Chapter News
May 2003


The Asheville Chapter of the American Meteorological Society held its fourth meeting for 2002-2003, May 8, 2003. Twenty people attended the meeting.

Business Meeting

Old Business

The President of the Chapter, Paul Roelle, attended the science fair at the Ramsey Activity Center at Western Carolina University, March 24-25, and awarded two awards to 8th grade students. One science fair subject was a simulated tornado, and the other project was on weather simulation apparatus. Each of these students will receive the journal "Weatherwise" for a year.

New Business

Elections are coming up for the new board to take over in September. We might change our election time to the spring when a lot of other Chapters hold their elections.

Guest Speaker

Our guest speaker for the night was Mr. Thomas R. Karl, Director of National Climatic Data Center (NCDC). Mr. Karl received his BS degree in meteorology from Northern Illinois University, and his Masters from the University of Wisconsin. He was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters by North Carolina State University in 2002. He serves as the Director of the NCDC and as Chair of various climate monitoring and climate change committees.

Thomas Karl has given numerous media interviews, testimony to the U.S. Congress and briefings to the President and Vice President of the U.S. on climate related issues. He has authored over 200 articles in various scientific journals, climatic atlases, and contributed to over 100 technical reports and conference proceedings for NOAA, the Department of Energy, as well as various international projects. Mr. Karl has served as editor or co-author of 11 commercial textbooks.

The National Climatic Data Center is the "Steward of the Nation's in-situ and satellite data and information." The people in the Center access and monitor climate variation and changes. NCDC is collocated with the USAF and Navy climatology offices in the Federal Building in Asheville, NC. The Center fulfils much of the nation's climatological questions. It falls under the U.S. Department of Commerce, then NOAA, and then a new line office called "Program Planning and Integration." There are 6 regional climate centers to provide regional climatic data.

NCDC has 5 divisions with the newest one called "Remote Sensing and Applications Division." The divisions work with 1) State and Regional partners (state climatologists); 2) National partners (EPA, DoD, NASA, etc.); and 3) International partners (WMO, UNESCO, etc.). The National Climatic Data Center helps significantly with economic infrastructure, which accounts for approximately one-third of the nations GDP (Gross Domestic Product), making the U.S. economically competitive.

Next, Mr. Karl described the NCDC strategies that are based on NOAA and NESDIS ideas. "Business" is the biggest user of NCDC. The strategies are: 1)Acquire and ingest data; 2)Archive (and scientific stewardship of) the nation's meteorological data-national and international (for instance, radar data can be compressed 13 to 1 ratio); 3)Provide access to data, metadata, and products (Internet web site); and 4)Monitor and describe the climate.

The major daily tasks of NCDC people are keying in 39 million images online, 167 million "hourly" records, and daily records which can be up to 2 billion keystrokes. Mr. Karl talked about the "U.S. Climate Reference Network" (USCRN), a legacy to the next generation of climatologists. There are 32 sites working now, and hopefully, 42 by the end of June. The idea of the USCRN is to reduce climate uncertainty.

At the end of his talk, Tom Karl showed a short video on CDMP or Climate Database Modernization Program. After questions from the audience, Paul Roelle presented Mr. Karl with a certificate to a local restaurant on behalf of the chapter.


The meeting was then adjourned.---Susan A. Tarbell.


Legislators Use of Science on Capitol Hill: Tool or Weapon?

Dr. Ana Unruh's presentation impressed upon me the very real challenge for science to have a genuine and steadfast influence on legislators and the laws they create. This event was held on May 12, 2003, at Mitretek Systems, Inc. in Falls Church, Virginia, and was jointly sponsored by the District of Columbia Chapter of the American Meteorological Society, the Washington DC Section of the Marine Technology Society, and the Women's Aquatic Network. Dr. Unruh is a legislative assistant to Representative Edward Markey (D-MA) for environmental and energy policy. In her presentation, "Political Science: Is Science a Screwdriver or Sword on Capitol Hill?", Dr. Unruh provided us with an eyewitness account of how our congresspersons are informed about science, perspectives on how the communication of scientific information is limited, and practical suggestions to improve the use of science in lawmaking.

