WoFS at the AMS, and the 2020 Iowa Derecho

The Annual Meeting of the American Meteorological Society is the largest recurring conference in our field. In January 2021, the 101st Annual Meeting of AMS took place in a virtual venue, but that didn’t stop the experimental Warn-on-Forecast System (WoFS) from taking center stage in a variety of ways. At least seven posters and a dozen oral presentations covered stories specific to WoFS. Many more covered closely related aspects of mesoscale modeling and forecast and warning operations. WoFS presenters included Norman-community researchers and students, but also National Weather Service forecasters from national centers as well as local offices. One group especially well represented were science operations officers from the group of nine Southern Plains NWS offices that have been evaluating WoFS as part of a two-year project. Many showed real-world examples of the ways in which WoFS is already influencing lead time and specificity of information shared with the public and other users.

Poster presentation of Warn-on-Forecast.
Poster presentation led by Todd Lindley, Science and Operations Officer at the NOAA NWS Weather Forecast Office in Norman, Oklahoma.

There was so much enthusiasm for developing WoFS-style probabilistic and rapidly updating guidance — with novel data assimilation for the watch to warning time scales — an entire conference session was dedicated to WoFS and included a panel discussion titled, “Utilization and Development of Rapidly Updating Mesoscale Models for IDSS (Incident Decision Support Services).”

A graphic saying Utilization and Development of Rapidly Updating Mesoscale Models for IDSS.
Image used to advertise and introduce a WoFS-related panel discussion at the 101st Annual Meeting of the American Meteorological Society. (Courtesy of AMS)

Perhaps no presentation spoke more to the potential utility of WoFS than Patrick Skinner’s talk, “Predictability of the 10 August 2020 Midwest Derecho.” The “Iowa Derecho” was one of the biggest weather stories of 2020. Occurring at the height of the growing season, the swath of destructive winds was not only life-threatening but also obliterated crops in its path, making this the costliest single thunderstorm event in United States history.

Presentation slide showing satellite imagery before and after the Iowa Derecho. Image courtesy of NASA.
Presentation slide showing satellite imagery before and after the Iowa Derecho. Image courtesy of NASA.

Predictability varies for thunderstorm events, and many numerical models did not do a particularly good job of helping forecasters to anticipate such a devastating event, even the day of the storm. To test whether the experimental WoFS could have contributed to an improved forecast of the event, researchers first had to expand the model domain to capture the evolution of such a fast-moving and long-lived storm. Once this had been accomplished, the results of the forecast runs proved very promising. A forecast based on data that was available 12 hours before the derecho correctly predicted a fast-moving, bowing thunderstorm system with significant severe winds (> 75 mph) near the ground. In the loop below, red shading represents the swath of WoFS-predicted significant severe winds, and the small blue squares and red triangles plot the locations where damaging winds and tornadoes, respectively, were observed on August 10, 2020.

A gray GIF loop of a WoFS retrospective forecast. The forecasted areas over Iowa change color from orange to red over time.
Loop of a WoFS retrospective forecast that was initialized with data from 03 UTC on August 10, 2020, approximately 12 hours prior to the onset of damaging winds from the derecho. Shown here are the ensemble 90th percentile of maximum 10-meter wind gusts, the probability matched mean of radar reflectivity, and (very faintly) paintball splatters representing reflectivity from individual ensemble members. Local storm reports are plotted over the data as squares (severe wind), circles (severe hail), and triangles (tornadoes). The model system predicts a derecho-like system, including a broad swath of winds greater than 75 mph. (Courtesy of NOAA NSSL)

In the future, when a fully developed WoFS becomes available for events such as these, this could lead to earlier anticipation of a high-end event. The initial WoFS forecasts were displaced a little to the north of the worst damage, but as the early stage of the storm development got underway, WoFS forecasts adjusted to the correct latitude/location, still with a few hours of lead time before the worst of the storm would have occurred.

