NCAR Hosts Data Assimilation Summer School

By Marijke Unger
06/04/2015 - 12:00am

CISL’s IMAGe co-sponsored a summer school on data assimilation, hosting 28 participants at NCAR in Boulder from May 18-21. The program, organized by Oksana Chkrebtii of Ohio State University and Mikyoung Jun of Texas A&M University, was part of a series of graduate workshops on environmental data analytics of the Research Network for Statistical Methods for Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences (STATMOS).

The workshop series, designed to help prepare the next generation of researchers working in data-rich disciplines, is sponsored by the National Science Foundation, with additional support from the Statistical and Applied Mathematical Sciences Institute (SAMSI), and NCAR/IMAGe.

“If we want to describe weather or climate, we have knowledge from observations and from numerical models, and we try to merge the two to better understand the physical system,” said Oksana Chkrebtii, as she described the importance of computational tools for implementing advanced data assimilation techniques.

Data assimilation refers to methods that connect physical models and probability models in order to make predictions about complex dynamic systems. These have broad applications beyond atmospheric research, from global positioning systems (GPS) to disciplines like finance and biology.

STATMOS Poster Session
Peng Zhan (King Abdullah University of Science and Technology) discusses his research with another summer school participant during a poster session reception at the NCAR Mesa Lab.

STATMOS brought together graduate students, early career scientists, and senior scientists in environmental statistics and related fields to explore contemporary topics in applied environmental data modeling. During their four days at the workshop, participants from around the world received an introduction to data assimilation methods and their applications, as well as hands-on training on the use of IMAGe’s Data Assimilation Research Testbed (DART).

“This is a new area to many students and postdocs in statistics,” said Mikyoung Jun, who co-organized the workshop with Chkrebtii. “The participants came here with little knowledge about the field, and had a chance to talk to the leading experts about how to apply these tools to their own research. And that gives the DART team feedback and ideas for improving the software, so everyone benefits.”

IMAGe's Tim Hoar introduces STATMOS summer school participants to the Data Assimilation Research Testbed (DART).
IMAGe's Tim Hoar introduces STATMOS summer school participants to the Data Assimilation Research Testbed (DART).

The organizers also pointed out that while four days is short for learning these advanced methods, the workshop opened possibilities for further collaboration, building relationships and making future interactions more likely.

“NCAR is always very open and welcoming to visitors,” said Chkrebtii. “Interacting with the speakers and participants, all from a huge variety of backgrounds, and benefiting from the great resources available at NCAR, those were the highlights of the conference.”

STATMOS is funded by NSF through the Division of Mathematical Sciences and includes several university statistics departments with longstanding research and training in environmental applications. NCAR/IMAGe is also a collaborative "node" in this network, and besides partnering in this workshop hosts STATMOS members as visitors and shares staff appointments between institutions.