The first and most influential means Congress has of learning about scientific information is through their personal, congressional staff. Dr. Unruh stated that though there are more scientists working on the Hill than one might think, more are definitely needed, especially elite scientists with doctoral degrees in specific disciplines. The second most influential source of scientific information is news media. Dr. Unruh stressed the importance of news media by commenting that references to scientific information published in the papers or shown on television will have the foremost influence on legislators. She then detailed a list of additional sources of scientific information that inform legislators, including outside groups such as lobbyists from environmental groups or industry; congressional research organizations such as the Congressional Research Service, the General Accounting Office, the Congressional Budget Office and the deceased Office of Technology Assessment; government agencies who have both politically-appointed congressional liaisons to filter information to legislators and in-house research scientists; and lastly, the "Supreme Court of Science" a.k.a. The National Academies, which publish consensus-based and peer-reviewed scientific reports. However, Dr. Unruh asserted that most National Academies' reports contain language that can defend most partisan positions.

Dr. Unruh's challenge to the audience was to consider whether science is used more as a screwdriver-a tool to make better decisions and accomplishments, or as a sword-a partisan weapon to coerce lawmakers, drive a partisan political agenda, and support the position a lawmaker already holds. While she didn't provide the audience with a definitive answer, she somewhat disappointedly revealed that she has heard first hand such strong statements as "politics triumphs substance." Dr. Unruh steered the audience down the "gray" road of lawmaking, and provided sound and practical advice on how to strengthen the use of science as a tool on Capitol Hill. Her unique suggestions included:

Dr. Unruh discussed society's recently revolving beliefs with regards to "transparency." She informed us that "transparency is the watch-word for the 21st century." Recent scandals have forced transparency in business and management practices. Dr. Unruh's prediction is that science in government and policy will also become more transparent, and communicating scientific uncertainties will play an increased role in future lawmaking.

Dr. Unruh said she believes that science is already playing a greater role in lawmaking than it has in recent years. To prove her point, she did a quick computer search of recent legislation, and documented how often the term "sound science" was used. In the 104th Congress, the term was written approximately 6 times in legislation. The use of "sound science" in legislation increased every year thereafter, and by the 107th Congress its use increased to approximately 47 times.

Dr. Unruh also expressed concern about a new terminology trend-the changing of the term "best available science" to the more legally restrictive "clear and convincing evidence." My understanding is that the use of this legal concept "clear and convincing evidence" is a serious twist of practices in all of science and appears to be clearly designed to bestow the presumptive advantage to uses and activities that are now "traditional" and to make it very difficult for any new findings to challenge or trump the innocence of those activities. I think Dr. Unruh's point was that to the extent that science is being brought to bear on environmental concerns, this new terminology raises the bar too high because it places the burden of proof on the scientists. They have to prove a preponderance of evidence and provide tangible research results before existing practices can be challenged. So in the past the vagueness of such terms as "best available science", "best available technology", "best practicable technology", and "reasonably applicable practices" was more of an advantage to environmental concerns. Dr. Unruh's concern is that this change in terminology will have a great impact on laws coming up for reauthorization, i.e. the Endangered Species Act. While I too am alarmed by this change, it also seems reasonable to me that this Draconian language would be impossible to achieve in actual practice and therefore, subject to defeat by any good lawyer, and its application prevented by any reputable Judge.

The Women's Aquatic Network was pleased to co-host this event, in conjunction with the American Meteorological Association, and the Marine Technology Society. We feel strongly that exposure to these issues is imperative to improving the influence of scientific interests and practices on legislation relating to marine and aquatic affairs. We wish Dr. Unruh, an elite scientist on Capitol Hill, the best of luck as she continues to further the role of science in sound legislation.

Please note: the views Dr Unruh expressed in her presentation were her own views, and not the views of Representative Edward Markey.---Nancy Caputo.


Lyndon State College Chapter
American Meteorological Society
Executive Board Meeting: May 8, 2003

Start: 6:00pm

President Corey Potvin Vice President Josh Smith Secretary Julie Soper Treasurer Amy Lawton Public Relations Mike Bakke President Corey Potvin Corey ends the meeting by reminding people about a community service project that will be taking place sometime next year, after the summer. The club is big enough to put a successful project on and is taking suggestions. End: 6:40pm---Amy Lawton.


