Training in geoscientific tools

WRF Users Workshop
This photo was taken during the VAPOR tutorial at the annual WRF Users Workshop, held at NCAR in June 2015. CISL staff members provide a two-hour hands-on tutorial at the workshop each year. About 30 students attended this year.

Staff in CISL and CGD have collaborated for 15 years to provide a series of training workshops for the NCAR Command Language (NCL) – a free, interpreted language designed specifically for geoscientific data analysis and visualization. NCL workshops are 3-1/2 days in length with morning lectures and intensive hands-on labs in the afternoons. In the last 2-1/2 years we’ve provided the NCL workshop lectures in a series of free webinars to reach a large base of users who are unable to travel to attend workshops. Given the growing popularity of Python, we have recently expanded our training to include related Python tools. CISL staff also provide hands-on and remote (e.g., webcast) training for the CISL-developed VAPOR package.

The NCL and VAPOR hands-on labs are targeted toward students’ specific needs by encouraging students to use their own datasets for analysis and visualization rather than using canned datasets and examples. The instructors work with students individually during the labs, and by the end of the workshop most students have developed nearly complete NCL programs or VAPOR “sessions” that produce meaningful results from their data. A core NCAR value is partnership with the university community.

We proactively reach out to U.S. university students by offering at least one fully or partially funded NCL workshop at a U.S. university each year, and by covering some of the travel expenses for qualified students from EPSCoR universities and minority-serving institutions (MSIs) to attend workshops. (EPSCoR universities are located in states that are deemed to be underserved by federal research and education funding. The goal of the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research – EPSCoR – is to balance national research and education support by strengthening it in these states.) These workshops and webinars advance CISL’s strategic education imperative to provide workforce training and development.

June NCL workshop participants
This photo was taken at the June 2015 NCL Workshop in Boulder, Colorado. Attendees included graduate students from seven universities (six of these were students from EPSCoR states whose attendance was supported by CISL funds), a SIParCS intern, staff from NOAA and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, four NCAR employees, and a scientist from the Government of Alberta. Their research interests included land surface modeling, marine weather, air pollution modeling, carbon cycling in permafrost soils, monsoon climate over Africa and Asia, and biogenic and anthropogenic emissions of volatile organic compounds.

At end-FY2015, a total of 79 NCL workshops have been taught to 1,276 students at universities and research centers worldwide. Five workshops were taught in FY2015 to 117 students at the Institute of Meteorological Science of Jilin Province in China, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL), and three local workshops in Boulder. We finished recording the NCL workshop material in a series of 9 additional webinars, making a total of 19 webinars available to students unable to attend the workshops in person. We held the first training course for PyNIO at the SEA Conference, and have been accepted to teach an 8-hour course on PyNIO and related Python tools at the Annual AMS meeting in January 2016. CISL fully funded the UNL workshop, and partially funded eight EPSCoR students to attend workshops at NCAR. Similarly, VAPOR tutorials were given to atmospheric science researchers at the Korean Supercomputing Conference in Seoul, as well as the annual WRF workshop held at NCAR in Boulder.

The VAPOR website was given a long-needed overhaul this year, with a particular emphasis on improving E&O to the VAPOR user communities, providing, for example, numerous new tutorials accessible from YouTube.

The VAPOR tutorial at the Korean Supercomputing Conference was funded by the Korea Institute for Science and Information Technology. All other VAPOR tutorials and the NCL workshops were supported by NSF Core funds.