Monday, January 15, 2018

AMS Austin

I attended the American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting 2018 in Austin, Texas last week.  I was there Sunday until Thursday and I'm afraid if I let the semester start before I take some time to process the trip, I might forget all of the great things I learned.

I flew out early Sunday morning and not only was everyone on my bus going to AMS from Boulder, but we joined even more of them on the plane to Austin.  It was great seeing an old professor I used to TA for, a good friend, and I even sat next to an old student.  My friend Keren and I were at the same hotel and went and grabbed some smoked brisket tacos at Cedar Door. 

The first highlight was a fantastic talk by Richard Alley Sunday afternoon, the Presidential Forum, titled "Transforming Communication in the Environmental Sciences:  Some thoughts from a reluctant participant."  Richard pointed out how old the science of climate change is compared to that of the science of your smart phone. 

Sunday night was the student poster conference from 6-8 and three students from MSU Denver presented, one of which did her research under me.  Her title was, "Analyzing the frequency of high amplitude wave patterns and their relationship with extreme weather events in the U.S."  We used NCEP/NCAR reanalysis data since 2048 and calculated the waviness by finding the sinuosity.  We looked for seasonality and trends and found a very insignificant 1% increase in sinuosity.  Weather patterns had become more stagnant, though, particularly in the winter. 

Because I had a late lunch, I started what would become a theme-- no sit-down meal, but a protein shake from the grocery store for a really late dinner. 

Monday I attended some talks on the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation bright and early.  By 10:30 I had made my way to literally the furthest room from where I had started to hear Richard Alley speak about glaciology using an excellent pancake analogy, a potato chip analogy, and a flying buttress analogy.  He discussed how he contributed some knowledge about these cliffs of ice calving to the glacier modelers.  Of course this is extremely complex, but his talk was really about trying to understand the low-probability, but high impact of extreme sea level rise due to Antarctic ice loss. 

I was in for a real treat, the next speaker was Lonnie Thompson, speaking about ice cores in the Himalayas.  I read a great book about Lonnie a while back called "Thin Ice."  Of course I had to miss the last 5 minutes to run back across the entire conference center, down 4 flights of stairs, go across the street and up 6 flights for another climate variability talk on hemispheric waviness by Jessica Taheri and Jon Martin.

Lunch time rolled around and there was another presidential forum, this time on the 2017 hurricane season.  At this point I was glad I had a granola bar and some other snacks in my bag because this 90 minute session was riveting and there was no way I was leaving for lunch.  The moderator was Marshall Shepherd, head of NWS Louis Uccellini, Response, Recovery and Future Mitigation by
Tony Robinson, Flooding Impacts from Hurricane Harvey by Jeff Lindner, Communication Challenges and Best Practices by John Toohey-Morales, Storm Surge Communication and Impacts by Jamie R. Rhome, Impacts from 2017 Season in Puerto Rico by Ada Monzón, and Connections to Climate and Future Research Opportunities by Kerry Emanuel. The video below starts with Ada's talk, which had me in tears when she spoke about Maria's impact on Puerto Rico and all of her outreach. I've started the video below on her talk, although you can scoot back to the others as well if you'd like. The whole 90 minutes are well worth watching.

After this was the session on the Climate Science Special Report.  One of the themes of this session is for a 66% chance of preventing 2 degrees C global warming, we must stay below 800Gt carbon.  If we assume a pathway of 4.5W/m2, which is less than the path we are currently on (we're on the RCP path 8.5), that means we have 20 years before we have to stop entirely.  More at  This session closed with good information on blocking patterns and jet stream patterns from Judith Perlwitz and more from Patrick Taylor. 

I then headed to the poster session where alum Katie Steinmann was presenting a poster on her Master's research and fellow professor Rich Wagner was presenting on his GLOBE project.  The poster session had ice cream and popcorn, which was very welcome after only snacking for lunch.  The Exhibit hall opened at 6 and I got a call from a friend who was ill in Austin and needed some help.  I finally got to eat my first meal of the day at 8:30, again at Cedar Door, with friend Katie. 

