Dr. Jeff Kimpel is retiring after 13 years of federal service, all as the Director of the National Severe Storms Laboratory in Norman, Oklahoma.
NSSL is best known for developing Doppler weather radar technology that led to the establishment of the national NEXRAD (NEXt generation Weather RADar) network consisting of more than 150 radar systems. During Dr. Kimpel’s watch NSSL performed the scientific and technological research that upgraded the NEXRADs from proprietary to open systems, added super resolution capability and designed dual-polarization upgrades. Dual-polarization will significantly increase the accuracy of rainfall estimates, delineate rain from snow and provide an estimate of hail size. Since its installation, the NEXRAD program has reduced tornado related deaths by 45% and reduced personal injuries by 40%.
Under Dr. Kimpel’s leadership NSSL established strong programs in short term (a few hours), cloud resolving, numerical forecast models that are designed to yield estimates of hazardous weather events including tornadoes, windstorms, lightning, hail, and heavy precipitation. He championed radar-based rainfall analyses for flash flood and river forecasting. He was instrumental in establishing support for new facilities for NSSL that led to the eventual construction of the magnificent National Weather Center building shared with the National Weather Service (NWS) and the University of Oklahoma Meteorology Program. He supported NSSL scientists and equipment to participate in 17 national and international field studies including the high profile Verification of the ORigin of Tornadoes Experiment (VORTEX2).
While Dr. Kimpel served as Director, NSSL scientists published over 600 archival, refereed journal articles, were granted three patents and participated in four Cooperative Research and Development Agreements with private companies. NSSL employees achieved many honors and recognitions during his tenure including a NSSL affiliate being elected to the National Academy of Sciences, a senior researcher being elected to the National Academy of Engineering, and two junior colleagues being invited to the White House as winners of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers.
Dr. Kimpel’s legacy at NSSL will be in establishing far reaching research programs designed to vastly improve weather and water warnings and forecasts. He worked tirelessly to launch the Multifunction Phased Array Radar initiative as a possible eventual replacement for NEXRAD. He worked with the NWS Storm Prediction Center and the Norman Weather Forecast Office to establish the Hazardous Weather Testbed to accelerate the transition of new science into operational warning and forecasting decision processes. He worked with others to support the so called Warn-on-Forecast initiative that envisions a time when severe weather warnings will be issued using numerical guidance in addition to the present method of detecting precursors or the event itself. Dr. Kimpel expanded NSSL’s radar-based flash flood forecasting and water management programs into coastal areas where inundation from land falling tropical storms and hurricanes is possible.
Prior to becoming the Director of NSSL, Dr. Kimpel served in the United States Air Force, including a tour in Vietnam for which he was awarded the Bronze Star Medal. He earned his graduate degrees at the University of Wisconsin before joining the Meteorology Faculty at the University of Oklahoma. He achieved the rank of Full Professor and held a number of administrative positions including Dean of the College of Geosciences and Provost and Senior Vice President of the Norman Campus. He was named a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society (AMS), is a Certified Consulting Meteorologist and was elected President of the AMS in 2000. He chaired both the National Science Foundation’s Advisory Committee for Atmospheric Sciences and the Board of Trustees of the University Corporation for the Atmospheric Sciences. Dr Kimpel plans on remaining in Norman and spending more time with his five children and two grandchildren.