Women of NSSL: Kodi Berry

Kodi Berry.
Kodi Berry.

To celebrate Women’s History Month in March NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory is publishing a series of stories highlighting some women working at the lab. One Q&A segment will be published each Monday in March.

Kodi Berry is a research scientist and Sea Grant liaison for the Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies working at NSSL. Berry, who also serves as the executive officer of the NOAA Hazardous Weather Testbed, completed her doctorate from the University of Oklahoma in 2014.

Q: How did you get into your field?
A: Originally I planned on going into physical therapy but quickly realized in college that I am much better at physics than biology and chemistry. I literally sat down with the class bulletin and flipped through all of the majors and their course requirements. When I got to meteorology and saw the physics requirements I thought, “that sounds perfect.”

Q: What is it about your job that interests you?
A: I really enjoy seeing how broadcast meteorologists react to, use, and explain experimental products in a simulated television studio. Each year we do our three-week experiment, I learn more about the broadcasting profession and technology. They’re also a really fun group of people to work with.

Q: Tell us something that might surprise us about you.
A: I was a collegiate co-ed cheerleader at the University of Nebraska for four years as an undergraduate. Go Huskers!

Q: What advice would you provide to up and coming meteorologists or others in your field?
A: Take advantage of a wide variety of internship opportunities. While I never planned to go into broadcasting, I’m thankful for my summer internship at a news station in Topeka, Kansas now that my research focuses on how broadcasters communicate uncertainty to their viewing audience. It’s always valuable to walk in someone else’s shoes.

Q: What is the most memorable experience of your career?
A: The most memorable experience of my career was attending the American Meteorological Society’s Summer Policy Colloquium. The AMS Summer Policy Colloquium brings a select group of graduate students, faculty, and professionals to Washington, D.C. for an intense, ten-day immersion in science policy. It was an amazing ten days that serves as my gold standard for professional workshops and meetings.

Q: What one day sticks out to you during your career? Do you remember one day in particular detail?
A: The day of my dissertation defense sticks out to me most. Once I got past my initial nerves, I seemed to go on autopilot. When it was over, several committee members told me it was a joy to be on my committee and they wished all defenses were like mine.

Q: What is one thing you couldn’t live without at work?
A: Aside from coffee, I couldn’t live without pictures of my family and my daughter’s artwork. They always brighten up a stressful day.

Q: What is the greatest challenge you’ve had to overcome in your life thus far?
A: The greatest challenge I’ve overcome was finishing my Ph.D. with a newborn baby. It was difficult to balance school, work, and family. However, she was my greatest motivation because I want her to know she can do anything she puts her mind to.

Q: Where is your favorite place to be?
A: The beach. There’s just something about the smell of the ocean and sound of waves crashing that instantly relaxes me.

Q: If you could do another job for just one day, what would it be?
A: I would love to try being a veterinarian for a day. I love dogs and many think I missed my calling to be a veterinarian. But, I like physics a lot more than biology and chemistry.

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Women of NSSL: Linda McGuckin

Linda McGuckin.
Linda McGuckin.

To celebrate Women’s History Month in March NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory is publishing a series of stories highlighting some women working at the lab. One Q&A segment will be published each Monday in March.

Linda McGuckin is supply technician at NSSL. In December 2015 she was named NOAA Employee of the Month. She was one of two individuals selected for the honor by then NOAA Deputy Under Secretary for Operations VADM Michael S. Devany. McGuckin supports scientific research at the lab, including past projects like the Plains Elevated Convection At Night project, through the documentation of property and personnel, accommodating equipment procurement requests and delivering new equipment and ensuring researchers have the tools they need.

Q: What is it about your job that interests you?
A: The opportunity to work with some of the world’s most distinguished and leading scientist and see and hear about the research they are doing.

Q: Tell us about a project or accomplishment you consider to be the most significant in your career?
A: The projects that have been most challenging and rewarding have been experiences in support of field experiments such as Warn-on-Forecast, VORTEX2 and PECAN. These projects bring in scientists from across the United States and even the globe to participate in very unique research.

Q: What do you see yourself doing in five to 10 years?
A: In 10 years retirement will be really close – so maybe focusing on personal growth and possibly at that point be able to mentor someone younger.

Mobile Mesonets, and other vehicles utilized in PECAN, are seen at the National Weather Center before leaving for the project.
The Plains Elevated Convection At Night project, PECAN, was a large intensive field project aimed to collect data before and during nighttime thunderstorms. Mobile Mesonets, and other vehicles utilized in PECAN, are seen at the National Weather Center before leaving for the project.

