Translations and beyond

As a child, Joseph Trujillo Falcón was terrified of thunderstorms. The loud booms and crashes would have him hiding inside, until one day his mother dragged him onto the porch. She told him to look at the beauty within the storm. His perspective changed.

Born in Peru, Trujillo Falcón moved from what can be described as a mild, coastal climate to the storm-riddled Midwest United States.

“At the time, I was translating everything from news reports to weather reports from Spanish to English for my family,” said Trujillo Falcón.

Joseph Trujillo sitting at a table with a computer tablet in front of him.
Researcher Joseph Trujillo Falcón participating in a NOAA Hazardous Weather Testbed experiment in 2019. (Photo by James Murnan/NOAA)

Trujillo Falcón’s fear of thunderstorms and the needs of his community encouraged his path into meteorology, particularly bilingual risk and crisis communication.

“I felt my community wasn’t as prepared as others and communication was part of the issue,” he said.

Trujillo Falcón wanted to be a broadcast meteorologist. However, during an internship, he realized very quickly that, in order to improve weather outreach to Spanish-speaking communities, translations had to improve. Today he researches how Spanish-speaking communities receive, respond, and act to certain messages and climate hazards.

“I realized there were some words that couldn’t be translated equally from English to Spanish,” said Trujillo Falcón. “We only had so many resources. I did a 180 during my undergraduate degree and changed my focus. I realized there is a big community need, but there’s not a big resource for proper translations and research. I said, if I was in broadcast [meteorology] right now, I would be burned out and frustrated.”

Lost in translation

Trujillo Falcón left the world of broadcasting to begin severe weather and communication research at the Cooperative Institute for Severe and High-Impact Weather Research and Operations (CIWRO) with the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) and the NOAA National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center (SPC). Partnering with three industry giants allowed Trujillo Falcón to access the resources needed to help his community.

Fast forward to today. Trujillo Falcón has recommended a new SPC risk communication scale model based on his research with SPC forecasters and research with language experts.

“Depending on where you’re from, our Spanish can vary slightly and our language is beautiful and diverse. However, when it comes to the severe weather community, we want something all can understand,” he said. “This has blossomed into studies and insights into this community that we’ve never had before. We’re advocating beyond unifying translations and proposing an infrastructure to ensure these efforts strive.”

A group of people gathered and talking at a table.
Research Joseph Trujillo Falcón during the 2019 NOAA Hazardous Weather Testbed. Researchers collaborated with NOAA National Weather Service forecasters, broadcast meteorologists, and emergency managers to get their feedback on experimental forecast tools during the experiment in 2019. (Photo by James Murnan/NOAA)

Understanding the community

Trujillo Falcón says creating words that are easily understandable to all Spanish speakers is the first step. The next step is to better understand factors that affect how Hispanic and Latinx communities perceive, ingest, and respond to weather information and the enterprise.

“Latin American countries don’t often have National Weather Service services like those in the United States,” said Trujillo Falcón. “Many in those areas don’t have access to meteorologists. I feel our next steps are figuring out how one’s heritage, or aspects of culture that are inherited from ancestral origin, impacts how they look at hazards.”

For example, for some in Latin America, the word tornado means a strong gust of wind — not an image of swirling dust, debris, and devastation. Trujillo Falcón explains tornado warnings are not a part of Hispanic and Latinx culture.

A tornado with debris on the ground.
(Photo by Morgan Schneider. OU CIMMS/NOAA NSSL)

“Even if you heard a good translation, you may not know the implications,” he said.

Trujillo Falcón’s research also looks at social inequities — like socioeconomic and immigration status — while analyzing the influence of Hispanic and Latinx heritage. Trujillo Falcón says these factors also influence how people learn about severe weather and what precautions people take into account during storms.

“We have to consider what generation immigrant a person is and if they’ve seen a tornado before — there are a lot of factors,” he said. “They may not know a storm shelter is an important investment. Some outright might not be able to afford it or qualify for post-disaster government programs that aid them in recovery efforts. This research opens a new landscape and allows us to dig deeper into the Hispanic and Latinx communities. We hope to show organizations how to connect with communities to ensure they are safe.”

Trujillo Falcón says he continues to strive to positively impact his community.

As he celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month, he says it goes beyond Spanish speakers.

“It includes indigenous languages, Portuguese, Spanish, and all different parts of Latin America,” he said. “Latin America has its own variety of cultures and languages. The community is so diverse and it has so much beauty. This Hispanic Heritage Month, let’s celebrate all of it and embrace it.”

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Project using unmanned aerial systems starts May 8

Meteorologists are always looking for better ways to measure the lower atmosphere. This spring, researchers from NOAA’s National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) will join with others to test the value of airborne, mobile observing systems for observing important changes in the local environment that can spawn severe thunderstorms in a new way. EPIC, the Environmental Profiling and Initiation of Convection Field Project, will deploy fixed-wing and rotary small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) May 8 through 20 at and near the Department of Energy’s Southern Great Plains (SGP) site in Lamont, Oklahoma.

During rapidly evolving severe weather conditions, the instruments will provide detailed profiles of temperature, moisture and winds to determine the potential for severe weather development. Such information has the potential to improve the accuracy of short-term weather forecasts three to six hours before weather impacts a community.

