New rating system charts a path to improved tornado forecasts

All tornadoes — whether small or large — originate from thunderstorms, but not all thunderstorms are the same. Different environments and situations create forecasting challenges. For instance, nighttime twisters, summer tornadoes and smaller events can be tougher to forecast.

Researchers wanted to quantify how much tougher, and have published a new method of classifying tornado environments according to their forecast difficulty.

In a new paper published online in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, University of Washington scientist Alexandria Anderson-Frey, and Harold Brooks from the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory describe a new way to rate and possibly improve tornado warnings.

“With this research, we’re trying to find ways to truly level the field related to the difficulty of the forecast situation,” said Brooks. “This will help us identify areas for research, as well as better understand the long-term historical statistics.”

 The paper presents a new method to rate the skill of a tornado warning based on the difficulty of the environment. It then evaluates thousands of tornadoes and associated warnings over the continental United States between 2003 and 2017.

The NOAA-funded study finds that nighttime tornadoes have a lower probability of detection and a higher false-alarm rate than the environmental conditions would suggest. Summertime tornadoes, occurring in June, July or August, also are more likely to evade warning.

“The forecasting community is not just looking at the big, photogenic situations that will crop up in the Great Plains,” said Anderson-Frey, the lead author. “We’re looking at tornadoes in regions where vulnerability is high, including in regions that don’t normally get tornadoes, where by definition the vulnerability is high.”

The technique could be applied to forecasts of other types of weather as well.

This research began while Anderson-Frey was a postdoctoral researcher at the Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies, a partnership between the University of Oklahoma and NOAA.

This story was adapted from a  University of Washington news release.

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Researcher awarded at international radar conference

The American Meteorological Society recently awarded a researcher for his contributions to the weather radar community.

David Schvartzman presenting at the 39th AMS International Conference on Radar Meteorology. (Photo provided)

University of Oklahoma Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies researcher David Schvartzman was awarded the AMS Spiros G. Geotis Student Prize. Schvartzman is a full-time researcher and a PhD candidate in Electrical and Computer Engineering whose work supports NOAA’s National Severe Storms Laboratory.

The Spiros G. Geotis Student Prize is awarded for an outstanding student paper presented at a technical conference on radar meteorology. His paper, titled “Design of Practical Pulse Compression Waveforms for Polarimetric Phased Array Radar,” presents practical system considerations to design waveforms with the goal of improving polarimetric radar data quality.

Schvartzman was awarded at the 39th AMS International Conference on Radar Meteorology

David Schvartzman at the AMS 39th International Conference on Radar Meteorology with CIMMS Senior Research Scientist Sebastian Torres. (Photo provided)

in Japan. He said he “couldn’t believe it,” when he was told he would be given the award. The award is one of the most prestigious in radar meteorology and it is a national recognition. It will be awarded at the 100th AMS Annual Meeting in Boston on January 2020.

“I feel very grateful and honored by this recognition, and I’m glad that my scientific efforts are contributing to the radar engineering community,” Schvartzman said. “It means a great deal to me given that there were so many great presentations at the conference, and this is a very important conference in the AMS community. I am very grateful to CIMMS and NOAA NSSL for the continuous support and encouragement to pursue my research ideas.”

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Researcher awarded by AMS

The American Meteorological Society announced the 2020 award and honor recipients. Among those named was Sebastian Torres, a senior research scientist at the University of Oklahoma Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies, whose work supports technology testing at NOAA’s National Severe Storms Laboratory.

Sebastian Torres.

Torres received an Editor’s Award for the Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic TechnologyTorres was honored for, “providing thorough reviews that have helped the decision-making process in controversial situations.”

Rewarding work

Torres said he enjoys reviewing articles and helping his peers communicate their ideas more effectively. The process helps him become a better writer while learning about new discoveries in his field and contributing to AMS.

