“Image of the Week” Busted, Awaiting New-Look Restart

My “Image of the Week” site busted yesterday with a server-forced PHP upgrade. Apologies to readers!

Since the photo-BLOG software we used is over a decade old (it wasn’t Word Press, but instead Pixelpost), incompatible with the newest PHP, and not produced/supported anymore, it’s toast. We’ll have to start over.

Elke thinks she can recover the text from the database, and I have all the images stored on my PC. IOTW was fun to do for over a decade and nearly 500 photos, but it’s dead in the water in the original form.

We’re going to start a new one, likely in photo-BLOG software that is modern, maintained, well-supported, and frequently updated, such as a Word Press theme. We use Word Press for SkyPix, the huge weather and water photo and story site I’ve been running in some form since the mid-1990s. SkyPix now is over a thousand pages under the “Tripod” theme for photographers, with more added every month, and it has been robust for four years.

We’ll likely use a different theme for the new IOTW, one that shows or links previous entries for ease of navigation, loosely similar to the old Pixelpost version of IOTW. What I don’t know yet is whether we’re going to try to reproduce IOTW all the way back to 2009 (again, nearly 500 posts), or just start over with a blend of old and new images, one per week. That will depend mainly on workload.

Either way, IOTW will make a glorious comeback, even if in a new look and form. I enjoy posting weekly images and musings from all over my historic photography portfolio, and won’t let untimely site-killing “upgrades” put a stop to that.

Student Concern for Future of Operational Forecasting

Very recently, I got the following note from a student. While such e-mails arrive on occasion, this one (in bold) was uniquely thoughtful and thought-provoking, as you’ll see in my somewhat long-winded response, reproduced below it in italics. This represents a strong concern I’ve heard from several undergrad and grad students over this decade, and it’s likely just smoke from a larger fire of worry out there in student-land. So I’m addressing it here for a broader audience, usng that correspondence.

This entire package has become a second supplementary BLOG entry here to the original post (read first). [Here was the first supplemental entry, from 2018 (read second).]

    I’m writing you as a junior mathematics student who has (for most of my life) had an absolute fascination with weather, particularly severe convection, and the forecast process. I enjoy forecasting severe weather as a hobby and pastime and am considering graduate school in meteorology. My question is: What do you view as the future of the role of humans in the forecast process? What I’ve gathered from several sources, including your blog (which I enjoy reading a lot, by the way), is that humans will likely always play a role in the process, especially in short term and high impact forecasts. Do you think this is an accurate view, especially in light of initiatives like NWS Evolve? I would hate to pursue this field professionally only to find out in 5–10 years that the job I want doesn’t exist, or doesn’t exist in the form that I would want to work in.

Thanks for writing.  My personal thoughts outlined on that BLOG entry (which of course don’t necessarily represent my employer) are still valid in the era of “NWS Evolve“.  The direction clearly is more toward automating single-variable forecasts like temperature, wind, and so forth, especially days out, and converting more and more forecaster time to short-fused, targeted, higher-impact priorities like warnings and watches, and to what’s called “Decision Support Services”.  That’s basically bureaucratic lingo for communicating with power users of forecasts:  emergency managers (local, state, FEMA), media, law enforcement, other government agencies at all levels, and direct-to-public engagement (such as social media and online briefings).

Understanding of meteorology still will be as important as ever.  It has to be.  You cannot fully and effectively communicate what you don’t understand.  Some people with highly polished speaking or writing skills, but deficient in understanding, can skate by for awhile with audiences of less expertise.  They look and sound like they know more than they do.  However, eventually they will make a mistake based on that lack of knowledge, and lose credibility for preventable reasons having nothing to do with normal forecast error.  In what we do, credibility is everything.  Do everything you can to earn and keep it!

That’s why your undergrad math and graduate meteorology degree(s) won’t be useless, but MUST be supplemented with good communications skills—written and verbal.  I can tell from the quality of your e-mail that you’re off to a good start on the written side.  Keep it up!  Enhancement of writing skills (even if already good, like yours) is a necessary and career-long process.  Take advantage of opportunities for public speaking and accepting critiques of that, too. The higher-impact the forecast, the more communications skills matter. 

I know it’s an overused cliche, but it’s true in this science:  it also helps nowadays to learn to code.  Back in the late ’80s and early ’90s when the NWS forecaster depended more completely on applications of science theory, I didn’t have to.  You will.  Fortunately any good degree program will include that as part of the curriculum, and I hope you’re already taking advantage of both required and elective programming opportunities.

Communication also is increasingly important on the forecast floor, as the process is more cooperative and multi-person in nature than ever.  [I’m trying to avoid the bureaucratic buzzword, “collaborative”.  :-)]  I lean heavily on my colleagues with good coding skills in my research and forecasting, through the tools they develop.  I depend on them in live situations, for specific meteorological experiences I still haven’t seen.  In turn they learn from my decades of experience, conceptual understanding, attention to analytic detail, and deep immersion in the science.  Anymore, forecasting on an island on shift is a dying concept.  Nobody can know everything, and consistent excellence depends on input of others who also have expertise.