During the project, scientists will test miniaturized, high-precision, and fast-response atmospheric sensors adapted for use on the UAS. These are expected to have high accuracy in the strong winds they expect to encounter in north central Oklahoma.

The data provided by the instruments we’re testing is different from anything available, including satellites, radars, manned aircraft, and ground observing stations. We don’t yet know the value of UASs to monitor the atmosphere.

Colorado University’s TTwistor will be used in EPIC. (Photo provided)


At the SGP site, researchers will conduct short-duration experiments and a second site will be chosen in “real-time” from the Oklahoma Mesonet. Timing and location of activities will be coordinated with the National Weather Service Norman Forecast Office, which will be receiving data from the instruments in real time for evaluation.

EPIC is a collaborative effort funded by NOAA’s UAS Program Office.  NSSL’s partners in EPIC consist of the University of Colorado, The University of Oklahoma, and Meteomatics.

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April 27 Reddit AMA: Tornado! Severe Weather Research & Prediction with NOAA

Spring has arrived and with it come efforts to study and learn to better predict severe weather like tornadoes. Join NOAA for a Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA) on severe weather research and prediction on April 27, 2017.

Patrick Marsh, Adam Clark, Kim Klockow and Harold Brooks will take your questions during Thursday’s #Reddit AMA.

Severe weather touches every state in the U.S. Tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, hail, strong winds, and floods are real threats to our property and our lives. The NOAA Hazardous Weather Testbed and VORTEX-SE (Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes EXperiment-Southeast) are designed to learn more about storms, helping to improve our prediction abilities and bring you better forecasts.

At the National Weather Center, which houses NOAA’s National Severe Storm Laboratory (NSSL) and Storm Prediction Center, as well as the University of Oklahoma Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies (CIMMS), our scientists work to better understand and predict severe weather to help everyone be prepared.

Reddit AMA Details


     Harold Brooks, NOAA NSSL research meteorologist

     Kim Klockow, UCAR scientist at CIMMS

     Adam Clark, NOAA NSSL research meteorologist

     Patrick Marsh, NOAA SPC warning coordination meteorologist

When: Thursday, April 27, 2017, from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. CT

Where: Reddit Science AMA series

About the Scientists

Harold Brooks, a senior scientist in the Forecast Research and Development Division of NOAA NSSL, is originally from St. Louis, Missouri. He received a Ph.D. in atmospheric science in 1990 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He joined NSSL in 1991 as a research meteorologist specializing in tornado climatology.

Adam Clark is a meteorologist with NOAA NSSL and a 2014 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) winner. Originally from Des Moine, Iowa, Clark received his Ph.D. in meteorology and started working at NSSL in 2009. Clark is active in the NOAA Hazardous Weather Testbed, which conducts experiments mainly late March and April.

Kim Klockow is a University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) project scientist at NOAA’s Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies at The University of Oklahoma who earned her Ph.D. in Human Geography. Working with the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory, her research involves behavioral science focused on weather and climate risk, and explores the effects of risk visualization on judgment and perceptions of severe weather risk from a combination of place-based and cognitive perspectives.

Patrick Marsh is a warning coordination meteorologist at the NOAA National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center, which provides forecasts and watches for severe thunderstorms and tornadoes over the contiguous United States. He was born in Georgia but grew up in Arkansas and received his Ph.D. at the University of Oklahoma.

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Phased array radar Spring 2012 projects

The NOAA National Weather Radar Testbed Multi-function Phased Array Radar will support three experiments with data collection during the spring of 2012 as part of the National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) Phased Array Radar Innovative Sensing Experiment (PARISE).

The Severe Weather Outbreak Study is a NOAA NSSL program to determine the importance of rapid and adaptive scanning from MPAR in the depiction and understanding of weather events with potential for significant societal impacts. The research field phase is from April 14 – June 15 2012 over the MPAR domain (defined as significant weather sampled within 120 km of MPAR).   The main focus of this study to sample rare significant events such as tornado outbreaks.

NSSL will partner with MIT/Lincoln Labs and the FAA on the Multi-function Phased Array Radar’s (MPAR) Wind-Shear Detection Capability Assessment Experiment from April 16 – June 15, 2012.  Low-altitude wind shear is a deadly threat to aircraft during landing and takeoff and its accurate and timely detection near airports is critical.  Microbursts, in particular, are fairly small and evolve rapidly.  There are 45 Terminal Doppler Weather Radars (TDWR) currently serving U.S. airports. MPAR’s have the potential to replace TDWRs at the end of their life cycle, provided they can effectively detect wind shear.  Researchers will compare radar data from the Oklahoma City TDWR with data from the NOAA MPAR.

The Deep Convective Clouds and Chemistry (DC3) experiment will explore the role of the thunderstorm updrafts in carrying electrically charged particles, water vapor and other chemicals to the upper parts of our atmosphere.  Scientists from more than two dozen organizations will use research aircraft, mobile radars, lightning mapping arrays and other tools to make measurements that will help scientists understand more about the electrical and chemical structure of thunderstorms, including the concentration of ozone.  DC3 will focus on Alabama, Colorado and Oklahoma, but when thunderstorms are within 120 km of the Multi-function Phased Array Radar in central Oklahoma, teams will coordinate data collection. The project runs from May 15 –  June 30, 2012 with funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and NASA.

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