Q: What one day sticks out to you during your career? Do you remember one day in particular detail?
A: Watching the PECAN procession lined up and heading out of the National Weather Center to Hays, Kansas, after many months of planning and coordination by many people getting things ready. I played a very small role but it was fulfilling seeing it all put together at the end.

Q: Where is your favorite place to be?
A: Near the water – beach, river, lake, or pool.

Q: What’s the most unusual job you’ve ever had?
A: Working in the emergency room of a small hospital –it wasn’t really unusual, but was very exciting and fascinating.

Q: What does true leadership mean to you?
A: I’ve heard a lot about “Servant Leadership” and this is a great concept. One needs humility and the ability to serve another in order to lead.

Q: If you could do another job for just one day, what would it be?
A: Tour guide in some crazy adventure, like river rafting or hiking the amazon… etc.

Q: What would you most like to tell your younger self?
A: Practice discipline and self-control, be quick to hear and slow to speak, don’t let fear stop you. Don’t talk about it — BE about it.

Q: How do you define success?
A: Setting goals, making a plan, following through.

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Women of NSSL: Nusrat Yussouf

Nusrat Yussouf.
Nusrat Yussouf.

To celebrate Women’s History Month in March NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory is publishing a series of stories highlighting some women working at the lab. One Q&A segment will be published each Monday in March.

Nusrat Yussouf works with Warn-on-Forecast, a research program set to increase tornado, severe thunderstorm and flash flood warning lead times. Yussouf is a research scientist at the Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies supporting NSSL. She enjoys working on weather related research and Warn-on-Forecast because it has the potential to save lives.

Q: Describe the path leading up to your current job.
A: I started my career as a Research Associate with CIMMS supporting NOAA NSSL in early 2000, shortly before receiving a masters from The University of Oklahoma’s School of Computer Science. While working full time, I matriculated for a PhD in the same department. I have been working in NSSL’s Warn-on-Forecast research and development project since its inception in 2009.

Q: What is it about your job that interests you?
A: My research focuses on developing a Warn-on-Forecast system that will enable the National Weather Service to issue advisories and warnings for threats associated with high-impact weather, like tornadoes, flash floods, damaging winds, hails, etc., much earlier than is possible today. What interests me most about this work is the potential to save millions of lives, injury, and economic costs. 

Q: What is your personal philosophy?
A: My personal philosophy of life is well expressed by Edward Everett Hale,“Look up and not down. Look forward and not back. Look out and not in, and lend a hand.” 

Q: What is one thing you couldn’t live without at work?
A: Tea — my source of caffeine at work. Tea keeps me going. And it has to be made Bangladeshi style with milk and sugar!

Q: Where is your favorite place to be?
A: Disney World and Universal Orlando in Florida. Life is truly magical from the moment you set foot inside those parks. It is indeed the “Happiest Place on Earth”.

Q: What does true leadership mean to you?
A: To me true leadership means creating more leaders, not just followers.

Q: If you could do another job for just one day, what would it be?
A: If I could do another job for just one day, it would be a physician. Imagine being a doctor who is treating critically ill patients with slim chance of living. With proper medical treatment, they can give those patients another chance toward life. It is one of the most rewarding professions out there.

Q: What would you most like to tell your younger self?
A: ​I would like to tell my younger self not to be afraid of obstacles in pursuing your dream. If you are fearless, there are no limits to what you can achieve in life.

Q: What is the best book you’ve ever read?
A: It is really hard to choose the best book I’ve ever read as there are many. One book that touched my heart is A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. It is the story of the lives of two Afghan women, both married to the same abusive man during the years of the Soviet occupation, then the Taliban dictatorship.

Q: Who is your role model and why?
A: My role model is my Mom who is a retired government employee from Bangladesh. She worked for more than 30 years on formulation of policies that promote the institutionalization and development of women and children issues. I learned from her how to juggle between work and family with two kids.

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Exploring past, present & future: Q&A with Sherman Fredrickson

Sherman Fredrickson atop a Mobile Mesonet, a vehicle with roof mounted instruments used to record observations of rain, wind, temperature and humidity over an extended period of time. (Photo by NOAA NSSL.)

During the month of February, NSSL will feature some of its longest-serving employees. Those employees will share their favorite experiences through the years, and highlight some of the most significant changes they have witnessed.

Sherman Fredrickson has worked as an instrumentation meteorologist at the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory for more than 46 years. He has used his talents to build unique instruments to measure the atmosphere and help scientists learn more about severe weather. He enjoys conversations that include the question, “I wonder why…?”