A screenshot of the Warn-on-Forecast System with plots summarizing the probability of severe near-ground winds.
Plot summarizing the probability of severe near-ground winds from a WoFS run initialized with data from 11 UTC on August 10, 2020. As time drew nearer to the derecho event, WoFS forecasts adjusted southward, then overlapping more directly with the swath of very damaging winds that would occur a few hours later. (Courtesy of NOAA NSSL)

Preliminary results indicate the poor depiction of overnight thunderstorms in Nebraska and South Dakota led to large errors in the operational forecast models. The models generated too many thunderstorms early in the forecast period, thus limiting the energy available for daytime storms in Iowa. Employing rapid and high-resolution assimilation of radar and satellite data, the experimental WoFS forecasts better depicted the overnight storms, and therefore better reflected the large amounts of energy available for the damaging daytime storms in Iowa. The group led by Skinner plans to publish this research in the near future.

For questions on this or other WoFS-related research please contact WoFS Program Lead, Patrick Burke, nssl.noaa@outreach.gov.

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Creator of instrumental radar techniques passes away

A member of the meteorology community, Leslie “Les” Lemon, passed away in late May.

Lemon was an eminent radar meteorologist during his career and saw it as his mission to aid forecasters on the interpretation of what they saw before the formalization of forecaster training.

Lemon had an extensive resume. He worked for CIMMS, the NOAA Commissioned Corps, NOAA NSSL, NWS Warning Decision Training Division, and several private companies throughout his more than 40-year career.

Former CIMMS Research Associate and longtime radar expert Les Lemon and current CIMMS Researcher Dale Morris instructing a forecaster in the NWS WDTD lab in 2013. (Photo provided)

Lemon was monitoring the surveillance radar on May 24, 1973, when a tornado devastated Union City, Okla. He worked with Don Burgess and Rodger Brown, former NSSL researchers, to determine where to scan the storm to collect the data they needed. This event had a significant impact on tornado forecasting. For the first time, researchers were able to see signs of tornado formation on radar and document the entire life cycle of the tornado on film. Researchers compared the two and discovered a pattern known as the Tornado Vortex Signature.

Lemon was awarded the 1976 NOAA Special Achievement Award for his work on the Tornado Vortex Signature.

The University of Oklahoma graduate is best known for “the Lemon Technique” a method for radar operators to detect the characteristic of a developing tornado. The technique is a way for radar operators to determine the severity of a storm and is continually used by experts today.

“I want to be in a weather office and I’ve been blessed to have been there and the passion, it’s the passion that led me to do everything I’ve done. And it’s amazing to me to think back at the opportunities I’ve been given, the things I have done in my life,” Lemon said, upon receiving the 2010 National Weather Association Special Lifetime Achievement Award.

He enjoyed sharing his storm experiences — he would recount to colleagues his presence at the destructive Ruskin Heights tornado on May 20, 1957, which catapulted his career choice to meteorology.

In his honor, the family is suggesting contributions to Lifesong for Orphans and condolences may be made online.


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Q&A with Researcher Cassandra Shivers-Williams

Severe weather researchers focus on more than just storms. They also study how people interpret and react to severe weather warnings and communications about severe weather.

Cassandra Shivers-Williams
Cassandra Shivers-Williams

Cassandra Shivers-Williams studies just that — how the public responds to severe weather information. One specific item she studies is how people’s individual differences in thinking affect their decisions during severe weather.

She is the first ever Peter Lamb Postdoctoral research associate at the University of Oklahoma Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies. Her work supports NOAA’s National Severe Storms Laboratory. She received a bachelor’s in psychology from Southern University and A&M College, a master’s in social psychology and a doctorate in social psychology from Howard University.

Q: How did you get into your field?

A: I have been interested in psychology since I first took abnormal psychology in high school. As I worked on my bachelor’s degree in psychology, I realized that I was more specifically interested in how people interact with each other and their environment and how these interactions influenced their decisions. Thus, I went to graduate school to earn a PhD in Social Psychology.

