Gab at the Lab: Kurt Hondl

Kurt Hondl, MPAR Program Manager


Background:M.S. Meteorology, University of Oklahoma (1990)
B.S. Meteorology, University of North Dakota (1987)
Experience:Kurt hails from Dickinson, North Dakota, a small town in the southwestern part of the state near the North Dakota Badlands. He attended college at the University of North Dakota, a school of 15,000 on the border with Minnesota. After earning his bachelor’s degree in meteorology from UND, Kurt made the move to Oklahoma, where he received his Master’s at OU. Kurt was hired by OU’s Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies in 1990, and was a CIMMS employee for three years. In 1993, he was offered a position with the National Severe Storms Laboratory, and he has been with the Lab ever since. During his career with NSSL, he has worked on the Warning Decision Support System, the award-winning Multi-Radar Multi-Sensor project, and Multi-Function Phased Array Radar.
What He Does:Kurt is the MPAR Program Manager at NSSL. The Multi-Function Phased Array Radar project aims to demonstrate the potential for aircraft tracking, wind profiling, and weather surveillance performed by a single phased array radar. Multi-function radars could eventually replace aging aircraft traffic radars and weather radars, resulting in significant cost savings and more data for various federal agencies. MPAR’s adaptive scanning and rapid update capabilities for weather observations will also improve severe weather warning lead times. Kurt oversees the MPAR project, ensuring that funding is in place and that the program is on-schedule. Kurt frequently travels to give presentations on the project status and latest achievements, and he has published related work in several peer-reviewed journals.
Trivia: Kurt and his wife recently celebrated his stepson’s graduation from US Air Force Basic Training and he is now serving as a fireman for the Air National Guard. They have two dogs - Gabi, a Shih Poo, and Zoe, and Cockapoo. In his free time, he enjoys woodworking and building furniture. One of his biggest projects was building a bed frame entirely out of reclaimed barnwood!

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Significant Paper: Multifunction Phased Array Radar for Aircraft and Weather Surveillance

mparMultifunction Phased Array Radar for Aircraft and Weather Surveillance
Authors: Stailey, J., K. D. Hondl
Journal: Proceedings of the IEEE
Publication Date: In Print 3/2016

Important Conclusions: This paper provides an overview of Multifunction Phased Array Radar (MPAR) program – its origins, development, and area of focus. The MPAR initiative has made significant progress toward moving phased array radar technology into operational use, advanced dual polarization technology, and made strides toward driving down the cost of active electronically steered array (AESA) technology. The effort has made important contributions to the eventual application of AESA radar to meet new and different needs.

Significance: Multifunction Phased Array Radar (MPAR) is a multiagency initiative to investigate the feasibility of replacing aircraft surveillance and weather radar fleets in the United States with a network of phased array radars based on a single, scalable networked array architecture.

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Gab at the Lab: Mark Weber

Mark Weber, Senior Research Physicist (IPA)





Background:B.A. Physics, Washington University
Ph.D. Geophysics, Rice University, 1979
Experience:Mark was with the Naval Research Center from 1981-1984, then joined MIT Lincoln Laboratory through 2014. At Lincoln Lab, he was Assistant Head of the Homeland Protection and Air Traffic Control Division. Prior to holding this title, he led the Weather Sensing Group at the Lab, which is responsible for developing technology to support commercial aviation in the United States. Mark specifically focused on radar development and forecast algorithms to improve decision support in air traffic control.
What He Does:Mark plays a significant role in studying Multifunction Phased Array Radar (MPAR) here at NSSL. He helps develop the radar architecture and researches strategies for future transitions in technology. Mark uses unique resources, like drones and Cubesat soundings, to explore the next generation of observing system concepts. He plans to use NoXP radar to study rapid changes in polarimetric variables, like those associated with ice crystal alignment in thunderstorms (caused by electric field build-up) and subsequent collapse following lightning.
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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/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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2013 NOAA National Weather Radar Testbed Spring Experiments

Lowering west of PAR, 2006During the 2013 central Oklahoma severe weather season, researchers will demonstrate and evaluate new capabilities developed for the NOAA National Weather Radar Testbed Phased Array Radar (NWRT/PAR). The most recent software upgrade, released in March 2013 provides new automated storm detection, tracking and scheduled scanning capabilities for NWRT/PAR.

Researchers will target storms within 120nm of NWRT/PAR to examine the strengths and limitations of storm cluster identification and tracking algorithms, and their usefulness for enhanced rapid sampling of severe storms. They will also use the data to understand how a thunderstorm evolves into a supercell and as it begins to produce a downburst or possible tornado. Researchers will evaluate how useful this information could be for enhanced warning lead-time during severe weather warning operations.