Q: How did you get into your field?
A:I left a small Texas college in 1970 with a degree in chemistry, with an emphasis on instrumentation. Four years later, after serving in the U.S. Air Force, I found the concept of “pollution” had taken over all analytical chemistry, had changed everything, and I was way behind.

In the Air Force, my job had been working on aircraft​ outside and weather forecasts were seldom correct. On a whim, literally, I decided “weather” might be interesting to study, since it didn’t seem to be a very advanced science. I found the academic skills for meteorology were very similar to chemistry. I went back to school but ​this​ ​time at The University of Oklahoma, and enjoyed meteorology but found I was WAY behind the learning and experience curve of everyone else. However, I greatly enjoyed the instrumentation aspect of meteorology whereas most others had no interest whatsoever. My first summer break was spent working at NSSL​ helping the instrumentation Met Techs operate the NSSL’s​ 27 station mesonet​ — the original “Mesonet.”​ Being new, I had lots of questions.

I asked the techs, “Why do some sensors not work​ quite like they are supposed to?”And I was told, “Ask the scientists. They know all about these issues.” ​I asked the scientists and their reply was, “​We didn’t know about problems with the instruments. We presumed the techs had everything working just fine.” Seems I’d found a rare niche…and have never had a dull day since then.

Fredrickson was part of the team that designed and built the first Mobile Mesonets – a suite of vehicles with weather instruments attached to the top. and a cargo of computer equipment inside. (Photo by NOAA NSSL)

Q: What is the most significant advancement in your field during your time at NOAA?
A: Easy answer! I started with NSSL ​in 1975, working with the tech group that ran the NSSL Mesonet, about 27 stationary weather sites in the then “Cimarron-Norman dual Doppler area.” Sites recorded continuous winds, temp, RH, pressure and rainfall…all on pen and ink stripcharts that had to be changed ​at every site ​every three to four days. Precise time for each station was based on setting​ our wristwatches each morning by listening to ​the ​voice recording of a​n international short-wave​ time standard called WWV. My off-season job was stamping — this was ink-pad stamping — hundreds of feet of stripcharts with station name, date and time. We’ve “significantly advanced” from those days.
Computer power? The very first Apple computer had “just” been invented. “​RAM size​” was in kilobytes​. There were no ​​hard drives. All NSSL scientific computer programming was done ​on one ​giant IBM room-sized machine with​ things called “punch cards” — one card per line of code​, mustn’t drop them! There were no “computer screens;” only paper ​printout ​results. And it often took completely consuming a cup of coffee between submitting a “deck of cards” and getting the paper results back; the next iteration of your goal, or output from your error statements. How did science manage to advance? We’ve come a long way from that, too.

Q: Tell us something that might surprise us about you.
A: I t​ook up oil painting​ many years ago​. I had always enjoyed looking at works by accomplished landscape artists​ but was ​very disappointed, however, at many who completely ignored sky “anatomy.” Some clouds looked like cotton balls, bomb bursts, snow cones. Sunsets included full moons — think about it — or rainbows with the sun in the background coming through the clouds. Being a meteorologist, I decided I could do “skyscapes” better — sunset, sunrises, aerial views from airplane windows…with a little bit of ground thrown in at the bottom to anchor the sky.

Fredrickson showing equipment in one of the mobile ballooning vehicles during NSSL’s 40th Anniversary event in 2007. (Photo by NOAA NSSL)

Q: What is the most memorable experience of your career?
A: Three unique experiences: 1) Stamping pen and ink charts from the early NSSL mesonet sites allowed me to see “all” the diurnal weather, not just the weather events that were exciting enough to get “digitized” for real study.
2) I maintained the instrumented​,​ Channel 4 tall TV tower — ten levels of ​NSSL ​weather instruments all the way up to the top 1,200-foot level. It could be very breezy, and I couldn’t drop anything. From the top, the highest guy wire​s​ appeared to drop down vertically before arc​h​ing out to the far-away ground anchors. And the view straight below was ​so far that it often appeared hazy.
3) I stayed on a Mobile Oil Company #617 offshore oil platform for three weeks for project GULFMEX ​in ​19​88​, launching weather balloons with the early CLASS rawinsonde system. At 125 miles off shore, with water 700+ feet deep, ​the ocean waves (Gulf, actually) had very long, mesmerizing periods; they were very smooth with very ​deep troughs.

Q: What is your personal philosophy?
About instrumentation:
​Even with the best, fastest, most expensive sensors, it still can be very difficult to get good measurements of the most basic parameters such as temperature, RH, pressure, rain, sunlight and winds because of the following:
Fredrickson’s Rule: There is — always— more than one thing influencing anything we are trying to measure.
Corollary: There are very few real “errors” in

measurements; only the failure to recognize, or the inability to reduce, the physics of all the other things that a sensor is dutifully responding to at the same time.

