local and regional data with others?


Unidata needs to find out if there are redistribution constraints of data from collocated university/NWSFO offices.

Outreach Discussion:

Continue investigating a relationship with interdisciplinary sites and programs.


The Chair of the Policy Committee suggested that the UserComm consider how well Unidata is doing and what the unmet needs are for the strategic planning discussion at the Policy Committee's next meeting. No immediate action was taken on this issue.

Workshop Planning

Three proposals were presented for the 1997 Summer Unidata Workshop theme.

  1. Melanie Wetzel proposed a workshop on the use of satellite technology in meteorology. Melanie suggested presentations in the area of acquisition methods, software for processing and analysis, instrument design, radiative transfer, image analysis techniques forecast techniques, environmental monitoring and implementation with models, satellite meteorological course structure, planning field programs, outreach, K-12, data sharing, and future satellites (EOS, DMSP, NOAA/international).

  2. Jennie Moody had circulated a proposal that had two foci; one emphasizing research applications of real-time atmospheric data flowing on the IDD and the other emphasizing educational applications of real-time atmospheric data. She recommended using a well-designed symposium that would be all electronic with the possibility of creating a peer reviewed electronic publication following the meeting.

  3. Dave Knight presented the option of using remote sensing satellite data in earth and atmospheric science education. He suggested that a broader focus by integrating other remote sensors into the workshop theme.


It was felt that the audience for the workshop needs to be identified before a theme can be adopted. There is also a need to address the interdisciplinary aspects of Unidata. Suggestions for reconciling among the different workshop proposals were made.

To stimulate discussion, Dave Fulker proposed a topic, " Using real-time remote sensored satellite data in Web-based curricula".

Charlie Murphy pointed out that we need to identify the goals for the workshop. We need to show people that the Web works and demonstrate its usefulness.

Sandra Nilsson pointed out that the proposal needs to be submitted to Cliff Jacobs, NSF, by the first week of August, 1996.


A COMET liaison should attend future workshop-related User Committee meetings.

After the remainder of the agenda items had been covered, the following draft proposal for the 1997 Summer Workshop matured:

Title: Using Satellite Data and Instructional Technology in Earth and Atmospheric Science Education

Workshop Components:

  1. Overview presentations on satellite meteorology - morning presentations

  2. Successful examples (including demonstrations) of the interpretation of satellite data used in their institution

    These could include topics from the following list (adapted from Melanie's proposal):

    • Acquisition methods
      • software for processing (focus on analysis)
    • Image analysis
      • multiparameter interpretation
    • Forecasting techniques
      • GPS-MET
      • soundings
      • climate monitoring
      • numerical modeling

  3. Innovative application of instructional techniques and recent trends in instructional techniques

  4. Breakout Sessions:
    • discussions
    • demos
    • both

  5. Hands on labs?

    There was some question on the usefulness and resource impact of providing hands on labs.

  6. Outreach, K-14

  7. Forum on future directions for Unidata and COMET

  8. Recreational Activities




to be determined

Several tasks identified for ACTION are:


Unidata will check with COMET for use of their classroom and to verify the dates of 23-27 June 1997.


The UPC will create a draft proposal to the NSF and COMET for funding of the 1997 Summer Workshop and circulate it to the Users Committee.
Linda Miller lmiller@unidata.ucar.edu

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

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