American Meteorological Society meeting requires improvisation

by

PHOENIX — The American Meteorological Society estimates 3,700 atmospheric and space scientists will gather this week at its 99th annual meeting with another 700 people who planned to attend were forced to stay away due to the government shutdown. The impact of the shutdown may be even greater, though, because the program remained in flux on Monday.

Still, the Jan. 6-10 AMS conference has drawn a crowd of government, industry and academic weather experts to the Phoenix Convention Center.

Many NASA presentations, including a town hall meeting with Administrator Jim Bridenstine, were cancelled. When the exhibit hall opened Monday night, however, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center was represented by contractor employees offering color full video presentations and detailed descriptions of the agency’s meteorological observing system. NASA Goddard employs around 6,000 contractors and more than 3,000 civil servants. The contractors can continue to perform their jobs as long as they their contracts remain in force and they don’t need to interact with NASA civil servants.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, traditionally a high-profile contributor to the conference, was absent. NOAA’s National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service cancelled many sessions focused on its latest generation of geostationary and low Earth orbiting weather satellites and sensors, including efforts to resolve problems with the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-17 Advanced Baseline Imager.

AMS President Roger Wakimoto predicted that the conference would feature 3,100 presentations and nearly 100 exhibitors, in a Jan. 7  post on the conference website, where he expressed gratitude to scientists and engineers who stepped in to play roles assigned to government employees.

“Thanks to the dedication of the thousands of presenters and hundreds of volunteers, this meeting is destined for success despite the unfortunate federal government shutdown that has sidelined a number of our valued colleagues,” Wakimoto wrote. “We can’t fail to marvel that the finest scientists from many countries and many disciplines have stepped up with a gratifying resilience this week for a meeting dedicated to a theme of ‘understanding and building resilience.’ ”

On Monday, the schedule remained in flux with sessions shortened or cancelled at the last minute. Only one of eight speakers showed up for a session on “National and International Efforts in Space Weather: Growing Global Preparedness.” The no-shows were from NASA, the National Science Foundation, NOAA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Ralph Stoffler, U.S. Air Force weather director, described his agency’s efforts to improve space weather detection and modeling.

The U.S. the Defense Department is well represented at the AMS conference. President Trump signed into law in September a $716 billion national defense budget.

Because the annual AMS conference attracts researchers and policymakers from around the world, Chinese, European, Japanese and Korean scientists are scheduled to provide briefings on their weather satellites. Companies, meanwhile, are preparing to share information on many of the individual satellites and constellations they are building to perform myriad tasks like gathering radio occultation soundings, monitoring atmospheric carbon, charting tropical winds, detecting lightning and observing solar winds.