The Joys of Working Together

The Joys of Working Together
Gail Hartfield, November 2017

I must admit that I am still feeling the glow of another successful NWA Annual Meeting. No, I’m not talking about the glow from the California sunshine. (Actually, on most days, the morning stratus held on into the early afternoon!) I’m referring to that burst of excitement we get after attending a professional meeting or conference, that jolt of enthusiasm about the scientific topics and innovations we just spent a week presenting and discussing. Hearing about the neat projects happening across the weather enterprise always spurs my own scientific curiosity and makes me eager to try the new tools and ideas at my own workplace. If you didn’t attend this year’s NWA Annual Meeting, you can at least get a small taste of some of the amazing presentations, panel discussions, and workshops by checking out the Storify stories put together by our terrific social media committee.

But it’s not all about the agenda. As anyone who has attended an NWA Annual Meeting will tell you, so much of the satisfaction and value of attending a scientific meeting comes from the hallway discussions, the coffee break chats, the dinners with colleagues and friends, both familiar and new. It is from these interactions that wonderful collaborations and connections are born. This is particularly the case when it comes to engaging with others outside of our particular weather sector—something that is often difficult to cultivate in our daily lives when we’re locked in our offices, focused on our own weather concerns. I was very fortunate this year in that I arrived at the Annual Meeting early enough to catch the Broadcast Meteorology Workshop, something I’ve missed in past years. I also had more time to walk around the various exhibits and speak with the wide variety of other entities represented. Being in the public sector, I have minimal interaction with meteorologists outside the government and enjoyed seeing these presentations and talking with new friends in the private sector and academic communities. I gained a renewed appreciation for the successes, issues, and challenges encountered by meteorologists from other branches of the weather enterprise. I hope I can use some of this new understanding to benefit not only my day (or evening, or night) job, but also to make me a better NWA president and member.

That said, I realize that just because I had some great discussions with meteorologists from other sectors, I can’t fully understand all of their priorities, concerns, and goals. But herein lies the beauty of the NWA. We are made up of a wide variety of meteorologists and others in weather-related fields, which is an ideal laboratory for inter-sector collaborations. We already accomplish such teamwork in the NWA leadership, which is by design comprised of people from diverse fields and backgrounds. The same holds for our committees, for which we strive to get a good cross-section of members of the various meteorological and related fields.

We’re already experiencing multi-sector engagement to tackle problems and issues within our scientific realm. But what would it look like if we expanded these collaborations? What if we took a close look at the challenges affecting all meteorological and related sectors and pooled our talents and resources to find solutions? I would like to put forth the following challenge. Think of a particular weather-related problem you face. It could be in meteorology, policy, social science, outreach, training, NWP, anything. Do you think this issue might impact other professionals across the weather community? If so, how might you work across the weather enterprise to find a solution? Such an endeavor might not be easy as differing priorities and constraints could be at play. But countless past collaborations, including many documented in professional journals like the JOM and presented at NWA annual meetings, prove that it can be done successfully. This kind of teamwork doesn’t always need to culminate in a paper; the most important result is the intra-sector teamwork and, hopefully, an improved understanding and stronger ties and relationships among us. The diverse membership of the NWA is the perfect proving ground to make all of this happen. Devising a way to make this inter-sector engagement process easier—and to encourage such engagement— is a goal toward which I would like to see us move, and I will be looking into how we can develop such a system to improve our collaboration. If you have some ideas or want to be a part of this, email me at

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