ABC’s of Weather Societies/Associations: What They Mean for You

By Dr. Marshall Shepherd

Even as I write this, I saw a notice for the 2015 National Weather Association (NWA) Meeting in Oklahoma, City later in the year. We just left Phoenix, Arizona where perhaps the largest gathering of meteorologists, atmospheric scientists, and weather-related professionals gathered for the annual American Meteorological Society (AMS) Meeting.

In the weather community, AMS ( and NWA ( are thrown around very easily. What does all of this alphabet soup mean?

Well, it means a bit more than you might think. Professional societies are a critical part of the weather enterprise. They serve a vital role as an integrating body across a diverse set of players in the weather and climate community. As President of the AMS last year, I clearly remember sitting at a table in Washington D.C. with then NWA President Bruce Thomas making the case to the NOAA Administrator and leaders on why federal meteorologists should be able to travel to scientific meetings. I vividly recall OpEds/Blogs that I wrote or phone calls that I made on behalf of the enterprise concerning impacts of sequestration or the Weather Forecast Improvement Act. I remember reaching out to the radio and television industry on behalf of citizens in the wake of deadly Oklahoma tornadoes to push for guidelines requiring more coordinated messaging by broadcasters. BTW, Thanks to Nate Johnson (WRAL and WeatherBrains) for assisting me with that.

Professional and science organizations provide value for individuals (e.g., conferences, journals, meetings, and resources) and for the broader community (e.g. a unifying voice, community resources, credibility, and more). Are they perfect? No. They have flaws, inertia, and practices that won’t appeal to every individual. However, I tend to look at their collective value rather than the “what does it do for me” perspective. I can’t imagine any credible lawyer, doctor, teacher or accountant not being a engaged in some way with one of their professional organizations.

Dr. Marshall Shepherd (left), Dr. John Scala (middle), Dr. Bill Gail (right)

Who does AMS and NWA serve, respectively? What is the motivation for two separate organizations (by the way, we keep it real with our discussion on this one)? What is the future going forward, and is there room for more collaboration? How do you become a member?

I sit down with AMS Past President Bill Gail and NWA Past President John Scala (also of the WeatherBrains crew) to discuss these questions. We also discuss the organizations; how they differ; and what joint challenges face the weather enterprise. We also share of how WxGeeks viewers can become engaged in these professional societies. It’s easier than you may think, and you don’t have to be a meteorologist or professional to get involved.

On the surface, this show topic may seem like a little “inside baseball” to the average viewer, but the role and scope of AMS and NWA reaches the public. Undoubtedly, many viewers have noticed AMS Seals/CBMs or NWA Seals by their local TV meteorologist’s name. This is not simply window dressing. These certifications provide the viewer with a degree of quality assurance. This is more important than ever in the era of social “media-rology”. In fact, I would encourage seal and certification holders to boldly display these credentials in social media and strive to educate the viewers on what they mean. NWA has even ushered in the age of digital seals.

Please join us for a revealing discussion of the 2 major professional societies in weather, and how they actually impact not only our profession but the broader public. I should also mention that though the focus is on AMS and NWA, there are a variety of organizations that serve similar functions in the weather community. Perhaps we will cover them in a future show.

This is the 2nd in our series of shows taped live at #AMS2015 in Phoenix so I bet there will be more pictures from the conference in the episode so be sure to watch for yourself.

Join us Sunday at Noon ET (11 CT, 10 MT, 9 PT) on The Weather Channel’s WxGeeks, the nation’s only weekly talk show talking science and technology related topics.

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Dr. Marshall Shepherd

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