National Organization Honors UW’s Oolman
Larry Oolman, a University of Wyoming researcher who single-handedly developed a website that has become a popular weather information source for meteorologists worldwide, has received an award from a national data-sharing research and educational organization.
He received the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) Unidata community’s Russell L. DeSouza Award. The award “honors individuals whose energy, expertise and active involvement enable the Unidata Program to better serve geoscience. Honorees personify Unidata’s ideal of a community that shares data, software and ideas through computing and networking technologies.”
Oolman, in the early 1990s, developed a website to support teaching and research within the Department of Atmospheric Science in the UW College of Engineering and Applied Science. His weather server at first used a dial-up modem to serve data acquired with a satellite receiver. As the Internet expanded and the archives grew, the website became increasingly popular. Each day, the site provides data in response to more than 130,000 requests from more than 2,500 unique computers. In a typical month, requests originate from nearly 100 countries.
“Larry has posted his email address on the site, and responds personally to numerous questions about the data and weather in general, and frequently generates custom data sets for students and researchers,” says Professor Al Rodi, head of the UW Department of Atmospheric Science. “When the site goes down, Larry hears about it immediately. He is tireless and unselfish in supporting emergency and special data requests. He is definitely an unsung hero in this regard.”
One popular section of the site is its archive of balloon soundings and surface observations from around the world. Another popular page generates forecasts for the trajectory of balloon launches. These are frequently used by students interested in launching inexpensive balloons, equipped with GPS tracking and cameras, to heights more than 100,000 feet to obtain near-space photographs.
“Many students who record their experiences with reports posted on the Web mention the University of Wyoming forecasts,” Rodi says.
A member of the Unidata Users Committee from 2008-11, Oolman is active with the standardization of aircraft data, and has worked closely with NCAR on research projects.
Funded primarily by the National Science Foundation, Unidata is one of eight programs in UCAR's Office of Programs. More than 250 institutions share data, tools and support to enhance earth-system education and research. In an era of increasing data complexity, accessibility and multidisciplinary integration, Unidata provides a rich set of services and tools.