1.5 Lessons Learned from Lance

Thursday, 26 January 2017: 9:15 AM
2AB (Washington State Convention Center )
Paul J. Roebber, Univ. of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI; and D. M. Schultz

The list of Lanceisms is quite long indeed.  But these aphorisms are not just pithy word candy, they also contain lessons that we have adopted in our own scientific and educational pursuits. What could be more important for our discipline than Lance’s admonition to “be prepared to be wrong?” Whether it is in the map discussion, long-since having adapted to the internet age with participants spanning the world, or in multiple forecast verification studies, we learn from the vetting of ideas and the testing of our predictions, always with an eye towards the observations. Along those lines, another highly relevant theme is to not “throw the baby out with the bath water.” This latter, in particular, has implications for the dual roles of humans and automation in the future of weather forecasting. Are we in danger of throwing the baby out with the bathwater as we develop systems in which human forecasters are worked by the tool rather than working with it to leverage their understanding?

Lance has emphasized the importance of studying “nonevents on the meteorological Richter scale.” It’s not just the most extreme events that are important to study, sometimes it is the unusual way that the events happen that leads to deeper understanding. Throughout his and our careers, we have seen how often the atmosphere "breaks" on small differences, across many variables and time scales, whether it is an ordinary cyclone development in the southeastern U.S. that does (or does not) lead to “flood box” precipitation, or the subtle connections between the planetary scale, the cyclone scale, and the mesoscale that connect hemispheric available potential energy to superstorms to cold surges and the Tehuantepecer. This leads to a third lesson, not coincidentally related to the second, which is the importance of studying problems that the community largely considers solved: upscale and downscale influences of cyclogenesis, frontal structure, and inertial instability.

These are lessons that we’ve each been inspired to develop in our own research and teaching careers, and are a direct result of our association with Lance and his mentoring of us.

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