Q: What does true leadership mean to you?

Fredrickson during VORTEX2 in 2009. (Photo by NOAA NSSL)

A: Empathy.

Q: What is the future of your area of research?
A: The ability to use Unmanned Aerial Systems to collect in situ data about the boundary layer from ground to cloud base, on demand, anywhere, with verifiable quality. ​

Q: How do you define success?
A: ​From the movie Flaming Kid: Two things in life are important to know. One is what you’re good at. The other is what you like to do. If fortune is smiling your way, both are the same. ​

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Exploring past, present & future: Q&A with Dusan Zrnic

Dusan Zrnic
Dusan Zrnic.

During the month of February, NSSL will feature some of its longest-serving employees. Those employees will share their favorite experiences through the years, and highlight some of the most significant changes they have witnessed.

Dusan Zrnic is a senior research scientist at the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory, where he has worked for more than 40 years. Zrnic has published extensively on weather radar and is co-author of the book Doppler Radar and Weather Observations with NSSL’s Dick Doviak. He is a Fellow with both the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and the American Meteorological Society, and has received numerous awards and honors including the 2004 Presidential Rank Award.

Q: How did you get into your field?
A: I was proficient in math and physics so engineering seems to match these attributes and provided a stable career with good income, thus I chose electrical, also to distance myself from my father’s mechanical engineering degree.

Q: Describe the path leading up to your current job.
A: I had an academic position at California State University, Northridge. I applied to the National Research Council for a year-long visiting post-doc position at NSSL. I liked the work there and a few years later took a permanent job at NSSL.

Dusan Zrnic carrying a rock in the mid-1950s.
Dusan Zrnic said the experience portrayed in this photo “forged me. It gave me inspiration to finish things.” Here he is building his parent’s summer house in the mid-1950s.


Q:What are you most proud of during your time at NSSL or what is the most significant achievement of your career?

A: Work on dual polarization and its adoption by the NOAA National Weather Service as an upgrade to the network of WSR-88D, or NEXRAD, radars.

Q: What is it about your job that interests and engages you?

A: Novel problems and struggles to resolve these, interaction with other professionals in the National Weather Center building, and with students. To top this the weather radar is an example of a military technology applied to the good of all, friend and foe (who sooner than later becomes a friend).

Q: What is the most significant advancement in your field during your time at NOAA?
A: In weather radars, it is dual polarization. Find out more here.

Q: Tell us something that might surprise us about you.
A: My intellectual affinity is toward engineering, curiosity toward science, but love toward arts.

Zrnic skiing
Zrnic enjoys skiing and recently took a ride on the slopes.

Q: What is the most memorable experience of your career?
A: Two experiences on the same subject. The first real time computation and display of the polarimetric variables as we know these today obtained with the NSSL-operated Cimarron radar in the alternate mode of horizontally/vertically polarized waves in 1992. And the first dual pol data in the simultaneous mode obtained with the WSR-88D on the Norman KOUN radar in 2002. These results were above expectations and I still keep the images and show them at various workshops/meetings/courses.

Q: What is your personal philosophy?
A: In everything you do — work, sport, love — give it your 150 percent.

Q: Where is your favorite place to be?
A: Winter, knee deep powder snow on top of a ridge ready to glide.

Q: How do you define success?
A: If your expectations are met.

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Exploring past, present & future: Q&A with Don MacGorman

Don MacGorman.
Don MacGorman.

During the month of February, NSSL will feature some of its longest-serving employees. Those employees will share their favorite experiences through the years, and highlight some of the most significant changes they have witnessed.

Physicist Don MacGorman has been a senior research scientist at the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory for more than 35 years. He began as a National Research Council postdoctoral researcher at NSSL to study lightning in the late 1970s before becoming a federal scientist at NSSL in the late 1980s. Among his many awards is being named Fellow by the American Meteorological Society.

Q: How did you get into your field?
A: I entered the Space Physics Department at Rice University for graduate school, because space exploration had always fascinated me and was evolving beyond science fiction into a growing and relatively new field of research in the early 1970s. When it was time for me to choose a research project, the two openings that appealed to me most were 1) studying the aurora, which involved launching rockets in Alaska, or 2) studying lightning with a new system that had just been developed to reconstruct the three dimensional structure of lightning inside clouds from thunder recorded by an array of microphones. I thought lightning and thunderstorms were awesome phenomena when I was growing up, and the combination of new lightning mapping technology and weather radars promised to provide our first look at where and when lightning occurred inside storms. So, I chose lightning studies for my dissertation research and have continued in that field of research as new lightning mapping technologies provided new capabilities.

