100th Annual Meeting of the American Meteorological Society Recap

Hi friends. You likely noticed that we did not post a blog last week – but we had a good reason! We were in Boston, Massachusetts for the 100th Annual Meeting of the American Meteorological Society (AMS). This conference happens annually, and is widely recognized as an excellent opportunity for learning and networking for meteorologists, but we also encourage anyone with an interest in weather to attend! This event was even more special as it was the Centennial Celebration of the American Meteorological Society! Not only that, the National Weather Service (NWS) celebrated 150 years of service, the National Science Foundation (NSF) celebrated 70 years, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) celebrated 50 years during the week as well!

Sun setting on the last evening of the conference. Photo courtesy Will Sheridan

The theme for this year’s meeting was “The AMS Past, Present and Future: Linking Information to Knowledge to Society (LINKS),” and we challenged ourselves to reflect back and focus on how we can advance with a more holistic view of the science that is outcome-focused and is interdisciplinary. I always leave these meetings feeling rejuvenated and reminded why I chose this field, and I wanted to take some time to share some of my main takeaways from the meeting with you all. A key theme throughout the week was expanding collaboration and communication, both within our science and with other other physical, social, and economic contexts. Effective communication is something I am truly passionate about, and I was THRILLED that there were so many great talks. With over 5,500 registered attendees from over 60 countries, 3,000 oral presentations across 755 sessions, and 1,500 poster presentations, it was daunting at times to choose which sessions and talks to attend. Fortunately, AMS records all presentations (with speaker permission, of course), so that I can go back and listen to any talks that I missed! This is also great for those who were unable to attend for one reason or another. All recorded sessions will be available here by late February.

Weekend Sessions

Over the weekend, I was fortunate enough to attend a “short course” on Integrating Weather and Climate into GIS. AMS short courses provide excellent continuing education opportunities for you to increase your skills in a specific area or learn about something new. This year’s meeting offered 19 different short course options, covering a wide range of topics including machine learning, catastrophe modeling, consulting meteorology, artificial intelligence applications, and more. As someone who is interested in clear and engaging science communication, I chose the GIS Course, led by Dan Pisut and Kevin Butler, a dynamic team from ESRI passionate about data visualization. As someone who took GIS in college, I was unsure what to expect out of the course, but I was definitely excited! I was pleasantly surprised to uncover new tools in ArcGIS Pro, such as Time Series Clustering, Emerging Hot Spot Analyses, Spatial Analysis using Machine Learning, Visualizing Space Time Cubes, and Analyzing Living Atlas Layers (which you should definitely check out if you haven’t already! What a cool repository of data layers!!) All in all, I highly recommend taking an AMS short course whenever you’re able. Continuing education is a great way to stay current in the field, learn new skills, and meet others with similar interests and potentially different backgrounds.

Another highlight from the weekend was the Weather-Ready Nation (WRN) Ambassador Roundtable that took place Sunday afternoon. Doug Hilderbrand, WRN Ambassador Lead, kicked off the meeting by sharing some statistics on how the program has evolved. For example, just ten years ago, there were 0 WRN Ambassadors; today there are nearly 6,000 organizations recognized as WRN Ambassadors! Ten years ago, there were around 40 deaths from lightning annually, and that number is approximately half that now. Storm surge threat is another area where communication has improved immensely. However, there is still work to do, and he highlighted the need for increased awareness and communication of surf zone fatalities and hot car tragedies.

Gina McCarthy

Gina McCarthy, former EPA Administrator and Director of C-CHANGE (Center for Climate, Health and the Global Environment) at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, officially kicked off the week as the keynote speaker at the AMS Presidential Forum on Sunday afternoon. Her passion, intelligence, and charisma ignited the crowd as she encouraged us to empower the country with hope, remove politics from the equation, and bring communities together to combat climate change. Her entire talk was recorded and is available online, and I highly recommend everyone watch it. There is no way to recap the speech in a single blog (especially one covering the whole week!), but a few of my favorite snippets include:

  • “I hate that one – the tired cliche of ‘the climate is always changing’…of course it is, but that’s not the issue. It is the rate of change, the frequency, and the intensity.”
  • Get engaged at the local and state level. “Washington DC is not the real world.” History has proven that America is great at grassroots movements.
  • “Climate change is not about saving the planet; the planet does not care. It’s about saving us!”
  • “3 facts about climate change:
    1. It’s real
    2. Man-made emissions caused it
    3. That’s why women need to rule the world” (The last point is funny, but also backed by data that women are leading the fight to reduce emissions. Of course, we can all continue to do our part and work together)
  • “Be willing to be the scientist in the room. People DO trust you as a source of information.”

Highlights from My Week at AMS

This section is the most difficult to write because my highlights barely even scratch the surface of all that occurred during AMS 2020….plus if I listed every single thing I learned and/or loved during the week, this blog would be far too long! I actually initially titled this section “Highlights from The Week,” but that wouldn’t be fair since I obviously could not attend every session! Thus, these are just a few of my favorite discoveries, happenings, etc from my week in Boston.

  • I thoroughly enjoyed town halls and panel discussions that were hosted during lunch each day. Although I have attended AMS a handful of times, I never took advantage of these opportunities before. There was a fabulous side panel on using social media to communicate climate science, and an informative town hall hosted by The Climate Consensus (an outreach group at Northern Vermont University- Lyndon) focused on Getting Creative with Climate Change Outreach. A few of the ways they have been promoting community engagement include:
  • A huge emphasis was placed on incorporating the discussion of mental health into several talks and sessions. Although I was unable to attend most of those (too many great sessions happening at once!), Twitter was actually a great way to stay involved in this conversation (and others) and follow along (I actually started using Twitter again just for this purpose!) There were talks dedicated to recognizing stress reactions, establishing support systems, and how to take care of yourself.

Lastly, I always look forward to this meeting as a chance to reconnect with friends and colleagues I haven’t seen in a while (years in some cases!), and this year was no different. It is also always a great opportunity to meet new people and learn new things, and I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to attend this year.

We had a great turnout at the Plymouth State University Alumni Event!

If you are interested in weather at all, I encourage you to look into attending an annual conference. There are so many opportunities to learn and engage with individuals from so many diverse backgrounds. Next year’s meeting (which is always held in January) will be held in New Orleans, followed by Houston, Denver, and Baltimore (in that order). Until then, I highly encourage everyone interested to check back in late February to see what talks from this year are available online.

Boston Common at night, courtesy of Rachael Peart.

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