Penn State Intercom......April
5 , 2001
Better rain predictions could
improve flood forecasting
By A'ndrea Elyse Messer
Forecasts for heavy rains in the Middle Atlantic region of the United States often come too late to predict flooding accurately, but evaluations of past storms with different forecasting methods may improve flood prediction, according to two Pennsylvania meteorologists.
"The problem in Pennsylvania is flooding," said Paul G. Knight, state climatologist at University Park. "Pennsylvania is one of the more flood-prone states in the nation. It is in the top quarter."
Pennsylvania is laced with rivers, creeks, streams and mountains, making it vulnerable to flooding. Pennsylvania also is flood prone because flooding is not a phenomenon of only one season.
"In the spring and
fall we get slow floods as the ground saturates and streams fill, in the
winter, rain on frozen ground, along with snow and ice melt often causes
flooding and in the summer, thunderstorms and tropical storms also cause
flooding," Knight said.
These varied weather
conditions contribute to the difficulties in forecasting heavy rains.
The computer models that help forecast weather employ convective parameterization
schemes to account for atmospheric conditions that are not completely
rendered in the models. In essence, these schemes are fudge factors that
help the models approximate rainfall and improve forecasts.
example, are rather small and fall between the grid points in our models,"
Knight said. "Convective parameterization schemes try to account for such
events that are smaller than the models can see."
Reducing the size of
the grid squares is not yet an option because the increase in data points
dramatically increases the amount of computer time and power necessary
to run the models.
Heavy rainfall baseline
Working with Michael
S. Evans, National Weather Service meteorologist, Knight initially looked
at case studies to produce a baseline of data on heavy rainfall events
in the area covered by the Middle Atlantic River Forecast Center of the
National Weather Service in State College.
His current project
expands and updates the baseline data on climate to include more data.
Problems arise because past data are not in the same time frame or even
the same small river basins as recent data. The baseline data helps in
reviewing how different schemes to estimate the effect of thunderstorms
work in predicting flooding. The researchers looked at several recent
floods to see how different schemes predicted rainfall.
For example, the August
storm that broke the 1999 mid-Atlantic region drought created twin flash
floods in the Bradford and Mifflinburg areas. The storm caused more than
$25 million in damage in the Bradford area alone.
"These twin floods
posed a serious challenge to forecasters since both operational and experimental
models predicted a wide range of scenarios," Knight said.
The researchers tested
three different model configurations on the storm to see which produced
the best fit for the actual event.
Each model kept the
same grid spacing but used different thunderstorm rainfall schemes. Of
the three models tested, only one came close to predicting the rainfall
that actually fell during the storm.
"These results do not
mean that the scheme that produced
the best results is the best scheme to use all the time," Knight said.
"Depending on the season and the atmospheric conditions, different schemes
are the best for different sets of conditions."
The researchers are
trying to determine which schemes should be employed in which situations,
but that will require more case studies and model testing. Ultimately,
Knight and Evans would like to be able to predict storms with flood potential
a day or two in advance.
The research was funded
by a Cooperative Operational Meteorological Education and Training grant
administered by the University Corp. for Atmospheric Research. COMET grants
are intended to foster rapid technology transfer of research in forecasting
to the forecasting community. The grants are given for cooperative work
between universities and the National Weather Service and are regional
A'ndrea Elyse Messer
can be reached at email@example.com
Executives need to
practice moral management
By Paul Blaum
must be both moral people and moral managers to be ethical leaders or
employees will assume that they are ethically neutral and care only for
the bottom line, a researcher said.
"It isn't enough for
an executive to have a reputation for personal integrity. That communicates
to employees what the executive is likely to do -- a good start, but it
does not necessarily tell workers what they themselves should do. Executives
need to focus on moral managing -- taking the ethics message to the rest
of the organization," said Linda Klebe Trevino, chair of the Department
of Management and Organizational Behavior in The Smeal College of Business
Administration. Trevino, Laura Pincus Hartman, associate professor of
management at DePaul University, and Michael E. Brown, graduate student
in business administration, conducted interviews with 20 senior executives
and 20 corporate ethics officers.
A number of the executives
interviewed cited former Sunbeam chief "Chainsaw Al" Dunlap as a prime
example of unethical executive leadership. He was unethical on a personal
level, engaging in emotional abuse of employees and operating by virtual
intimidation. Dunlap resorted to dishonest management practices, exaggerating
sales and earnings reports and presenting a false picture of the company's
financial health to Wall Street analysts. The board of directors fired
In contrast was Johnson
& Johnson CEO James Burke, who brought together 28 senior managers
to study the corporate credo of values and to make changes, if they saw
fit. Through this collaborative effort, Johnson & Johnson revised
its credo of values, and Burke made sure that the new version was enforced.
Moral managers can
stress the role of ethics first by serving as authentic and persuasive
role models. This has to be done in a manner that is continually visible
to employees, who judge by deeds, not words or intent.
"Second, moral managers
need to talk about ethical values from the top, not in a sermonizing way,
but in a way that explains the values that guide important decisions and
actions," said Trevino. "Third, using rewards and discipline effectively
may be the most powerful way to send signals about desirable and undesirable
conduct. That means rewarding those who accomplish their goals by behaving
in ways that are consistent with stated values and disciplining employees
at all levels when they break the rules."
Paul Blaum can
be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org