Dave Rust and Don MacGorman in a thunderstorm with weather tools.
Dave Rust and Don MacGorman preparing for a balloon launch in 2007. (Photo by Chris Emersic.)

Q: What are you most proud of during your time at NSSL or what is the most significant achievement of your career?
A: I cannot choose just one, but am proud of all the following:
— Helping prove that lightning flashes tend to be initiated between two regions of opposite charge polarity, with their channels then propagating into and throughout the charge regions.
— Convincing LLP, Inc. — the original developer of what became the National Lightning Detection Network — to modify their system to map lightning strikes that lower positive charge to ground, in addition to mapping those that lower the usual negative charge.
— Helping to prove these anomalous cloud-to-ground flashes are produced naturally in some severe storms and in the stratiform region of many mesoscale convective systems.
— Proving that local storms in which most cloud-to-ground flashes lower positive charge to ground do so because the polarity of their vertical charge distribution is inverted from the usual polarity.
— Working with Conrad Ziegler and Ted Mansell at NSSL and Jerry Straka at The University of Oklahoma to develop what was then the most sophisticated numerical cloud model that explicitly included electrification processes and lightning and has evolved to remain the most capable such model.
— Writing an award-winning, ground-breaking graduate textbook called “The Electrical Nature of Thunderstorms” with former NSSL researcher Dave Rust, published by Oxford Press.

Q: What is it about your job that interests and engages you?
A: I am awed by the beauty and power of thunderstorms and lightning and I love puzzling out what makes them behave the way they do. My colleagues at NSSL provide a great job environment – they are talented and help stimulate new ideas to explore how these phenomena behave.

Q: What is the most significant advancement in your field during your time at NOAA?
A: There have been many advances in our knowledge that I think are outstanding, but what I think is most remarkable are the new tools we have gained that make these advances in our knowledge possible. In my specialty, the tools I think have been most significant are the initial and improving technologies for remotely mapping lightning location and structure inside storms, the development of three-dimensional numerical cloud models that produce realistic simulations of charge distributions and lightning within their storm context, and the new Geosynchronous Lightning Mapper on GOES-16 and soon, hopefully, to be on GOES-S.

MacGorman with one of NSSL's Mobile Laboratory field observation vehicles on a research project.
MacGorman with one of NSSL’s Mobile Laboratory field observation vehicles on a research project.

Q: Tell us something that might surprise us about you.
A: When I was in 11th grade, I lived in Beirut, Lebanon, and attended an American high school there. Shortly before the end of the second semester, my family, along with the entire school and most American families in Beirut, was evacuated by the United States Embassy when the 1967 Arab-Israeli war began. My family was taken to Athens, Greece, and then to Rome, where my parents left me and two of my brothers to visit several European cities over a two week period before we returned home. That included a visit to Berlin, where we took a bus tour through the very intimidating Berlin Wall to East Berlin, complete with soldiers searching very thoroughly for stowaways inside and outside the bus on our return west back through the wall.

Q: What is your personal philosophy?
A: I don’t remember where I got this from, although I know I have heard something similar to it, but probably worded better, several times: I try to look for the good I can do and to do it wherever and whenever I can. Not to say that I am very good at it, but I try. I thought Dave Rust did this as well as anyone I have seen, and I have tried to emulate some of the ways in which I saw him do it.

Q: What is the future of your area of research?
A: During the last four decades, our field has made a lot of progress in understanding the electrification of storms and the lightning they produce – I think it would be accurate to say the progress has been revolutionary. There still is much we do not understand yet, but the new and improving technologies for observations and the rapid increase in computing capabilities and numerical model development make me optimistic that rapid progress in understanding the electrical properties of storms will continue. I am excited by what I think is an incredible opportunity for advancement in understanding and for using lightning observations in weather operations.

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Exploring past, present & future: Q&A with Qin Xu

Qin Xu.
Qin Xu.

During February, as part of NOAA’s Heritage Week, NSSL will feature some of its longest-serving employees. They will share their favorite experiences through the years, and highlight some of the most significant changes they have witnessed.

Qin Xu has been a research scientist at the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory for nearly 20 years. In 2016, he received the NOAA Distinguished Career Award.

Q: How did you get into your field?
A: After I graduated from the Beijing Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics with a Bachelor of Science degree in material science in the late 1960s during the “Cultural Revolution” in China, I was assigned to countryside factories to work as a mechanic and electrical technician. Due to my strong interest and curiosity in math and physics, I spent a lot of my after-work spare time teaching myself advanced mathematics and mechanics, including fluid mechanics. Then I moved back to my hometown and got a research assistant position at the Qingdao Institute of Oceanography, where I chose to work in the marine meteorology section. This was how I entered the field of meteorology.