“Serving as a reviewer for publications like the AMS Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology can be time consuming, but I consider it an integral and rewarding part of my work as a scientist,” Torres said. “I take the opportunity to review the work of others as a way to pay it forward. Besides serving as a regular reviewer, I am an associate editor of JTECH. In this role, I often get to help the editor solve a controversial situation or reach a difficult decision, which can be extra challenging. All in all, serving as peer reviewer makes me feel part of my scientific community, so, being recognized with this award is a huge honor.”

Working with NOAA’s National Severe Storms Laboratory, his research involves creating and testing new radar capabilities with NOAA’s National Severe Storms Laboratory, in addition to helping improve current the current radar system to support the National Weather Service.

He is currently involved in testing the Advanced Technology Demonstrator radar. Torres recently returned from the 39th AMS International Conference on Radar Meteorology. He presented on the ATD and its progress.

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2016 AMS Awards

The American Meteorological Society announced winners of the 2016 AMS Awards to be presented during their January annual meeting, and two NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory researchers were among the honorees. Winners were selected from nominations provided by AMS members, who submitted names of deserving colleagues and peers.

James F. Kimpel  was selected to receive the Charles Franklin Brooks Award for “decades of faithful service and enlightened leadership in the Society, guiding it to remain vigorous, relevant, and focused on the future.” Dr. Kimpel served as the director of NSSL for thirteen years, and was elected president of the AMS in 2000.

Richard J. Doviak was chosen to receive the 2016 Remote Sensing prize for “fundamental contributions to weather radar science and technology, with applications to observations of severe storms and tropospheric winds.” Dr. Doviak joined NSSL in 1971 and has been noted for his extensive work on Doppler radar and remote sensing. He has received multiple awards over the years and has been invited to speak at conferences around the world.

doviakFor a complete list of the 2016 AMS Awards, please visit:

Congratulations to all the winners!

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AMS Radar Conference 2015

amsNSSL scientists won’t have to travel far this year for the AMS Radar Conference! The 37th Conference on Radar Meteorology will be held right here in Norman, Oklahoma, at the Embassy Suites Hotel and Conference Center. The event, which takes place September 14-18,  will kick off with an icebreaker reception at the National Weather Center on the University of Oklahoma campus.

Participants are encouraged to sign up for tours of well-known Norman attractions, which will be offered on Wednesday, September 16. Locations open for tours will include the National Weather Center, NOAA’s National Weather Radar Testbed, OU’s Radar Innovations Laboratory, and OU’s Bizzell Library. On the tour of the National Weather Center, participants will see several NOAA facilities, including the Hazardous Weather Testbed, National Weather Service Norman forecast office, and the Storm Prediction Center. The tour of NOAA’s NWRT will offer the chance to learn firsthand how NSSL researchers test nd evaluate phased array radar.

This event is sponsored by the American Meteorological Society. Additional details can be found on their website:

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First AMS Symposium on High Performance Computing: Call for papers!

Call for Papers!

Brian Etherton (GSD) and Gerry Creager (NSSL) are co-chairing the first Symposium on High Performance Computing associated with an AMS Annual Meeting. This grew out of a discussion two years ago with several people, and a subsequent Town Hall at the meeting in Atlanta, this year.


Call for Papers
American Meteorological Society Symposium on
High Performance Computing
Thu Jan 8 2015, Phoenix AZ
Part of the American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting 2015


The American Meteorological Society (AMS) invites submissions for
a 1-day symposium at the AMS 2015 Annual Meeting (Phoenix, AZ,
Thursday January 8, 2015) on High Performance Computing as
applied to the improved prediction of weather, water, and climate.

The call for papers can be found here:

The three AMS boards who are involved this symposium are:

* Environmental Information Processing Technologies (the host)
* Weather and Forecasting / Numerical Weather Prediction
* Probability and Statistics

The focus of this symposium is computational rather than modeling
science, although interesting aspects of the models themselves,
with ties to hardware and infrastructure interaction, are welcome.