Tuesday started off with a session on jets and storm tracks and included information about the narrowing of the northern hemisphere jet in the winter by Magnussdotir.  She spoke about the tug of war between Arctic warming at the surface and upper level tropical warming.  Melissa Breeden spoke about wintertime blocking. 

I got to go to lunch with my friend Jen from University of Hawaii.  Jen was with me in Morocco last year for the UN meeting.  It was nice catching up!

After lunch I attended a session for broadcast meteorologists on communicating climate change.  Kevin Trenberth discussed rainfall in hurricane Harvey and the relationship to climate change, Katherine Hayhoe talked about communicating climate change, and others in this session had some neat things to say.  Unfortunately, I had to run off to the poster session before Denver 7's Mike Nelson spoke, but I heard it was fantastic and my students loved it. 

Shauna Bokn graduated from MSU Denver last spring and Jennifer Shepard graduates this coming spring.  The two of them and I have been working this past fall on a project.  Jenny presented her part of the research on Sunday at the student conference, but Shauna had her precipitation-centered version of the project Tuesday.  We were happy to have some familiar faces walk by, including the person whose idea it was to use sinuosity as a measure of waviness, Dr. Jon Martin from University of Wisconsin. 

Tuesday night was alumni night.  I hit the Wisconsin alumni meet up in the Hilton right away at 6:00 and met up with an old friend from undergrad, Jess.  We spotted another gal from our year, Holly.  Fellow professor Rich Wagner is also an alum, as were a few other friends.  The food was fantastic.  I then rushed off to Buffalo Billiards for the MSU Denver alumni get together.  We had a few loyal alumni from the 80's show up, our students, and a few that have graduated more recently.  It was fun to catch up with them and see how things are going at their jobs and graduate programs!  Here's a group photo, just missing two people.  The music was so loud, I was afraid I was going to lose my voice, fighting off a cold or some allergies all week, so I headed home around 10:30.

Wednesday there was a session on Arctic climate variability and change with talks by Taylor, Lynch, and Kushner.  Over lunch I practiced my talk and enjoyed a protein shake.  My talk was in a session on innovative teaching in dynamics courses.  I've taught dynamics for seven years and this past fall I tried a new computer programming project that I presented on.  My students came to my talk and it was nice making eye contact with them, it calmed me a bit because the room was filled with so many people I look up to!  In fact my advisor spoke right after me!  There were some other really great talks in my session and I came away with lots of ideas. 

Wednesday night my students left for Denver and we took down the student chapter poster (below).  I was very proud of my students all week, they really represented the school well.  Thanks to student activities for funding most of them to go!

Wednesday night was the awards banquet.  The gluten free meal was pretty lackluster and I was just so disappointed that I had been in Austin for 4 days and had eaten out twice at the same restaurant.  I vowed to make Thursday count!  The banquet was pretty nice with lots of deserving awards.  I headed home after a long, tiring day.

Thursday my flight wasn't until 4:45, so I woke up and did some touristing.  I walked to Congress Ave to a cafe and then to the capitol.  I enjoyed the inside of yet another capitol building with a giant dome.  Seriously, how many are there?  I continued past the capitol to the university where I saw the Tower.  I continued past that down Guadalupe Street to Trudy's for lunch.  I enjoyed a great Tex-Mex lunch of enchiladas (Thanks to Dr. Parr for the recommendation!) and walked back through campus another way.  Campus is huge!  I enjoyed the petroleum engineering building, the Gates computer building, and the canoe sculpture.  I returned to the conference center just in time (8 miles later) for the final talk by Clara Deser on climate model projections from CESM.  I then ran off to the airport for my flight and got home around 9pm.  AMS was so tiring, but I had to be at work the next day for 3 big meetings.  I worked all day Saturday from home and finished all of my syllabi and boy did I sleep!  I'm finally ready for classes to start.