The Omaha-Offutt chapter of the AMS held its May meeting at Valentino's on Thursday May 15, 2003. President Gene Wall called the meeting to order at 12:00 p.m and recognized chapter visitors including Becky Adams, a new summer intern at the Valley NWS office. Jeremy Wesely read through the minutes, which were motioned for approval by John Roth and seconded by Cathy Zapotocny. Matt Sittel followed up with a report on the chapter balance.

Matt also announced the results of the chapter's monthly forecast contest. Carolyn Petri took first place by a landslide and John Zapotocny edged into 2nd. Matt then announced the overall yearly winners since this was the last meeting of the AMS year. Dave Keller was the overall winner followed by Karen Harder-Sittel, Bruce Telfeyan, and Jeremy Wesely.

Gene thanked John Zapotocny for proposing that Omaha be the location of the 2006 satellite and oceanographic conference. The chapter had voted unanimously at last months meeting to offer up Omaha as a potential location for the future conference. Gene suggested that meteorology students from the University of Nebraska and Creighton University be asked to volunteer with the setting up and running of the conference.

Gene thanked all of this year's officers for their service to the chapter. He also thanked all those that were willing to run for the upcoming year. John Zapotocny reminded people that only paid members could vote and Gene instructed members to turn in their ballots before the end of the meeting. The winners were announced at the conclusion of the meeting.

Newly Elected 2003-2004 AMS Officers
President - Jeremy Wesely
Vice President - Daniel Nietfeld
Corresponding Secretary - David Keller
Recording Secretary - John Roth
Treasurer - Matt Sittel

Speaker #1 (Gene Wall)
Capt. Gene Wall of base weather at Offutt AFB, presented a case study of the Sunday May 4, 2003 severe weather outbreak and the impact to Offutt AFB. Although most people think of the destruction incurred across Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, and Tennessee on this day there were also numerous severe weather reports across central and eastern Nebraska. Nationwide there were over 90 tornado reports and over 300 reports of large hail. In Nebraska, baseball sized hail fell in and around Bellevue within a mile or two of Offutt AFB. There were also several tornado reports just to the west and south of Offutt near the towns of Gretna and Plattsmouth. By early afternoon Offutt had decided to take precautionary measures and many planes were flown off base to protect these valuable resources. Severe hail did fall across the base on 4 May, but due to the advanced lead-time billions of dollars worth of damage was adverted. Daniel Nietfeld of the National Weather Service (NWS) in Valley, NE indicated that his office issued 54 county warnings on the 4th of May. Capt. Wall also noted that the Operational Weather Squadron (OWS), base weather, and NWS worked in conjunction with each other to effectively protect the militaries valuable assets.

Speaker #2 (Earl Barker)
Earl Barker is a contractor working at the Air Force Weather Agency at Offutt AFB. Mr. Barker has developed a website that is full of state of the art severe weather indices. His website includes visualizations of the newest research proven indices along with visualizations of useful parameters that are difficult to find on any other website. Along with traditional severe weather parameters, Mr. Barker has also included the following indices and parameters: 0-1 km Storm Relative Helicity (SRH), 0-1 km Energy Helicity Index (EHI), Level of Free Convection (LFC) heights, Lifted Condensation Level (LCL) heights, potential hail size algorithms, and much more. Mr. Barker highlighted the usefulness of these indices while presenting several tornadic case studies. Mr. Barker's useful web site is free and open to the public and located at Wesely.


May is the time for our year-end casual/picnic meeting and the weather was perfect for it. And why not? A brief business session included the election of officers and was followed by our speaker, Bruce Watson. Bruce has been a Meteorologist for 45 years.He has worked for private enterprise, education and government. He has maintained a weather station since 1966 and originated the first Weather Calendar and has been the senior author of the Minnesota Weather Guide since 1977. His topic was "How Our Body Responds to Temperature, Humidity, Sunshine and Wind". After a brief description of how our bodies work, he described how Globe thermometers do not measure ambient temperature, but take into account the effect of the sun's rays. Even the THI (Temperature/Humidity Index) does not do that, but our bodies do. We were given charts for determining Meteorological Comfort Temperature, which takes into account the main variables that affect human comfort. Other factors involving human comfort can include metabolic rate and the physical make-up of the person, such as height, weight and general health. And so our year ended with another interesting topic.---Joan C. Haley.


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