Presentations focusing on new hardware, interconnection, data
storage and post-processing systems/paradigms will be especially

Emphasis on how hardware and software developments for HPC will
impact the Weather, Water and Climate prediction enterprises are
of particular interest.

Questions can be directed to me ( or Brian (

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NSSL/CIMMS researchers to present at AMS annual meeting

AMSlogo-compact-final.ashxNSSL and CIMMS staff are preparing to receive honors and present recent research at the 2014 American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting in Atlanta, Ga., February 1-6.

NSSL’s Doug Forsyth, retired Chief of the Radar Research and Development Division, has been elected an AMS Fellow and will be honored at the meeting.

Presentations and poster topics include the first real-data demonstration of the potential impact from an MPAR observing capability for storm-scale numerical weather prediction, using cloud top temperatures in numerical weather prediction models to forecast when thunderstorms will form, and crowdsourcing public observations of weather.  Real-time flash flood modeling, understanding forecasters’ needs to improve radar observations using adaptive scanning, and aircraft detection and tracking on the National Weather Radar Testbed Phased Array Radar will also be presented.

Preliminary analyses of research data collected during the 2013 May tornado outbreaks in Oklahoma will be a special focus at the meeting.

NSSL staff will also serve as session chairs.

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Latest weather radar research on display this week

Weather radar research is a key part of NSSL’s mission in support of the NOAA National Weather Service (NWS). This week, NSSL/CIMMS scientists will share the latest in weather radar research at the American Meteorological Society’s 2013 Conference on Radar Meteorology in Breckenridge, Colo.

Phased array radar research presentations include:

  • An overview of the latest improvements to the National Weather Radar Testbed
  • Phased Array Radar (NWRT PAR) capabilities to demonstrate Multi-function
  • Phased Array Radar (MPAR) program weather and aviation requirements
  • How NWS forecasters’ responded to rapid, adaptive phased array radar sampling and if it increased their ability to effectively cope with tough tornado
  • warning cases
  • New techniques to increase the NWRT PAR scan rate and reduce observation
  • times
  • NWRT PAR observations of microburst events
  • A method to detect and characterize storm merges and splits using rapidly updating NWRT PAR observations in thunderstorm models

NSSL/CIMMS researchers also work with current weather radars in operation and will present:

  • A new algorithm that combines output from a forecast model with dual-polarized radar data to more accurately estimate what winter weather is occurring between the lowest scan of the radar and the ground.
  • A study of how NSSL’s products that estimate precipitation amounts improved using dual-polarized radar data
  • Evaluation of existing hail size estimation algorithms
  • Crowdsourced reports precipitation types at the ground using the “meteorological Phenomena Identification Near the Ground” (mPING) smart phone app
  • Development of a database of U.S. flash flood events using NSSL’s Severe Hazards Analysis and Verification Experiment, and mPING reports
  • Improvements in radar wind data quality control

Other presentations include mobile radar observations of a tornadic supercell and rainfall in the Mediterranean region and airborne radar observations of precipitation in the Indian Ocean.

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Kids learn what to put in an emergency backpack at WeatherFest 2012

NSSL’s Keli Tarp helps kids pack a weather emergency backpack

More than 3,000 people crowded the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, La. for the American Meteorological Society’s “WeatherFest” on January 22, 2012.  WeatherFest is an interactive four-hour science and weather fair designed to inspire children and youth to pursue a career in the sciences.  It is also a chance for closet weather fanatics to share their passion and learn more.

NSSL’s booth was staffed by NSSL’s Keli Tarp and NSSL/CIMMS Daphne Thompson and Susan Cobb with visits by the “Weather Friends” known as “Tempest” and “Swirl Girl”.  Visitors could watch videos about NSSL research, collect Weather Friends trading cards, make a tornado in a bottle, and think through filling an disaster backpack with emergency supplies.  Other handouts available included weather word searches, a weather maze, a reinforcing “fill the backpack,” along with information on NSSL and careers in meteorology.

This was the 11th year of WeatherFest, and the seventh year NSSL has sponsored a booth.

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