In addition, NSSL will work with 12 National Weather Service forecasters during six weeks in May, June, and July. They will assess how the use of rapid-scan NWRT/PAR helps with situational awareness and warning decisions during simulated severe weather events.

New this year, NSSL’s dual-pol research radar will be used as a proxy for future dual-pol Multi-function Phased Array Radar (MPAR) observations. Researchers will observe rapid changes in dual-pol signatures that occur in cyclic supercells and downbursts.

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NSSL team releases Spring 2013 radar software upgrades

Lowering west of PAR, 2006Twice each year NSSL engineers release a software upgrade to improve the capabilities of the National Weather Radar Testbed Phased Array Radar (NWRT PAR).  The Spring 2013 upgrade was released this week and is now operational.

Specific goals for this project are to improve the quality of meteorological data produced by the NWRT PAR, to demonstrate adaptive scanning capabilities for weather observations, and to demonstrate dynamic scheduling of multi-function scanning strategies.

The new software release includes:

– A new algorithm that identifies and tracks clusters of storms

– Automatic time-based scheduling of storm regions

– Scheduling and processing of a scan that quickly detects newly formed storms

– Real-time controller improvements to reduce initial range of collection and to allow frequent switching between pulse repetition times

– Improvements to control and monitor the system and its algorithms

– Improvements to handle ground-clutter and range-and-velocity ambiguity issues

– Software infrastructure improvements to prevent data drops

New and advanced real-time signal processing techniques continue to provide researchers and users with an optimum platform for demonstrating and evaluating the Multi-function Phased Array Radar (MPAR) concept.

More information about the MPARSUP project can be found at:

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Super Rapid Scan Experiment combines satellite, radar and lightning observations

GOES-14 image from August 16, 2012

As storms moved across Oklahoma yesterday, the GOES-14 satellite, Multi-function Phased Array Radar (MPAR) and the Oklahoma Lightning Mapping Array (OK-LMA) coordinated data collection for the first time as part of the Super Rapid Scan Experiment.

The goal to of the project is evaluate the potential of these combined observations for forecasting and warning of severe storms.

The GOES-14 satellite has been taken out of storage (currently in orbit over the equator at 105 degrees west) to collect 1-minute satellite imagery over target areas when storms are expected. When thunderstorms move through Oklahoma, MPAR will also scan these storms at a rate of1-minute or less.  The LMA’s will map the location and development of of lightning channel segments over the same areas.

The first of the next generation of geostationary satellites (GOES-R), scheduled to be launched in late 2015, will be able to routinely scan at 1-minute frequency with increased spectral and spatial resolution.  It will also carry an optical lightning detection system (Geostationary Lightning Mapper) to measure total lightning (in-cloud and cloud-to ground) with high temporal and spatial resolution. The LMA measurements during these tests will be used to help assess the impact of the satellite-based lightning data when it becomes available with GOES-R.

The experiment runs from August 16, 2012 through about October 31, 2012 and is a coordinated effort between NSSL and the NESDIS Office of Satellite and Product Operations, and the NESDIS Center for Satellite Applications and Research (STAR) Advanced Satellite Products Branch in Madison, WI, and the GOES-R program office.

Real-time satellite imagery is being made available on the Web and on workstations (N-AWIPS) at the SPC:

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NSSL/CIMMS phased array radar team awarded DOC Gold Medal

The Secretary of Commerce has awarded a Gold Medal to the NSSL/CIMMS Radar Research and Development Division for “scientific and engineering excellence in adapting military phased array radar technology to improve U.S. weather radar capabilities.”

NSSL has led the unique federal, private, state and academic partnership to develop and evaluate phased array radar technology since 2003.

Phased array radar has strong potential to provide revolutionary improvements in NOAA National Weather Service tornado, severe storm and flash flood warning lead times and accuracy, reducing false alarms.

“This Gold Medal Award from DOC signifies a huge accomplishment for the NSSL/CIMMS RRDD group led by Doug Forsyth.  They are very worthy of this high level of recognition of their accomplishments,” said NSSL Director Steve Koch.

This is NSSL’s fourth Gold Medal Award and is the highest honorary award granted by the Secretary of Commerce.  A Gold Medal is defined as distinguished performance characterized by extraordinary, notable, or prestigious contributions that impact the mission of the Department and/or one or more operating units, which reflects favorably on the Department.

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