Thursday, February 16, 2012

What Is The AMS & Why You Should Join It

The American Meteorological Society is a great organization, one that brings about a rather epic convention that takes place annually in various locales throughout the country (and one that our own Matt Lanza opined about recently).  The AMS is made up of the larger national organization as well as local chapters throughout the country., the Delaware Valley, has its own chapter of the AMS and this past Monday held a "Winter Weather Forum" in Mount Holly at the National Weather Service offices.  Given the lack of winter weather we've seen, one would have thought the discussion would have been lacking.

Given Europe disagrees with us about "winter" being lacking, the discussion was certainly not lacking.  Four different presentations, from Tony Gigi and Walt Drag representing the National Weather Service with presentations on winter forecasting (from Tony) and on what NOAA's HPC is up to (from Walt) provided unique perspective on what is going on in the National Weather Service's realm.

Two other presentations added tremendous value -- Paul Heppner, who is the local AMS Chapter President, spoke about the state of snowfall in climatology and how unusual this winter has been compared to our recorded history.   At the current rate, this would be the least snowy La Nina on record...trailing only the winters of 1950-1951 (4.6") and 1889-1890 (7.4"), with the 19th Century winter being one of the warmest on record.  So far, this winter is "just" fifth warmest on record.   The other presentation was by New Jersey state climatologist Dave Johnson, who talked about the state of snow cover globally and domestically.  He noted that the trend of diminishing sea ice doesn't have much correlation to year over year snow cover during the winter months but that the trend reflects more heavily during March, April, and May.  Snow melt globally has been more rapid and earlier on a year over year basis according to Robinson's research.   Robinson also noted that the prior 24 months in New Jersey (ending in January) were the warmest two year stretch in New Jersey's history.

For those curious about Philadelphia, the past 12 months were the second warmest February-January period on record (58.39 degrees), behind only 1932 (58.93 degrees).

So, if you liked what you heard so far, you can join the local chapter of the American Meteorological Society and get in on some nice discussions about weather.  Paul Heppner, the local chapter President, says the AMS is geared for more than just meteorologists:

"The Philadelphia-Delaware local chapter of the AMS seeks to inform and engage its members, through meetings such as the Winter Weather Forum, as well as engage with the community at large that is interested in weather. The membership consists of professional meteorologists, students, educators, and weather enthusiasts. Those who wish to join the parent AMS organization can do so, but there is no requirement, as such. We mainly seek to learn from our colleagues, share research results, and appreciate the intricacies of the atmosphere we live in!"

The chapter has been around since the 1990's.

"The local AMS chapter very much acknowledges and appreciates the support of institutions, such as NOAA and the University of Delaware," Heppner added.  Both institutions provide the venues and sometimes speakers for our meetings.  The local AMS chapter does not have any formal office or infrastructure.  The chapter officers simply put together meetings where opportunity presents itself, such as the Winter Weather Forum, or when a speaker is in the region.  In the past years, we've had meetings with Dr. Steve Lyons (Weather Channel), Bill Read (National Hurricane Center), and Stacy Stewart (National Hurricane Center)."

The next AMS meeting will be held in May, likely in Atlantic City in coordination with the New Jersey Emergency Preparedness Conference.  We'll post details about the meeting once they are made known.  You are also welcome to email Paul with questions you have about the local chapter.