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

A: While working on my PhD, I became a Research Fellow at the NOAA Cooperative Science Center for Atmospheric Sciences and Meteorology, and I was fortunate to be invited to help with the Spring Emergency Manager Experiment hosted in NOAA’s Hazardous Weather Testbed in NSSL. Through my experiences in the Testbed, I started developing professional connections that would later lead to an opportunity to apply for the postdoc position I have now.

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

What interests me most in my job is the fact that I have the freedom and ability to investigate socially relevant problems that I find interesting and imperative.

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

I bowl competitively! I was practically born in a bowling alley (both of my parents bowl) and I have been bowling since I could walk. I earned scholarship money for college while competitively bowling as a kid, I attended Southern University and A&M College (my undergraduate alma mater) on a partial bowling scholarship, and I met my husband, Fero, while competing at Team USA Trials!

Q: What advice would you provide to up and coming meteorologists or others in your field?

A: I would recommend being open to collaborating and learning from others in different fields from your own, including across natural and social science boundaries. The problems facing our field today are going to require innovative and multidisciplinary solutions.

Q: What one day sticks out to you during your career? Do you remember one day in particular detail?

A: Successfully defending my dissertation! That accomplishment was a significant milestone and one I will never forget.

Q: What is one thing you couldn’t live without at work?

A: I could not live without my coworkers! I love that we all get along really well together, but I also value our differing expertise and approaches toward attacking problems. I think we compliment each other well and this helps facilitate the work we do.

Shivers-Williams talking to her coworker.
Shivers-Williams during a NOAA Hazardous Weather Testbed experiment with her coworker Kim Klockow-McClain. (Photo by James Murnan/NOAA)


Q: Where is your favorite place to be?

A: My favorite place to be is somewhere warm, sunny, and sandy! I truly enjoy traveling to other countries, especially tropical places, and experiencing different beaches and oceans as well as new cultures and food.

Q: What would you most like to tell your younger self?

A: Don’t let other people’s perceptions of you or your capabilities define who you are or stop your progress. Continue to persevere and always push yourself to be the best you that you can be!

Q: What is the best book you’ve ever read?

A: Russell, K. Y., M. Wilson, and R. E. Hall, 1992: The color complex: The politics of skin color among African Americans. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 200 pp.

This book brings many different issues surrounding colorism among African Americans to light and offers very honest, insightful, and critical perspectives.

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Q&A with Researcher Thea Sandmael

Researchers are constantly studying new ways to help weather forecasters utilize the vast amount of data provided by the nation’s Doppler radar network. Thea Sandmael is using her meteorological and computer programming skills to get them the information they need to issue life-saving severe weather forecasts and warnings to the public.

Thea Sandmael
Thea Sandmael.

Sandmael develops computer programs to automatically examine radar observations and discriminate between tornadic and non-tornadic storms. In addition, she is testing enhanced ways computers process radar storm data and identify certain features for forecasters as they use the data to monitor thunderstorms. One of the experiments she’s leading tests a New Tornado Detection Algorithm, or NTDA. The NTDA utilizes machine learning to provide the probability of a tornado’s presence in a storm.

She is a research associate at the University of Oklahoma Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies, supporting NOAA’s National Severe Storms Laboratory. Originally from Norway, Sandmael received her masters and bachelor’s degrees in meteorology from OU.

Q: How did you get into your field?
A: I decided I wanted to be a meteorologist in middle school to combine my passion for science, math and performing — I wanted to be a broadcast meteorologist. I was a science major in high school (we have majors in high school in Norway), and decided I’d rather do the science part full time. I was becoming more interested in natural disasters, which led me to severe weather. I ended up googling universities in “Tornado Alley” as a freshman in high school and I found out about OU and its meteorology program. I decided I wanted to travel to the other side of the world to study tornadoes and I never left.

Q: Describe the path leading up to your current job.
A: I was taking a break from OU’s PhD program, trying to balance family life while waiting to get treatment from migraines. About a month in this position opened up, which was exactly what I wanted to do with my life, and it turned out I didn’t even need a PhD to do it! They decided to offer me the job, and I chose to quit my PhD program for my dream job.