Qin Xu in a group photo in 1979.
Qin Xu is pictured in the back row, third person from the right, in 1979. Professor Hsiao-Lan Kuo, whose seminal work inspired some of Xu’s research, is pictured in the front row, third from the right.

Q: Describe the path leading up to your current job.
A: As the graduate education system was re-established in China after the “Cultural Revolution,” I took and passed the nationwide enrollment examination and started my formal graduate education in atmospheric science at the Graduate School of Chinese Academy of Sciences and earned my master’s degree. I then continued my graduate education in meteorology at Penn State University. In 1983, I attended the First Conference on Mesoscale Processes in Norman, Oklahoma, where I met the conference chairman, Kerry Emanuel, and the director of The University of Oklahoma Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies, Professor Yoshi Sasaki. As soon as I earned my doctorate, I started my post-doctoral research at CIMMS, and then worked as a research scientist and senior research scientist on various topics in mesoscale dynamics and data assimilation in collaboration with scientists at OU and the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory. Because of my work on radar data assimilation, I was hired as a federal employee in 1996 by the Marine Meteorology Division of the Naval Research Laboratory at Monterey, California, where I developed a 3.5dVar method for radar data assimilation and applied it successfully to de-classified phased array radar data collected by the Navy’s shipboard SPY-1 radars in collaboration with scientists at OU, NRL and Lockheed Martin. I was then hired by NSSL to work on mesoscale dynamics, radar data quality control and assimilation for improving numerical predictions of severe storms.

Qin Xu at a meteorology conference in 1983.
Qin Xu, center, at the First Conference on Mesoscale Processes with Professor Brian J. Hoskins  in Norman in 1983.

Q: What is one of the most significant achievements of your career?
A: I developed a simple analytical model in a rigorous framework to quantify the dynamic controls of vertically sheared environmental flow on the depth and propagation speed of cold outflow (from a thunderstorm) and the shape of the outflow front. This study has inspired many subsequent studies to present time on understanding the dynamic importance of environmental wind shear in producing long-lived thunderstorms, and especially squall lines.

Q: What is it about your job that interests and engages you?
A: There are scientific and technological issues in my research that are important and often critical for quantitatively analyzing and numerically forecasting thunderstorms and tornadoes. These issues are often very challenging and difficult, and the involved difficulties, especially their mathematical and computational aspects, interest me constantly and engage me immensely.

Q: What advice would you provide to up and coming meteorologists or others in your field?
A: Find your own talents and maximize their uses to build your professional career.

Qin Xu and his family sitting around a table with former NSSL Director Edwin Kessler's family on their farm in 1984 celebrating Christmas.
Qin Xu and his family celebrating the holidays with the first NSSL Director Edwin Kessler, and his family, on the  Kessler Family Farm in 1984.

Q: What is your personal philosophy?
A: Live simply and healthfully. Always make conscious choices on what to do or not to do, and try to do the right things right. Work hard and do not be frustrated by failures.

Q: Where is your favorite place to be?
A: My favorite place to work is NSSL in the National Weather Center where in-depth scientific exchanges and consultations can be conducted easily across disciplines — even between different professions and efficiently often face-to-face in person  on storm and hazardous weather researches. My favorite place to live is Norman, Oklahoma, where living can be as simple, clean both hygienically and environmentally and time-saving as I like.

Q: Who is a famous person you have met and describe the circumstances?
A: I met several famous people whose seminal works inspired my research. I met professor H Hsiao-Lan Kuo when he visited the Beijing Institute of Atmospheric Physics and taught a course on atmospheric dynamics at the Graduate School of Academia Sinica in 1979, and I met professor Douglas K. Lilly when he visited the PSU Department of Meteorology in 1982. Their seminal studies (Lilly 1960, Mon. Wea. Rev., 88, 1-17; Kou 1961, Tellus, 13, 441-459) on conditional convective instability inspired my research on conditional symmetric instability and frontal rainbands from which I derived analytical CSI solutions in a rigorous framework for the first time (Xu 1986, Quart. J. Roy. Meteor. Soc., 112, 315-334). I met professor Brian J. Hoskins during the First Conference on Mesoscale Processes in 1983. His seminal studies on frontogenesis inspired my research on moist frontogenesis and frontal rainbands.

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Exploring past, present & future: Q&A with Dick Doviak

Dick Doviak.
Dick Doviak.

