International collaboration benefits US, European forecasters

NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory Researcher Adam Clark at the European Severe Storms Laboratory Testbed this summer.

Weather doesn’t stop at borders. Nowhere is this more clear than in Europe, where two researchers working at the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory went shoulder to shoulder with researchers in the European Severe Storms Laboratory Testbed this summer. The goal was to collaborate on forecast products and learn how NSSL technologies are used abroad.

“As scientists and meteorologists, we need to continue to talk because that’s how true knowledge transfer occurs,” said Darrel Kingfield, University of Oklahoma Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies researcher working at NSSL. “ESSL researchers came to work with us in the NOAA Hazardous Weather Testbed a couple of years ago and this year we went to them.”

Darrel Kingfield presenting at the European Severe Storms Laboratory Testbed this summer.

During its sixth year, the ESSL Testbed program evaluated forecasts for high-impact weather. Like the HWT, the ESSL testbed serves as a forum to stimulate interaction between product developers and operational forecasters from throughout Europe. Also, lectures from several local and international experts help testbed participants enhance their knowledge and skills.

Different geography, systems

Kingfield and NSSL Research Scientist Adam Clark each spent a full week at ESSL’s testbed. What struck them was the difference in geography between the United States and Europe. Clark said ingredients needed for severe weather come together much differently in Europe than the U.S.

“You have the Mediterranean Sea and the Alps and that affects much of their weather,” Clark said.

Adam Clark working in the European Severe Storms Laboratory Testbed.

Along with geographical differences, Clark and Kingfield learned about the different weather prediction and monitoring systems operated by each European country. A variety of forecasting tools and methods are used throughout Europe, from government operated to privatized systems. This results in data, forecasting and verification inconsistencies.

“For example, after a tornado occurs in the U.S., officials observe and record where it occurred and how severe it was,” Kingfield explained. “Europeans rarely go out and assess tornado damage after a storm. Those surveys are reserved for most damaging events.”

As a result, Europe’s tornado database is not nearly as complete as the United States.

Sharing tools and techniques
While in the testbed, Kingfield and Clark gazed upon a few familiar products.

“The German Weather Service is using a lot of the same techniques developed at NSSL to interpret radar data,” Kingfield said. Some European meteorologists use several products developed in the U.S. by NSSL and OU CIMMS researchers. For instance, one technique allows them to use radar data to visualize the possible track of a tornado based on the storm’s rotation.

Collaboration is an important tool for forecasters and researchers. Participation in ESSL’s testbed allows researchers like Kingfield and Clark to share new technologies, experience new techniques and learn new systems. Opportunities like this allow researchers to collaborate on new products and technology, ultimately leading to better forecasts and warnings for the American public.

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NSSL researcher named Iowa State Young Alumnus

During the spring, National Severe Storms Laboratory Research Scientist Adam Clark is usually in the NOAA Hazardous Weather Testbed. In fact, he has been a lead planner and facilitator of this groundbreaking experiment since 2010.

Meteorologist, research scientist, amateur storm chaser, award winner, journal editor, mentor, and advisor—Clark never misses an opportunity to help advance the science behind severe weather prediction and forecasting.

Adam Clark.

Clark will be honored by Iowa State University with the Iowa State College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Young Alumnus Award in an awards ceremony this fall. One of the highest awards bestowed by the College, it recognizes an alumnus under 40 years of age who has excelled in his profession and provided a service to his community.

Past awardees graduated with degrees in advertising, political science, English, journalism, Spanish and zoology. Clark received a doctorate in meteorology from Iowa State University in 2009 and started working at NSSL that year.

“Not only did I get a rock solid education in meteorology, but while I was still working towards my Ph.D., my advisor, Dr. Bill Gallus helped connect me with researchers in Norman, Oklahoma, who provided me with some of the datasets I used for my dissertation,” Clark said. “That connection helped me land a post-doc at the National Severe Storms Laboratory after I finished in 2009.”

Although Clark’s research has national benefits to public safety, he also tries to focus on impacts he can make right at home and in his scientific community by mentoring college students and serving as an editor for scientific journals.

In 2014, Clark received the prestigious Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, PECASE, joining five other winners from NSSL.

“I plan to continue growing in this position and hope to continue my research that involves helping to rapidly advance severe weather forecasting capabilities for NOAA,” Clark said. “I owe a huge debt of gratitude to all my professors at Iowa State – especially Bill Gallus for his guidance and contagious love of science that helped get me to where I am today.”

More information about the award:

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Award winner to present NOAA Hazardous Weather Testbed work on improving severe weather forecasts

NSSL research meteorologist Adam Clark will present his work on improving severe weather forecasts during NOAA Science Days in June.

Clark, a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers 2014 winner, is presenting on the 2016 Spring Forecasting Experiment, which included a new framework for evaluating  convection-allowing models known as the Community Leveraged Unified Ensemble.

Improved technology has allowed faster and more detailed experimental weather forecast models to be used in the NOAA Hazardous Weather Testbed, leading  to model improvements and increased collaboration with other academic and government research agencies. One by product of the increased collaboration was that an increasing number of convection-allowing models, or CAMs, were ingested into the HWT. This was good, but also created a problem — the models designed by different agencies could not be compared because of too many independent variables.

“In 2016, we coordinated across all the different agencies that contributed to this experiment and we decided we’re going to have everyone abide by a set of rules— a bunch of criteria for how everyone will run their modeling systems,” Clark said. The rules included using the same area to run their models, the same resolution, and the same amount of detail to depict storms.

“That way we were able to control as many variables as we could so we could say more about why the different systems worked they way they did,” Clark said. CLUE collaborators then designed experiments testing different aspects of the model configurations.

Collaboration with forecasters is key to the CLUE experiments.

“What drives what we do is being able to work with the forecasters and get their take,” he said. “To design a system that is useful, you have to get feedback from the end user, which is forecasters.”

Last year was the first for CLUE to be used in the Spring Forecasting Experiment. With a goal to make forecasts better, Clark said there would be another this spring, with hopes of building on previous years.

Adam Clark
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Adam Clark wins prestigious Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers

Adam Clark
Adam Clark

In a White House ceremony this morning (April 15, 2014), NSSL/CIMMS scientist Adam Clark received the prestigious Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). Clark joins four other PECASE award winners from NSSL.

Clark is recognized as a pioneer in the development of the next generation of weather models that will predict individual thunderstorms over large parts of the globe. Clark and his team are finding innovative ways to extract useful information from these detailed models, including a method that helps forecasters better predict the severity of tornado outbreaks. Clark also studies the quality of the weather models, and looks for ways to make them more accurate. His work is part of the NOAA Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research project to increase tornado, severe thunderstorm and flash flood warning lead-times, ultimately saving lives and protecting property. These significant contributions help NOAA work toward its goal of creating a Weather Ready Nation. Clark is also being honored for his role as a mentor for students working in the field of research meteorology. He earned his doctorate, master’s and bachelor of science degrees in meteorology from Iowa State University.

Meet Adam Clark:


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