Q: What is it about your job that interests you?
A: On a day-to-day basis, I find the programming part of my job to be the most interesting and fun. I love coding and have grown fond of C++ and finding ways to solve problems or increase efficiency. Overall, I think the R2O, or research-to-operations, possibilities of the job is the most rewarding — where you potentially get to see your research used by forecasters to make their jobs of saving lives easier.

Group photo with Thea Sandmael
The NOAA Hazardous Weather Testbed 2019 Satellite and Radar Convective Applications Experiment group in April 2019. Sandmael is involved in preparation  and organization of the experiment. During the experiment, recently developed experimental products are evaluated by NOAA National Weather Service forecasters with a focus on improving the detection and prediction of severe weather hazards, such as tornadoes and large hail.

Q: Tell us something that might surprise us about you
A: I was a guest on a nationally televised live talk show back in Norway that was watched by one million people, which is about one-fifth of Norway’s total population, and I was on the front page of Norway’s largest newspaper (about storm chasing).

Q: What is your personal philosophy?
A: Try to help others when you can, be kind and empathetic, and stand up to injustice.

Q: What is one thing you couldn’t live without at work?
A: The Linux “super” key + arrow button to split my applications on the screen.

Q: Where is your favorite place to be?
A: Anywhere with my daughter and husband, preferably on a beach somewhere warm or at home.

Sandmael with a group outside a restaurant.
Sandmael was one of several OU CIMMS researchers who attended the AMS 39th International Conference on Radar Meteorology in 2019. The American Meteorological Society Committee on Radar Meteorology and Local Organizing Committee in Japan welcomed a broad range of disciplines at the conference, including radar technologies, numerical model, satellite remote sensing, hydrology, signal processing, and atmospheric science on any aspect related to radar meteorology.(Photo provided)

Q: How do you define success?
Being happy at no one else’s expense, and having a positive impact on other people’s lives.

Q: What is the best book you’ve ever read?
That’s got to be the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien (so much better than the movies, which are also great). I’m currently really enjoying “The Wheel of Time” series by Robert Jordan, and waiting for the new book in “The Stormlight Archive” series by Brandon Sanderson.

Q: Describe your typical day.
A: Get up, listen to an audiobook on the way to work, work, pick up my kid and take her to her dance classes, knit, go home to eat dinner as a family, do something fun together (watch TV shows, play board games or video games), do something fun alone (cross-stitch, knit, phone), sleep. Currently, I’m working as a homeschool teacher, as well as having a full-time job as a research meteorologist, trying to have enough time and energy to cook and clean as normal, and to stay safe and healthy not leaving the house.

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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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Severe weather luminary, former NOAA NSSL director passes away

James "Jeff" Kimpel
James “Jeff” Kimpel

The weather community mourns the loss of leader and luminary James “Jeff” Kimpel, who passed away early Saturday morning.

Kimpel served as the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory director for 13 years and was instrumental in creating NSSL’s legacy in severe weather research. As NSSL’s third director from 1997 to 2010 he had a vision for the lab — transitioning science and technology to NOAA National Weather Service operations, archiving publications and increasing education and outreach — and created programs to fulfill that vision.

His leadership

His passion for weather and improving forecasts was evident in all of his endeavors. He was instrumental in establishing support for new facilities for NSSL. His collaborative efforts led to the eventual construction of the magnificent National Weather Center building in Norman, Oklahoma, shared with the NWS and the University of Oklahoma.

“For those who knew Jeff, you know that words are inadequate to approximate this man and his achievements,” said Craig McLean, Assistant Administrator for NOAA Oceanic and Atmospheric Research. “As Director of NSSL, he was the architect for the unique research-university-operations relationship we enjoy today between the National Weather Center and the University of Oklahoma. He was among the most humble people I know yet had so much to be proud of.”

In 2006, Kimpel addressed the Norman Chamber of Commerce to give an overview of what the NWC and NOAA provide to Norman. He said the collaborative efforts between OU student interns and federal employees had a $55.3 million impact on the economy at that time.