During February, as part of NOAA’s Heritage Week, NSSL will feature some of its longest-serving employees. Those employees will share their favorite experiences through the years, and highlight some of the most significant changes they have witnessed.

Dick Doviak is a senior research scientist at the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory, where he has worked for more than 45 years. Doviak began as the chief of the Doppler Radar Project, which lead to the installation of a network of NEXRAD radars across the United States in the early 1990s. He has managed several research projects, is a Fellow with both the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and the American Meteorological Society, and is the author, or co-author, of articles published in more than 20 journals.

Q: How did you get into your field?
A: My research at the University of Pennsylvania after my doctorate dealt with effects of the atmosphere on Radio Wave Propagation. I thought it would be of greater interest to work the problem the other way around — use radio waves for remote sensing of the atmosphere, i.e., measuring the characteristics of clear air turbulence and weather.

Q: Describe the path leading up to your current job.
A: I received a National Science Foundation grant at UP to develop an experiment to show that bistatic radar can detect atmospheric turbulence at longer ranges than a monostatic radar. That research and the development of an UP graduate course on scattering in the clear air atmosphere lead to my being invited to join NSSL to lead the Doppler Radar Project. I had to choose between two interesting jobs. Learn more about NSSL’s early weather radar research here.

Dick Doviak receiving an award from NSSL Director Steve Koch.
Dick Doviak receiving an award from NSSL Director Steve Koch in 2014. (Photo by James Murnan/NOAA NSSL.)

Q: What are you most proud of during your time at NSSL or what is the most significant achievement of your career?
A: Developing the Doppler Radar course at The University of Oklahoma and joining with fellow NSSL Scientist Dusan Zrnic to write an Academic Press book based on that course.

Q: What is the most significant advancement in your field during your time at NOAA?
A: The development of a polarimetric Doppler weather radar that is acceptable to and praised by the NOAA National Weather Service.

Q: Tell us something that might surprise us about you.
A: I won a gold medal in the Oklahoma Senior Olympics for bicycling.

Q: What is the most memorable experience of your career?
A: Witnessing the growth of the weather radar research at NSSL and OU.

Doviak in the 1997 NOAA NSSL staff photo.
Dick Doviak is pictured here in the 1997 NOAA NSSL staff photo. Doviak is in the front row, the fifth person from the right.

Q: What is the greatest challenge you’ve had to overcome in your life thus far?
A: Creating a mutually supportive and respectful collaboration between meteorologists and engineers.

Q: What advice would you give your younger self? Or what would you most like to tell your younger self?
A: Enjoy what you do, but do not focus all your time on work.

Q: Who is a famous person you have met and describe the circumstances?
A: Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, the President of India, which is the largest democracy in the world. The President is also a scientist and gave a talk at the same conference in Delhi that I was attending. A mutual friend arranged a meeting for me and my wife to meet the President in the Presidential Palace where we exchanged books and discussed a variety of topics.

Q: What is the best book you’ve ever read?
A: Even as a boy I enjoyed reading books on science and science fiction, even using one to build a telephone connection between my home and a friend’s home using parts obtained from a railroad. But one of my favorite books was 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

Q: Who is your role model and why?
A: Professor Pietro Lombardini, my graduate advisor, friend, and colleague at UP. Why? — because he believed in a balance between work and non-work activities, and to always be kind to others.

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Exploring past, present & future: Q&A with Bob Rabin

Bob Rabin

During February, as part of NOAA’s Heritage Week, NSSL will feature some of its longest-serving employees. Those employees will share their favorite experiences from through the years, and highlight some of the most significant changes they have witnessed.

Bob Rabin has been a research scientist at the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory for nearly 40 years. Rabin has been a part of several studies, from the Severe Environmental Storm and Mesoscale Experiment in the late 1970s, which sampled Southern Plains storm activity, to working with NOAA and NASA on geo weather satellites. Rabin is also actively involved in the lab’s diversity and inclusion committee and outreach.

Q: How did you get into your field?
A: I have had a natural attraction to observing the weather and watching the sky ever since I was very young, third grade or earlier. I think my field found me, rather than the other way around! One of my grade school teachers commented on my “report card” that I had “my head in the clouds” rather than in class, because I spent so much time gazing out the window!

Q: Describe the path leading up to your current job.

A: My interest in a “weather” career started in grade school. I started writing letters to broadcast stations and to weather bureaus in high school to find out the requirements to work in the field. Jobs were hard to come by. I was fortunate to work at the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory for a summer between my undergraduate and graduate studies. I went to school in Canada at McGill University. A year after graduating, I was hired at NSSL as a full time, temporary employee.

