NOAA NSSL announces new director

Jack Kain speaking to someone in the NOAA Hazardous Weather Testbed room
Jack Kain in the NOAA Hazardous Weather Testbed. Kain has been instrumental in facilitating experiments in the NOAA HWT.

A collaborative leader in the meteorological community and expert in weather modeling is returning to NOAA’s National Severe Storms Laboratory in Norman, Oklahoma, as its new director. John “Jack” Kain starts in this new position on Monday, April 13.

Kain began his NOAA Research career more than 20 years ago at the University of Oklahoma Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies supporting NSSL. He transitioned from OU CIMMS to a federal position and rose in the ranks to head NSSL’s Forecast Research and Development Division. As chief, he led a team in groundbreaking experimental forecasting research. For the past two years, he has worked with NOAA’s National Weather Service in College Park, Maryland.

“It’s great to be back at NSSL, where I know I will be joining a dedicated, hard-working, and generous team,” Kain said. “It’s an honor to be selected to lead this amazing group of people and build on the great tradition of NSSL.

A proven manager and collaborator, Kain is a research scientist at his core, having designed a complex test and evaluation strategy that was utilized to create a community-based, next-generation forecast model suite. He’s continued to build collaborations across the United States weather enterprise, involving public, private and academic entities.

“I’m thrilled to be moving back to Norman and truly honored to be leading one of its world-famous institutions. NSSL has always been a strong and active partner in the Norman community and I look forward to continuing and enriching that spirit of community engagement,” he said.

Kain’s work as a skilled leader assisted the research organization by driving scientific activities to completion more effectively, establishing a vision, fostering innovation and collaboration, and by engaging and motivating others to deliver on NOAA and National Weather Service strategic goals.

“It is my pleasure to welcome Dr. Kain as director of NSSL. Over the years of his career at NOAA, Jack has proven to be a successful leader and has made a great impact throughout NOAA,” said Craig McLean, OAR’s assistant administrator. “His influence in the research community has helped to make research more relevant as it relates to research-to-operations.”

Kain was instrumental in creating and was co-director of the NOAA’s Hazardous Weather Testbed — a physical space fostering collaboration between forecasters, emergency managers, broadcast meteorologists, and researchers as they test experimental forecasting tools and methods. Products tested in NOAA’s Hazardous Weather Testbed are aimed to improve tools utilized by National Weather Service forecasters and provide more specific and timely severe weather information for the public.

Kain cultivated strong relationships between the NOAA NWS Storm Prediction Center and weather enterprise, and those relationships have continued throughout his career. His collaborations with the NWS SPC started the annual Spring Program, which provided the foundation for the NOAA HWT. Today, hundreds of forecasters visit the NOAA HWT each year to test experimental forecasting technologies and provide feedback on the design, use, and the research to operations process.

 

Kain returns to NSSL after serving as chief of the Model Physics Group at the NWS Environmental Modeling Center in College Park, Maryland, where he led diverse teams through organizational restructuring and technology adaptation.

His awards are numerous, including the National Weather Association Larry R. Johnson Award in 2015 and the AMS Editor’s Award from Monthly Weather Review in 2010. He has authored more than 50 formal publications in peer-reviewed research journals. Kain earned master’s and doctoral degrees in meteorology from Pennsylvania State University and a bachelor of science in chemistry from the College of William and Mary.

Kain succeeds former NSSL Director Steven Koch, who retired in 2019.

“I would like to encourage all of our researchers to be patient and safe as we navigate the future. I’m looking forward to working with each of them to ensure their personal and professional success as we work together to make NSSL a great place to work and an even stronger contributor to scientific research and the protection of life and property,” Kain said.

During the transition, NSSL’s Deputy Director Kurt Hondl has been serving as the lab’s acting director. He will resume his role as deputy director in April.

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