“We’re all in the same building now. Nowhere else in the country is this done,” Kimpel said in a news article. “The agencies work together for the taxpayers of this country.”

“Weather affects one-third of the $10 trillion economy. We want to know how we can affect the economy in a positive way.”

Jeff Kimpel sitting on a desk with computer screens behind him talking to someone.
Former NOAA NSSL Director Jeff Kimpel in the former NOAA NWS SPC forecast area before it moved to the National Weather Center.

Along with the NWC, Kimpel was a leader in creating the NOAA Hazardous Weather Testbed in collaboration with the NOAA NWS Storm Prediction Center and the NWS Norman Forecast Office. Kimpel wanted to create a place to accelerate the transition of new science into operational warning and forecasting decision processes. He understood the value of forecasters and researchers collaborating in a hands-on environment. He would say he was doing his job and serving the public but he was creating a space researchers use every year to successfully advance the tools used by forecasters.

Kimpel supported scientists and equipment to participate in 17 national and international field studies, including the Verification of the ORigin of Tornadoes Experiment, or VORTEX2, that led to the Congressionally funded VORTEX-Southeast. Kimpel oversaw the scientific and technological research required to upgrade the NEXRAD radar network, the current radar. Such upgrades included improvements to dual-polarization, which significantly increased the accuracy of rainfall estimates, the ability to differentiate between rain, snow and provide an estimated hail size. He encouraged radar-based rainfall analyses for flash flood and river forecasting as well.

Kimpel championed for NSSL’s Multi-Function Phased Array Radar, or MPAR, and Phased Array Radar to demonstrate radar’s rapid scanning, dynamic capabilities, and potential. He supported the lab’s division chief’s vision to implement such revolutionary programs.

One of NSSL’s current research programs, Warn-on-Forecast Systems, was advocated by Kimpel. The program aims to increase tornado, severe thunderstorm and flash flood warning lead times. Kimpel was instrumental in advocating for funding of this important project.

His connections

Jami Boettcher met Kimpel in the early 1980s. She describes him as everyone’s champion.

“I remember he [Kimpel] made an impression on me at the University of Oklahoma — enough so I told my father about him,” said Boettcher, an OU Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological researcher supporting NSSL. “A lot of OU administrators and faculty were customers of my father’s business and my father shared my story.”

An OU Dean was also a customer of her father’s and heard good things about Kimpel. Shortly after, Kimpel was having lunch with the Dean and Kimpel always told Boettcher that was the start of his administration career.

“Jeff taught me you always have opportunities and each conversation you have is a job interview,” she said. “He championed me into the National Weather Service [when Boettcher was a forecaster]. He singled me out to let me know the NWS was coming to recruit in Norman. I was hired right after I finished my undergraduate degree. Jeff had a powerful gift of knowing which people he needed to connect.”

Ten years later, Boettcher returned to Norman and reconnected with Kimpel. The two taught a course through OU where Boettcher learned more about Norman, the weather enterprise and saw his enthusiasm for encouraging the next generation.

“I’ll never forget he cared about me personally and wanted the best for me, whatever that may be,” Boettcher said. “I may not hold the most accolades in the building, but I felt like I mattered just as much. He had the ability to connect to everyone in a unique way. He treated me like I always mattered.”

“He was giving a tour once and said, ‘I came to Norman for a job but I stayed because of the people,’” Boettcher said. “That is not a one-way exchange and it was not an accident.”

His legacy

Kimpel credited his research start in part to the first NSSL Director Edwin Kessler. Kimpel’s first-ever research grant came from NSSL at Kessler’s coaching. Kimpel followed Kessler’s footsteps and counseled hundreds of students throughout his time at OU and in the NWC. He developed a Master of Professional Meteorology program, a degree designed to provide graduate students with the skills needed by employers engaged in weather-related business.

“Jeff always had pearls of wisdom and advice,” said NSSL Deputy Director Kurt Hondl. “The one that I remember most of all was to ‘hire people better/smarter than yourself.’ He was a real leader, a mentor to many, and an all-around good guy.”