Q: What are you most proud of during your time at NSSL or what is the most significant achievement of your career?
A: In the early years, I helped find new uses of Doppler radar wind observations outside of clouds, in clear air. This led to implementation of a technique used for wind profiling, the VAD, which is still used operationally by the NOAA National Weather Service today. In addition, discovering the impact of large-scale agriculture on temperature and cloud patterns. This led to recognition of the “hot box,” an area of elevated temperatures in north central Oklahoma, following the winter wheat harvest in the summertime.

Q: What is it about your job that interests and engages you?
A: New discoveries. Exploring observations from new satellite sensors. Sharing my excitement with young people.

Q: What is the most significant advancement in your field during your time at NOAA?

A: Technological advancements in communication and computing have had a profound effect, as they have on all aspects of life.

Rabin rides his bike or takes public transportation whenever possible. He rarely missed a day biking to work while stationed at the Cooperative Institute of Satellite Studies in Wisconsin during the 1990s.

Q: Tell us something that might surprise us about you.

A: I rarely used a car to go to school or work. I’ve been able to rely almost totally on public transportation or bike. Riding in snow is a good workout and can be fun if you’re on a bike trail! The coldest temperature I experienced while biking to work in Wisconsin was -27 F!
I am enrolled in the Iñupiaq studies program at IỊisaġvik College in Alaska.

Q: What is your personal philosophy?
A: We should respect ourselves and others. Be grateful for what we have and for the beauty around us.

Q: Where is your favorite place to be?
A: I enjoy being outside in all weather conditions. This is probably why I always ride a bike to work. Also, I love Montreal!

Q: What is the future of your area of research?
A: We don’t know with any certainty. However, I think incorporating the role of aerosols on clouds and precipitation may be significant. Also, improved long-range forecasting — seasonal and longer.

Q: How do you define success?
A: Happiness and satisfaction with life and the world around us.

Bob Rabin occasionally travels to Alaska. In 2013 and 2014, he helped teach science, technology, engineering and math focused camps for Native Alaska students at IỊisaġvik College in Alaska. Here he is with some of the students atop a building where radar is installed to monitor ice cover in the ocean.
Bob Rabin near a marker of bowhead whale bones on the shore of the Arctic Ocean.
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Women of NSSL: Kim Klockow

Kim Klockow

For the month of October NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory is publishing a series of stories highlighting some of the women working at the lab. One Q&A segment will be published each Monday in October.

Kim Klockow is research scientist at The Unversity of Oklahoma Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies. Working with NOAA NSSL, her research involves behavioral science focused on weather and climate risk, especially issues in the communication of forecast uncertainty and hazardous weather warnings.

Q: How did you get into weather or your field?
A: Like many in the field, I had some frightening experiences with tornadoes during childhood, including one notable case where a large tornado hadn’t received any warning. Those experiences motivated me to learn more about severe weather, but also to understand the human element and how risks could be conveyed more effectively. What started as a motivated interest grew into a lifelong mission to improve our country’s weather resiliency.

Q: Describe the path leading up to your current job.
A: My career really began when I was a doctoral student. As an interdisciplinary scholar with interests in both human behavior and meteorology, I quickly found I was going to have to create my own path. After earning my Ph.D, I received a fellowship to work as a science adviser in the U.S. Senate, and from there worked at NOAA headquarters for several years on policy for social scientific research in the agency. Those experiences have been invaluable to me as I’ve now returned to Norman to help the NOAA National Severe Storms Lab create a group dedicated to social and behavioral science research.

Q: What educational background helped you get to your career today?
A: I received Bachelor of Science degrees in meteorology and economics with concentrations in communication and psychology. From there I went on to get an Master of Science in professional meteorology with an economics concentration, and a Ph.D. in human geography. I took Ph.D. level courses in seven different departments as part of my graduate studies — I wasn’t kidding when I said I had to make my own path!


Q: Tell us something that might surprise us about you.

A: As much as I’m proud of the career I’ve built, the effort I’m proudest to have been a part of is the Loveworks, Inc. program based in Norman. Early on in my graduate work, I helped launch a mentorship program for at-risk middle school youth that has now grown to include every middle school in the city and has reached more than 1,000 students. Working to cultivate the local community kept me sane through the challenges and doubt that surrounded my graduate path.

Q: What is one thing you couldn’t live without at work?
A: Coffee. Sadly. I’ve been an addict since those U.S. Senate days – the “marbled halls of congress” are real, and in the winter, they’re frigid. When my fingers got too cold to type I turned to coffee, and once you turn to coffee there’s apparently no turning back.

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