For the month of February, the Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies at the University of Oklahoma is publishing a series of stories highlighting CIMMS’s past, present and future by highlighting its employees. CIMMS is diverse because of its employees — who represent a variety of entities and areas of research. One Q&A segment will be published each Monday and Thursday in February.
Ami Arthur has worked at CIMMS for 20 years. She is a research scientist supporting NOAA’s National Severe Storms Laboratory. In 2015, Arthur was part of the team NOAA recognized for work done on the Multi-Radar Multi-Sensor program, awarding the team a NOAA Silver Medal for engineering science achievement.
Q: How did you get into your field?
A: While I was a Civil Engineering undergraduate at the University of Oklahoma, I began working in my advisor’s Environmental Modeling and Geographic Information Systems Laboratory. Working alongside mostly graduate students, I was introduced to the relatively young world of GIS. We used GRASS, an open-source GIS that is still around today, for hydrologic and water resource analysis. I could not have imagined that the skills I learned would lead to where I am today.
Q: What are you most proud of during your time at CIMMS or what is the most significant achievement of your career?
A: During the early 2000s, I led a small team consisting of myself and three others to produce the GIS data sets necessary for the Flash Flood Monitoring and Prediction, FFMP, system that was being implemented at every National Weather Service Weather Forecast Office in the nation. Our team delineated flash-flood-scale drainage basins from digital elevation data for all of the United States and its territories. FFMP was a major advancement in flash-flood forecasting tools at that time. Its basin-averaged rates and accumulations calculated from radar-derived precipitation estimates provided valuable information in potential flash-flooding situations. FFMP is still used today in many WFOs throughout the nation.in
Q: What is it about your job that interests and/or engages you?
A: Because I am essentially in a support role, I have had the honor over my 20-plus years at CIMMS of assisting in varying degrees with many projects, including: FFMP; Multi-Radar Multi-Sensor System — MRMS; Flooded Locations And Simulated Hydrographs Projects— FLASH;Plains Elevated Convection at Night — PECAN; Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes EXperiment-Southeast— VORTEX-SE; and many more. I have truly enjoyed the opportunity to work with so many different groups and people.
Q: Tell us something that might surprise us about you.
A: I have an extreme cricket phobia. Extreme.
Q: What is the most memorable experience of your career?
A: One of the most memorable times of my career was a two-year period when I was part of a team of instructors for a COMET class at University Corporation for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. The week-long “FFMP Basin Customization” course was offered about a dozen times, and was intended for NWS forecasters. We taught GIS basics, explained how the FFMP basin data set was developed, and provided hands-on training on how to customize the data set for local WFO use. The team of instructors and everyone else who made the classes possible were outstanding to work with and I truly enjoyed meeting forecasters from every WFO. I had the pleasure of continuing to work with many of them over the years as the FFMP data set went through several updates.
Q: What is something you never expected in your field of research, career or CIMMS but it happened?
A: I never expected the opportunities for travel that have come along as part of the projects I have worked on at CIMMS over the years. My most memorable trips were to Taiwan in early 2000 and 2015 for projects our group had with the Central Weather Bureau. During the 2015 trip, my husband, dad, daughter, and son decided to travel with me, and they enjoyed the beautiful sights, while I worked! We all fell in love with the culture, and of course the warmth of the Taiwanese people. What a tremendous experience!
Q: Where is your favorite place to be?
A: My favorite place to be is anywhere with my family, whether that is traveling — one of our favorite family activities — or simply being at our “home sweet home.”
Q: How do you define success?
A: As the years have passed, I have realized that my definition of success has changed and grown just as I have. For me, at this time in my life, I think my greatest success is when I am able to see the goodness and purpose in even the most difficult situations, and to have a sense of peace.
Q: What is the best book you’ve ever read?
A: I do not know if I can choose a best book, but I think the best reading experience I ever had was when my son and I read “Wonder” together several years ago. We laughed together and we cried together…such an emotional connection and wonderful memories through a book.
Q: Who is your role model and why?
A: My beautiful mom was not only my role model but my rock. She was one of the hardest-working people ever to grace this earth. I am still in awe of how she balanced family, work, and everything else life threw her way. She was also one of those rare people who have the ability to make anyone they are with feel like the most special person in the world. Truly a gift.