Former NOAA NSSL Director Jeff Kimpel in front of the former lab and research vehicle in Norman, Oklahoma.
Former NOAA NSSL Director Jeff Kimpel in front of the former lab signage and research vehicle in Norman, Oklahoma.

After his retirement, Kimpel continued to maintain an office in the NWC and provided career advice to anyone fascinated by the science of weather. His personality warmed the hearts of his peers and his humor could brighten anyone’s day. He provided tours to incoming and prospective students, researchers and colleagues.

His service, passion and endless work to help save lives and property and encourage future researchers was noted by the United States Congress in 2010. Rep. Tom Cole, R-Ok, recognized Kimpel for his federal service, awards and impact to Norman, Oklahoma, in a Congressional Commendation.

“Dr. Kimpel has made a mark on weather forecasting that will be felt for decades to come,” read Cole. “Dr. Kimpel has been one of the main proponents of improving the connection of Doppler-radar systems, or NEXRAD, which would advance and improve radar resolution and increase the accuracy of rain, snow, and other weather predictions. This program, which was created under Dr. Kimpel, has also generated forecast models and has largely improved the ability to predict tornadoes, windstorms, lighting, and other types of severe precipitation. These programs are extremely vital and important to Oklahoma in particular, but Dr. Kimpel has brought them into other regions that also deal with inclement weather and specific weather storms.”

The list of professional publications with Kimpel’s name as author or co-author is formidable. The topics range from severe weather research to reducing the costs of natural disasters. He received his PhD in meteorology from the University of Wisconsin in Madison.

Former NOAA NSSL Director Jeff Kimpel receiving an award from NOAA Acting Chief Scientist Craig McLean at Kimpel's reitrement in 2010.
Former NOAA NSSL Director Jeff Kimpel and NOAA Acting Chief Scientist Craig McLean at Kimpel’s retirement in 2010.


James “Jeff” Kimpel’s Awards & Service

  • James “Jeff” Kimpel

    Vietnam Air Force – he received a Bronze Star Medal for his service

  • OU Associate Dean of the College of Engineering
  • OU Director of the School of Meteorology
  • OU Regents’ Award for Superior University and Professional Service
  • 1989 American Meteorological Society Fellow
  • OU Dean of the College of Geosciences
  • OU Director of Weather Center Programs
  • OU Senior Vice President & Provost of the Norman Campus
  • President of Applied Systems Institute, Inc.
  • Chaired the Board of Trustees of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research
  • Chaired the National Science Foundation’s Advisory Committee for Atmospheric Sciences
  • Chaired the National Weather Service NCEP Advisory Panel
  • NOAA NSSL Director, 1997-2010
  • 1998 American Meteorological Councilor
  • 2000 American Meteorological Society President
  • OU Regents’ Alumni Award
  • Denison University’s Distinguished Alumni Citation
  • 2005 Presidential Rank Award
  • 2010 U.S. Congressional Commendation
  • 2016 Charles Franklin Brooks Award
  • Norman Regional Hospital Authority Board Member



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Researcher awarded at international radar conference

The American Meteorological Society recently awarded a researcher for his contributions to the weather radar community.

David Schvartzman presenting at the 39th AMS International Conference on Radar Meteorology. (Photo provided)

University of Oklahoma Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies researcher David Schvartzman was awarded the AMS Spiros G. Geotis Student Prize. Schvartzman is a full-time researcher and a PhD candidate in Electrical and Computer Engineering whose work supports NOAA’s National Severe Storms Laboratory.

The Spiros G. Geotis Student Prize is awarded for an outstanding student paper presented at a technical conference on radar meteorology. His paper, titled “Design of Practical Pulse Compression Waveforms for Polarimetric Phased Array Radar,” presents practical system considerations to design waveforms with the goal of improving polarimetric radar data quality.

