Tornado Warning Decisions Using Phased Array Radar Data

Weather and Forecasting: Early Online Release

Tornado Warning Decisions Using Phased Array Radar Data

Authors:  Pamela Heinselman, Daphne LaDue, Darrel M. Kingfield, and Robert Hoffman

The 2012 Phased Array Radar Innovative Sensing Experiment identified how rapidly scanned full-volumetric data captured known mesoscale processes and impacted tornado-warning lead time. Twelve forecasters from nine National Weather Service forecast offices used this rapid-scan phased array radar (PAR) data to issue tornado warnings on two low-end tornadic and two nontornadic supercell cases. Verification of the tornadic cases revealed that forecasters’ use of PAR data provided a median tornado-warning lead time (TLT) of 20 min.  Precursors that triggered forecasters’ decisions to warn occurred within one or two typical WSR-88D scans, indicating PAR’s temporal sampling better matches the time-scale at which these precursors evolve.

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NSSL scientist speaking during NOAA Heritage Week 2012

NSSL scientist Pam Heinselman will be a guest speaker during NOAA Heritage Week 2012 activities February 3-4 at NOAA headquarters in Silver Spring, Md.  She will be part of a panel on tornadoes, and give a short presentation on the development of science and technology that can improve the forecasting of tornadic storms.  Heinselman plans to discuss the polarimetric tornado debris signature on Doppler radar, rapid sampling of tornadic storms with Phased Array Radar, and the Warn on Forecast project.

The NOAA Heritage Week is part of Preserve America, a federal initiative that encourages and supports community efforts to preserve and enjoy our priceless cultural and natural heritage.

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STEM Stories to include NSSL researcher

A profile video spotlighting NSSL’s Pam Heinselman has been added to “STEM Stories,” a project to highlight the lives and work of women involved in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).  STEM Stories combines compelling personal stories and multimedia to inspire children in grades 4-8 in STEM subjects and careers.

The video, produced by NSSL’s James Murnan, tells Heinselman’s story beginning with how she was afraid of raindrops as a child.  “As you can see, that fear has turned into a love of weather, and in particular, a love of severe weather,” she said.  “My name is Pam Heinselman, I am a research meteorologist, and I am working on the next big thing in weather radar.

In July 2009, Heinselman was selected for the 2008 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). The PECASE Award is the highest honor bestowed by the United States Government upon outstanding scientists and engineers in the early stages of their careers. “This was really cool because my research is being seen as valuable to the United States,” she says in the video.

Working with weather radar data has been Heinselman’s passion, as indicated by her recent award-winning paper about the rapid scanning phased array radar.  She and her team won the OAR Outstanding Paper of the Year Award and the prestigious Professor Dr. Vilho Vaisala Award for their work.

The video closes on a personal note highlighting the value of humor at home and in her job.

STEM Stories was funded through a grant from the NSF’s Research on Gender in Science in Engineering Program.  New content is being added every month, including more current and historical photos, profiles, videos, and interactive activities.

The video can also be found on the NOAA Weather Partners YouTube Channel at:

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