NOAA Research leads to a new milestone in improving operational predictions from weeks to seasons

Typically, the weather and climate have been known as separate communities — weather being the short-term state of the atmosphere (from minutes out to two weeks) and climate being the long-term pattern of atmospheric conditions (from a season and beyond). This leaves a weather-climate prediction gap (from two weeks to a season) that scientists call the subseasonal to seasonal (S2S) timescale.

Bridging this gap has remained challenging for scientists, but public demand and promising research has focused NOAA’s attention on this prediction problem. As an important milestone for NOAA’s ongoing efforts, researchers from universities, NOAA OAR research laboratories and the National Weather Service (NWS) recently met to discuss efforts to improve S2S predictions.

Participants at the NMME/SubX Science Meeting held September 13-15 at the National Center for Weather and Climate Prediction.

The meeting focused on the use of real-time forecasts and forecasts of past dates (called hindcasts) from two robust databases: the North American Multi-Model Ensemble (NMME), a state-of-the-art seasonal prediction system combining forecasts from leading climate models; and the Subseasonal Experiment (SubX), an ongoing two-year project testing predictions 3-4 weeks in advance from individual and combinations of multiple global models.

“The SubX project bridges the gap between the NMME forecast and day-to-day weather forecasts,” said Ben Kirtman, lead of the SubX project team and University of Miami Rosenstiel School atmospheric scientist. “This is particularly important for hurricanes – we can use the NMME forecast to make seasonal hurricane outlooks and then update these outlooks within the season using the SubX data. Essentially we intend to predict the chances of enhanced (or reduced) hurricane potential 3-4 weeks in advance.”

More skillful on average than other seasonal forecast systems, the NMME system transitioned to operations last year and provides a 30-year set of hindcasts that have been used extensively for ongoing research. The SubX project’s data was publicly released this August and the system will be rigorously evaluated over the next year to determine whether the ensemble or any individual models should become operational. Both systems have been developed through OAR research projects as part of the Climate Program Office, Modeling, Analysis, Predictions and Projections Program and the NOAA Climate Test Bed in partnership with the NWS and U.S. other agencies.

Emily Becker, one of the meeting organizers and a research scientist at NOAA’s NWS Climate Prediction Center, saw this meeting as an opportunity to help make connections between different projects. “A lot of people are doing complimentary things,” said Becker. “We wanted to try to build some of those into collaborations going forward.”

Investigators included Paul Dermeyer, who is studying interactions between soil moisture and the atmosphere at George Mason University and co-leads the NOAA S2S Prediction Task Force, which addressing understanding and modeling of S2S predictability sources. He recognized the value of bringing the research teams together.

“There are a lot of different aspects of the Earth system that are addressable on these subseasonal timescales, and different people are working on different parts,” said Dermeyer. “We all want to improve the skill of the forecasts.”

The meeting also importantly brought together operational forecasters and representatives from the public who regularly use these forecasts to make decisions, such as private companies like The Weather Company and Accuweather. This fostered a direct trade of information, bringing new research findings to the forecasters and decision-maker/private sector needs to the scientists who can address them.

Poster sessions at the meeting provided ample time for participants from universities, labs, operational centers, and stakeholder communities to discuss research projects and exchange ideas.

“It’s feeding back. What they see and what we see from the inside are often very different,” said Becker regarding the collaboration between the users and scientists. “Knowing that they are using [the forecasts] and hearing how they are and what is useful is helpful to continue developing from the inside.”

Improving subseasonal to seasonal predictions could substantially help NOAA better prepare decision makers for hazards like heat waves, cold spells, and heavy rain. This meeting represents a milestone towards that mission.

“If the research we are doing leads to changes in operational forecasting that improve the skill of the forecasts, then we’ve done our job,” said Dermeyer.

The NMME/SubX Science Meeting was supported by the OAR CPO’s Modeling, Analysis, Predictions, and Projections Program and was held September 13-15 at the National Center for Weather and Climate Prediction in College Park, Maryland.