I cannot promise the job (especially at a local-office level) won’t evolve out of a form that you would want to work in.  Maybe it will.  Maybe it won’t.  Science conceivably could be de-prioritized or centralized, orphaning the local level to one of weather communicator only, or consolidating scientifically based forecasting in fewer and fewer physical places.  If that happens, I don’t know how long it would take—it’s largely at the whim of higher-level managerial policy and priorities. 

That’s why you need a good backup plan (that I gambled on not having!) to operational meteorology, just in case.  The good news is:  that’s still years off, if at all, and you can and should accumulate the skills you’ll need to adapt to that and any other reasonable contingency.  But don’t abandon the dream before pursuing it, just because the job might change in unfulfilling ways.  It may not, or you could find yourself in an unforeseen opportunity that turns out to be a “blessing in disguise”.  In the meantime, I find no better calling than providing the best forecasts humanly possible to the local offices, media, storm spotters, and EMs, and through them, the taxpayers at large who depend upon us.  If you are thinking along those lines, then please, go for it, all-out.  We and the taxpayers certainly could use such talent and motivation.

Sorry for the verbosity…you got me going on a near-and-dear topic. 
🙂

I hope this helps. Good luck with your studies!

===== Roger =====

Scattershooting 190418

Scattershooting while wondering what happened to common standards of moral decency in communities, or for that matter, cohesive communities…

POTENT MARTYRDOM STORY against NAZIS: A Catholic friend sent this story of Maria Restituta Kafka, a Fransciscan nun whom the Nazis executed. What an amazing story of Christian martyrdom in the face of a powerful, genocidal terror state. She and all the others who opposed the Nazis on righteous grounds, whether famous like Dietrich Bonhoeffer or relatively obscure like her, were martyrs and heroes. It’s still happening today in places like North Korea, Iran, and across north and central Africa (Boko Haram attacks, among others). The oppressors, be them Nazi, Communist, Islamic, or otherwise, fail to realize that it only strengthens and grows the Christian faith to try to kill it off. The martyrs are assured a place at the Lord’s side in eternity, for dying in his name. And in the end, we know, by faith and prophecy, who wins: God.

TESTING STUDENTS’ SOCIALIST IDEALS: I hope at least a few of the involved learned something from this exercise in socialism applied to GPA. The limits of socialism, on a personal level, stop at what’s inconvenient for “me”. That’s because people are, by nature, from the start, selfish. [This is why toddlers have to be taught to give, not take.] And even those rare few who genuinely are altruistically inclined to socialism fail to realize that overwhelming majority of others are selfish; therefore, socialism inevitably leads to centralized authoritarian corruption. Systemically, it’s an ideal whose end game is death, destruction, famine, and all other manner of mass misery. Venezuela is just the latest rock-solid and indisputable evidence of this. Yet socialism appeals mightily to the naive, young and old alike, in its simple, populist promise of something for nothing, and a bogus “social justice” that ends up only stealing, never giving.

THE RELIGION of SECULARISM: There is no question among observant people — those outside the problem — that secularism is a de facto religion (not in name, but most certainly de facto). And yes, I agree with this essay that ours is a two-faith nation (religious and secular), and there is no old-Democrat center-left anymore on social positions. Instead: bizarre, radical, and extreme-fringe/left-wing concepts like “gay marriage”, more than two genders, and the infanticide of pre-born babies, have been culturally normalized amidst the ethos of intersectional victimhood, then shoved down our throats by a holier-than-thou secular mirror image of the old “Moral Majority”. In the Clintons’ and Obama’s cases, as former pseudo-centrists, their “evolution” flip-flopping into the social-justice herd on such issues was only for political expedience, not honest principle. [Do they even have any honest principles other than power, money, and self-glorification?] But for the current crop of Democratic radicals, it’s a genuine ideal/delusion. This quote was quite apt: “As Andrew Sullivan and many others have been arguing for some time, the language and practice of secular intersectionality directly compares with multiple elements of classic religious belief — from original sin (privilege), to justification (becoming woke), to sanctification (being an ally). ” Those of us looking in from the outside see secularism exactly for what it is: a conformity cult.

THE NEXT PERVERSION ALREADY BEING NORMALIZED by the LEFT: Pedophilia. First it was extramarital “free sex” between men and women. Then it was homosexual behavior. Then it was cross-dressing, “transgender” and “gender identity”. Somewhere amidst all that, bigamists are clamoring for “equality”. At each step along the way, advocates denied that the next step would happen, wrongly of course, and arrogantly mocked those who correctly predicted it as having slippery-slope fallacy. And now, in the ceaseless “give an inch, take a mile” demand for more immoralities to be normalized and their practitioners granted “equal” rights, so are the perverts who want to molest children: pedophiles. As immature underlings in the power structure of adulthood vs. childhood, minors cannot make informed consent to sexual acts with adults, period, full stop, no exceptions, no question. Yet, just like minors and young-adult students have been the target of decades of slow-creep, agenda-driven curriculum brainwashing and conformist, herd-mentality peer pressure in public schools, and public and private universities, programmed to accept homosexual and extramarital sex as moral and normal, and to incorrectly attack opposition thereto as “hate”, adult-child perversion is the next domino to fall in Satan’s big divide-and-conquer agenda. Who will have the courage to speak out and stand up to this horror?

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