Edwin Kessler, first NSSL director, 1928–2017

Dr. Edwin Kessler
Dr. Edwin Kessler

We are sad to announce the National Severe Storms Laboratory’s first director, Dr. Edwin Kessler, passed away Tuesday, February 21.

Originally from the northeast, Dr. Kessler received his Ph.D. in Meteorology in 1957 from MIT after serving in the Army. He also served as a Captain in the Air Force Reserve and was Chief of the Synoptic Meteorology Section at the Air Force Cambridge Research Laboratories. He also worked at the Travelers Research Center in Connecticut.

In 1964, Dr. Kessler became the first Director of the NSSL and was an Affiliate Professor of Meteorology at The University of Oklahoma until his retirement in 1987.

Under his leadership, NSSL scientists conducted Doppler radar research that led to the NEXRAD, deployed in the 1990s and still in use today.

Dr. Kessler authored more than 250 publications and reports. He served on numerous advisory panels, including NASA and NCAR, and consulted for several countries on weather-related topics, including Saudi Arabia and Mexico.

Our Lab owes a great deal to his leadership, scientific talent, and good judgment.

Kimpel, Kessler, Koch at NSSL 50th
At the NSSL 50th Anniversary celebration. L-R: Dr. James Kimpel, Dr. Edwin Kessler, Dr. Steven Koch

Norman Transcript: Norman mourns ‘Father of Doppler radar’
Norman Transcript: Obituary
Norman Transcript: 50 years with an eye on the storm
NSSL History

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President Obama honors NSSL/CIMMS researcher Corey Potvin for innovative research

Corey Potvin
Corey Potvin

President Obama has named a local scientist as one of three NOAA-supported scientists receiving the prestigious Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. The award is the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on federally-funded early career science and engineering professionals.

The recipient is Corey Potvin, Ph.D., a research meteorologist with the Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies (CIMMS), a partnership of NOAA’s National Severe Storms Laboratory and the University of Oklahoma in Norman, Oklahoma.

Potvin is making key contributions to NOAA’s mission to revolutionize the way the American public is warned about tornadoes and other threats associated with severe thunderstorms. He is a leader in the development of numerical weather prediction models used to better capture the structure and evolution of thunderstorms in order to provide more precise and reliable warnings of severe weather with much longer lead time. Potvin collaborates with a wide range of federal and academic scientists to pioneer severe weather prediction that is designed to save lives and property and create a more weather ready nation. Potvin received his Ph.D. and master’s degree in meteorology from the University of Oklahoma and a Bachelor of Science in meteorology from Lyndon State College.

2015 NSSL Lab Review, Corey Potvin discusses his research with one of the reviewers.

Awardees are selected for their pursuit of innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology and their commitment to community service as demonstrated through scientific leadership, public education, or community outreach.

Potvin is the sixth recipient from NSSL and CIMMS. Previous awardees are:

Adam Clark
Michael Coniglio
Pamela Heinselman
Erik Rasmussen
David Stensrud

For more on the PECASE: https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/01/09/president-obama-honors-federally-funded-early-career-scientists

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NSSL researcher’s new book illuminates state of the science in lightning physics

Vlad Mazur
Vlad Mazur

The current understanding of lightning physics is the focus of a new book published by physicist Vladislav Mazur, based on his more than 30 year career at NSSL. Principles of Lightning Physics presents and discusses the most up-to-date physical concepts that govern many lightning events in nature, including lightning interactions with man-made structures.

Mazur’s approach to the understanding of lightning — – to seek out, and to show what is common to all lightning flashes —- are illustrated by an analysis of each type of lightning and the multitude of lightning-related features. Using this approach, the book examines the work that has gone into the development of new physical concepts, and provides critical evaluations of the existing knowledge of the physics of lightning and the lexicon of terms and definitions used in lightning research.

Since joining NSSL in 1984, Mazur has produced research on many aspects of lightning, from lightning interactions with aircraft and ground structures to lightning processes and lightning physics. He was a pioneer of high-speed photography of lightning in the early 1990s.

The book was released this month by the Institute of Physics Publishing.

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mPING Weather App Goes Global

mPING app 2016
Available on any smart phone, the mPING app allows users to quickly and anonymously report weather at their current location.