For more information and access to presentation presented at the meeting, go to: http://cola.gmu.edu/kpegion/nmmeworkshop2017/

Provided by NOAA Climate Program Office


 

Coral Metabolism and Climate Change

A team of Rosenstiel School researchers and alumni published a new study on the intra-and inter-specific variation of metabolic factors of corals in Florida. Their study is important to better understand if some coral will be more resilient than others to climate change.

“Knowing which coral species will be ‘winners’ on reefs of the future will help people be aware of what reefs might look like in the coming decades,” said UM Rosenstiel School alumna Erica Towle.

Mustard hill coral. Credit: Johnmartindavies/wikicommons

Mustard hill coral. Credit: Johnmartindavies/wikicommons

For the experiment, Towle and her team from the UM Corals and Climate Change Lab collected three common species of corals from the Florida Reef Tract, which extends from the Florida Keys to Stuart in Martin County, during two seasonal points (winter and summer).

The species mustard hill coral (Porites astreoides) great star coral (Montastraea cavernosa) and mountainous star coral (Orbicella faveolata) were analyzed for growth rate, lipid content, algal symbiont density, and chlorophyll content. The surface area of the corals were also measured using a 3-D scanner supplied by UM Alumnus Derek Manzello at the NOAA Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratories.

Great star coral. Credit NOAA

Great star coral. Credit NOAA

The team’s field data agreed with population-level trends that great star coral and mustard hill coral are doing well in the Florida Keys, and may be “winners” on reefs of the future. They point out that future work needed to understand factors driving resilience of “winner” species.

“It’s important for us to start to understand which corals will be dominant on reefs of the future so we can get a better sense of which species to focus stronger conservation efforts on,” said Towle.

regionalstudiesMSThe study, “In-situ measurement of metabolic status in three coral species from the Florida Reef Tract,” was published online in the journal Regional Studies in Marine Science. The work was supported by the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program. The study’s authors include: Erica K. Towle; UM Rosenstiel School Professor Chris Landgon; and Renée Carlton and Derek P. Manzello of the NOAA Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratories.

Connecting Fish and Corals

A new study by UM Rosenstiel School researchers tracked the dispersal of coral and fish larvae on Caribbean reefs and found that fish populations are generally a more interconnected, cohesive unit on reefs than coral populations, with a few exceptions. The UM Rosenstiel School-led study is the first-of-its-kind to use a numerical modeling approach to address connectivity – the exchange of offspring and larvae between geographically disconnected populations – for multiple species with very different life histories.

Trunkfish in the Dry Tortugas. Photo Credit: Jiangang Luo/ UM RSMAS

Trunkfish in the Dry Tortugas. Photo Credit: Jiangang Luo/ UM RSMAS

Understanding connectivity is important for the management of species and networks of marine protected areas. Connectivity enhances resilience of the ecosystem to harmful events, such as bleaching, overfishing and hurricanes, by providing new recruits from distant locations to the damaged reefs.

“The study was motivated by the complexity of conservation efficacy for coral reef ecosystems that are composed of so many different species,” said Rosenstiel School Professor Claire Paris, corresponding author of the paper. “Larval connectivity models contribute valuable information for the protection of marine habitats, especially as the potential for further reef fragmentation and other physical changes to the environment alter both the habitat and the biology of coral reef organisms and their larvae.”

Using the Connectivity Modeling System (CMS), a Rosenstiel School open source numerical model developed in Paris lab, the study tracked larval exchange between more than 3,200 reef areas in the Caribbean for five different species of fish and coral over a five-year period. The researchers found that fish populations are generally more connected than coral populations, with the exception of reef-building corals, which share similar connectivity dynamics for some specific Caribbean regions. For these regions that were identified thanks to high-computing techniques, management can be similar for all species and reef conservation may rely on regional connectivity networks.  This is not the case for other regions that require more species-specific management practices, typically at more local levels as well.

Elkhorn Coral  Photo Credit: NOAA

Elkhorn Coral
Photo Credit: NOAA

The study was published as a Special Feature article in the March 3, 2014 issue of the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series. The paper’s authors include: UM alumni Daniel Holstein, currently a post-doctoral research associate at the University of the Virgin Islands’ Center for Marine and Environmental Studies, and well-known reef ecologist Peter Mumby.

