The Forum for Arctic Modeling and Observational Synthesis (FAMOS) School
By: Michael Steele, Polar Science Center, Applied Physics Laboratory, University of Washingtion and Andrey Proshutinsky, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
The Forum for Arctic Modeling and Observational Synthesis (FAMOS) is an NSF-funded project designed to enhance the collaboration between Arctic marine modelers and observationalists, as well as others who are interested in working with such scientists. A key part of this effort is the annual workshop, usually held at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) each fall. Since 2009, the first day of the workshop is devoted to the FAMOS School for those new to Arctic marine studies. Participants are generally graduate students, postdocs, and more senior scientists who are new to the field. These are modelers and observationalists studying mathematical, physical, and biogeochemical aspects of the field. The number of participants has grown from about 20 in the first few years, to about 40 in more recent years. The school is advertised via ArcticInfo, the FAMOS listserver, Cryolist, the Association of Early Career Scientists (APECS), word of mouth, and emails from Principal Investigators Steele and Proshutinsky. Attendance is generally first-come first-served, with a limit of about 40 and a preference for new participants. NSF provides full or partial travel support for 50-60% of the participants.
Activities for the day focus on a series of five or six long-format lectures by experts in various fields. The idea is to introduce the participants to "hot" topics in the field that will likely be discussed more intensely over the rest of the workshop and through the coming years. All lectures are composed of a basic introduction to the field, a discussion of current research, and then a look to the future. Some lecturers describe new numerical techniques, while others focus on recent observations or emerging fields of study. A variety of topics are generally covered, from atmospheric surface fluxes, to melt pond studies and modeling, to sub-mesoscale mixed layer variations and their role in Arctic productivity. In 2015, a "contest" was held to determine the "best" Arctic marginal sea among five contestants lecturing on the Bering, Chukchi, Barents, Laptev, and Canadian Arctic Shelf Seas. This was very popular.
Each year, the hours just after lunch are devoted to a non-academic activity. In the first few years, a tour of various WHOI facilities was provided, e.g., of the rotating tank lab or the engineering facility. In more recent years, this time has instead focused on public outreach activities. There have been demonstrations using water tanks (warm/cold, fresh/salty water to demonstrate convection or water mass formation), ice (formation of snow ice, illustration of heat conduction), and remote sensing (a simple laser apparatus as a model for ICESAT). There have also been lectures on the topic of "What is Climate Modeling?" which is of course central to FAMOS. Describing numerical modeling to "the public" without sacrificing accuracy is not so easy!
After each scientific and outreach presentation, ample time is budgeted for a discussion. These discussions have proven to be quite lively. The FAMOS school is often very popular with more established Arctic scientists, who attend but are asked to keep silent. This day is really focused on those new to the field. The day ends with a working dinner where students and lecturers continue their discussions.
In 2016, we will have a "peer-to-peer" lecture series by experts who are within 10 years of their PhD. The schedule is not yet determined at this time, but we expect a full slate of interesting speakers. A new focus for FAMOS over the next three years will be on high resolution modeling, so this will likely guide the lectures for the FAMOS school in the near-term. There is also recent interest in Climate Response Functions, i.e., simplified numerical and theoretical experiments that seek to determine the basic climate response to a perturbation like enhanced river discharge or changing lateral boundary fluxes. These will likely be covered in upcoming FAMOS schools.
We have had tremendously positive feedback from school attendees and lecturers, which is of course gratifying since it does take some effort to make this happen in an optimal way. We continue to seek ways to improve the school and the program. It is quite clear that the FAMOS annual workshop and collaboratory would be much less lively without the presence of so many new people and their ideas. They are the ones who make this activity a success.
The 2015 agenda is available here.
More information about FAMOS is available on the website.