Citizen scientists around the world, not just those in the United States, can now submit weather observations and view reports on the go using the newly upgraded mPING smart phone application. Developers from NOAA’s National Severe Storms Laboratory and the University of Oklahoma’s Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies announced the app’s expanded reach and utility Monday during the American Meteorological Society’s annual meeting in New Orleans.

Since its launch in December 2012, mPING (meteorological Phenomena Identification Near the Ground) has received nearly a million weather reports on U.S.-based weather events including rain, snow, ice, wind, hail, tornadoes, floods, landslides, fog and dust storms. These reports are used to improve forecasts related to road maintenance, aviation operations and public warnings.

Now, users around the world and outside the continental U.S. can participate in mPING and see their reports. The updated interface is user-friendly and available globally. New features include multi-language support, with 11 languages currently available. Additionally, the app design has been refined for both iOS and Android devices, allowing for greater consistency and precision.

MPING 2016 display
The mPING app allows users to share weather observations and view reports from anywhere in the world.

Use of mPING data is expanding as well. NOAA National Weather Service forecasters now have access to mPING observations on their office workstations. This means NWS forecasters will be able to overlay mPING reports with other data such as radar and satellite observations to aid them in their decision-making.

The ability to submit and display in other, independent applications is now possible as well. Television stations and private weather companies have the opportunity to build the ability to submit and display mPING submissions in their own branded applications, making the information available to the public in new ways.

“These are exciting times! The improvements make the app even more useful for researchers and forecasters as well as anyone who wants to know about the weather,” said Kim Elmore, CIMMS research scientist working at NSSL, who leads the project with CIMMS scientists Jeff Brogden and Zac Flamig.

The mPING app has been cited as a successful example of citizen science. It was included in Scientific American’s list of “8 Apps That Turn Citizens into Scientists,” and the White House’s “Federal Citizen Science and Crowdsourcing Toolkit.” The official web page for mPING can be found here.

CONTACT: Keli Pirtle, keli.pirtle@noaa.gov, 405-203-4839

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PAR Captures Long-lived Tornado in May 24, 2011 Outbreak

The tornado outbreak forecasted by the NOAA Storm Prediction Center and the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Norman, Oklahoma became a reality as five damage-producing tornadoes struck central Oklahoma between 3 pm and 7 pm CDT May 24, 2011. The longest-track tornado, rated EF3 by the Norman Forecast office, damaged homes and businesses along its 75-mile path that originated just northwest of Binger and moved through the towns of El Reno, Peidmont, and Guthrie (Fig. 1).

Tornado tracks from central Oklahoma tornado outbreak May 24, 2011
Figure 1. Preliminary tornado tracks for the May 24, 2011 tornado outbreak. (Source: https://www.weather.gov/oun/events-20110524)

The rapid-scan, S-band phased-array radar (PAR), located within the National Weather Radar Testbed in Norman, Oklahoma, sampled this tornadic supercell every 1 minute. Based on PAR data, by 3:30 pm supercell storm formed its first well-defined hook echo and associated tornado vortex signature about 6 miles west of Binger (TVS; Fig. 2). At this time, PAR data show that the TVS had a maximum gate-to-gate velocity difference of 89 mph. A comparison of PAR velocity data with the damage path shows that the tornado formed about 12 minutes later, at 3:40 pm.

PAR shows strong signs of tornado development. (Image courtesy Pam Heinselman, NSSL)
Figure 2. Based on PAR data, by 3:30 pm supercell storm formed its first well-defined hook echo and associated tornado vortex signature about 6 miles west of Binger.

The 1-minute updates of the PAR exhibit many important details about the evolution of this supercell and its long-lived tornado. One example is the hard-right turn of the TVS and hook at 4:15 pm that placed El Reno in the tornado’s destructive path (Fig. 3 ~62 km northeast of PAR). About 10 min later (4:25 pm, west-side of El Reno), as cells approaching from the southeast began to merge with the hook and a new circulation developed, the hook’s motion was redirected to the northeast, toward Piedmont. Fig. 3 also shows the likely development of two “debris” signatures in the radar reflectivity, which are compact regions of high reflectivity values due to debris from the tornado.

Animated gif of PAR reflectivity and velocity displays
Figure 3. The 1-minute updates of the PAR exhibit many important details about the evolution of this supercell and its long-lived tornado.

This example shows the PAR’s capability to provide timely, detailed information about where a tornadic storm is headed, and its intensity. In the future, this PAR capability may give families the few additional minutes they may need to take cover from destructive storms.

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