Everglades Pilot Whale Standing

As a student in the MPS marine mammal science track, I was fortunate enough to be one of the volunteers to respond to the recent mass stranding of pilot whales in Everglades National Park. I was a little apprehensive, as this was my first stranding experience. No one knew what to expect. After the early morning drive out to the Everglades, as well as an hour and a half boat ride, we arrived to the stranding site where we found about 50 pilot whales in barely three feet of water. All of the volunteers, law enforcement, NOAA officials, scientists, and even some concerned patrons huddled to generate an effective rescue strategy. It was truly inspiring to see so many people utilizing their precious time and resources in order to create the best possible outcome for the distressed whales.

Pilot Whales 2

Throughout the day, I was assigned various tasks to assist with the collection of samples acquired from live whales, as well as a necropsy of an expired whale. I was fascinated by the way the veterinarian and her team effectively tagged the animals and collected important blood and tissue samples, all while hanging off of the side of a flat bottom boat! I helped record the relevant data, which was a great first-hand experience in the amount of diligence that is put into collecting the samples, as well as keeping them all organized. Observing the necropsy also opened my eyes to the complexity and importance of these operations; various tissue samples from each organ must be obtained to send out to the appropriate laboratories for examination. This way, scientists are able to maximize the number of test results generated from a single sample, which will hopefully aid in discovering the reason for the stranding event.

Pilot Whales 1(1)

After this experience, I am looking forward to being a regular member of the volunteers who respond to marine mammal strandings in southern Florida. I have a newfound respect for the scientists and veterinarians who organize these response efforts, especially after witnessing the amount of valuable scientific data that can be garnered just from one stranding incident. Our efforts to herd the group offshore on Wednesday proved to be successful, as the whales were recently spotted offshore, in deeper water, and swimming freely.

— MPS student Samantha Tufano

Photo credits: RSMAS/MPS student Maureen Duffy

David Die co-authors fisheries portion of new NRC report on Deep Water Horizon

David DieA new report entitled: ‘An Ecosystem Services Approach to Assessing the Impacts of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico’ was released by the National Research Council. The 350-page document, supported by NOAA focuses not only on the natural resources, but also on the intangible goods and services these resources supply to people.   The report includes a case study on fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico written by University of Miami Research Associate Professor and Associate Director of CIMAS David Die. He was selected because of his expertise in global fisheries assessment, ecosystem modeling and the Gulf of Mexico fisheries.  Additionally, he served as co-author of the marine mammal case study in the report, and contributed to other sections of the report.

“The critical finding of the report is that the impacts of the Deep Water Horizon oil spill, and other potential ecological hazards, need to be evaluated in a broader context to the one mandated by the NRDA,” says Die. “We need to take an ecosystem services approach, which albeit challenging, provides a more accurate framework in which to perform such critical evaluations.”

Die has strong links to the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council and was the founding director of the Center of Independent Experts, a central part of the peer review process for the National Marine Fisheries Service. He is the current Rapporteur for bigeye tuna within the Tropical Tuna Working Group of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna and has recently been asked to serve on the international panel synthesizing the conservation status of tuna and billfish for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

 

Human Nature vs. Mother Nature: Stormview™ on ‘Science Nation’

A Special Report on NSF’s ‘Science Nation’ features University of Miami Rosenstiel School Professor and Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy Director Kenny Broad speaking about StormView™, a new software program that gauges how residents react to warnings, and prepare for Mother Nature’s powerful storms.

Stormview™ offers simulations designed to be as realistic as possible, in order to assess how people might prepare for strong storms and respond to public warnings. It includes mock TV meteorologist broadcasts, newspaper articles, web stories, bulletins from NOAA and even interactions with neighbors. The goal of the project is to help social scientists establish patterns of human behavior and collaborate with meteorologists on more effective ways to communicate with the general public to reduce risks.

Stormview™developed by Broad in collaboration with Bob Meyer, a marketing professor at the University of Pennsylvania and Ben Orlove, an anthropologist in Columbia University’s Center for Research in Environmental Decisions. Funding was provided by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Narrated by ‘Science Nation’ Correspondent, Miles O’Brien, the piece was produced by Marsha Walton.