In early November, I flew back to Madison, Wisconsin for the 27th AMS Conference on Severe Local Storms (or “SLS”, as we call it). For those who don’t know, I got my B.S. in Atmospheric and Oceanic Science from UW-Madison. It’s been more than a decade since I packed up my research intern cubicle at SSEC, and I was excited to get back. Experiencing Madison from a high-star hotel within a block of the Wisconsin state capitol dome and State Street was quite a different experience from being stacked, cordwood-style, with other undergraduate students in Chadbourne Hall.
I was much more involved in this conference than I have been in previous ones. This was the first SLS conference on whose program committee I served. That meant I got to review nearly 50 abstracts, helping stratify them into oral and poster slots, and had input on the daily schedule. In addition to our professional contributions, my husband and I also coordinated the informal (and infamous) Video Night for the third time. The conference co-chairs elected to forgo a formal banquet in favor of a come-and-go icebreaker with heavy appetizers, a practice that I favor continuing, because it allows attendees to interact with more than seven people at a round table over the course of the evening.
Contentwise, this SLS conference program was as good as ever. A couple of the highlights:
- Leigh Orf’s jaw-dropping 24 May 2011 tornado simulation, showcasing the power of supercomputing for visualization
- Morris Weisman and Lou Wicker’s tag team talk about the history and future of NWP
- Jim Kurzo’s award-winning talk about the PX-1000 data collected in the 20 May 2013 tornado.
- The 31 May 2013-themed session memorializing Tim Samaras, Paul Samaras, and Carl Young. In spite of the tragic underpinnings of the subject, Tim Marshall managed to get in a few laughs.
- A touching tribute session, chaired by Dan Miller, in remembrance of a number of influential scientists who passed away since the last SLS. This session was originally supposed to be part of video night, but it quickly grew to include a long list of names (including a very last-minute addition: Jim Leonard, who passed away while the conference was in progress). Given that it had a very different tone than video night, we decided to split the tributes off into their own session, which Dan Miller graciously agreed to chair.
A note to nonmeteorologists who are interested in severe weather research, particularly students considering a career in that area: Browse the conference program. Watch some of the talks.* Read the extended abstracts and examine the posters. A little more than a decade ago, it wasn’t possible for people outside the conference to access the research presented there (unless you could somehow get your hands on a limited-edition preprint volume). Now, almost the entire content of the conference is available online for public perusal. So, take advantage of it! Get a taste of what scientific research really looks like.
* Keep in mind that the talks are often a 12-minute summary of two or more years of research, coding, and mental exertion. Not all details, caveats, and nuances can be included. (That’s what seminars and peer-reviewed manuscripts are for!)