Schvartzman was awarded at the 39th AMS International Conference on Radar Meteorology

David Schvartzman at the AMS 39th International Conference on Radar Meteorology with CIMMS Senior Research Scientist Sebastian Torres. (Photo provided)

in Japan. He said he “couldn’t believe it,” when he was told he would be given the award. The award is one of the most prestigious in radar meteorology and it is a national recognition. It will be awarded at the 100th AMS Annual Meeting in Boston on January 2020.

“I feel very grateful and honored by this recognition, and I’m glad that my scientific efforts are contributing to the radar engineering community,” Schvartzman said. “It means a great deal to me given that there were so many great presentations at the conference, and this is a very important conference in the AMS community. I am very grateful to CIMMS and NOAA NSSL for the continuous support and encouragement to pursue my research ideas.”

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Researcher awarded by AMS

The American Meteorological Society announced the 2020 award and honor recipients. Among those named was Sebastian Torres, a senior research scientist at the University of Oklahoma Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies, whose work supports technology testing at NOAA’s National Severe Storms Laboratory.

Sebastian Torres.

Torres received an Editor’s Award for the Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic TechnologyTorres was honored for, “providing thorough reviews that have helped the decision-making process in controversial situations.”

Rewarding work

Torres said he enjoys reviewing articles and helping his peers communicate their ideas more effectively. The process helps him become a better writer while learning about new discoveries in his field and contributing to AMS.

“Serving as a reviewer for publications like the AMS Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology can be time consuming, but I consider it an integral and rewarding part of my work as a scientist,” Torres said. “I take the opportunity to review the work of others as a way to pay it forward. Besides serving as a regular reviewer, I am an associate editor of JTECH. In this role, I often get to help the editor solve a controversial situation or reach a difficult decision, which can be extra challenging. All in all, serving as peer reviewer makes me feel part of my scientific community, so, being recognized with this award is a huge honor.”

Working with NOAA’s National Severe Storms Laboratory, his research involves creating and testing new radar capabilities with NOAA’s National Severe Storms Laboratory, in addition to helping improve current the current radar system to support the National Weather Service.

He is currently involved in testing the Advanced Technology Demonstrator radar. Torres recently returned from the 39th AMS International Conference on Radar Meteorology. He presented on the ATD and its progress.

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NSSL instrumentation meteorologist retires after 47 years

Sherman Fredrickson remembers a time when NOAA National Severe Storm Laboratory’s tools recorded atmospheric measurements without high-speed computers.

Fredrickson worked as an instrumentation meteorologist at NSSL for 47 years. In early December, he retired from federal service, and colleagues celebrated him and his years of service with a small come-and-go reception.

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

He 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…,” which launched him into his career with field observation systems and NSSL’s Mobile Mesonets.

“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,’” he said. “​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 remembers when he first started at the lab. NSSL’s weather mesonets — sites recording continuous winds, temp, RH, pressure and rainfall — were not computerized. Measurements were recorded on pen and ink stripcharts and had to be changed 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​ international shortwave​ time standard, called WWV,” he said. “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.”

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NOAA welcomes Hollings student participants

Hollings and REU students in a board room for orientation.
Hollings and REU students received a building orientation before officially starting their research in June. (Photo by James Murnan/NOAA)

This year, the NOAA Office of Education selected 150 Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholars and eight Educational Partnership Program Undergraduate Scholars, making 2018 the second largest NOAA undergraduate scholarship class.

The Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship was established in 2005, in honor of Senator Ernest F. Hollings, who was well known for supporting ocean policy and conservation. The Hollings Scholarship includes a two-year academic scholarship and a summer internship opportunity for full-time undergraduate STEM and education majors.

This summer the National Weather Center in Norman, Oklahoma – home to NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory and the NOAA Storm Prediction Center- has four visiting Hollings students working with researchers in the building.

Students from the Research Experiences for Undergraduates, or REU, are also working with NOAA NSSL and SPC researchers this summer. The National Science Foundation funds research opportunities for undergraduate students through REU Sites.

At the National Weather Center, students participate in a 10-week research program with mentors housed within the building and on the University of Oklahoma’s research campus.

Five REU students are working with NOAA NSSL researchers and one is working with the Storm Prediction Center.

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