NSSL researchers honored for Outstanding Scientific Publication

Five NSSL/CIMMS researchers from NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) in Norman, Okla., have earned the organization’s 2009 Outstanding Scientific Paper Award for work that is expected to enable earlier warnings for severe storms.

Richard Spinrad, Ph.D., OAR director, and Alexander MacDonald, Ph.D., director of the OAR Laboratories and Cooperative Institutes, announced the awards in a recent organization-wide meeting. The five Norman area recipients conduct research in the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory and the Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies.

“Their paper reflects the pre-eminence, the vision and the passion of NOAA researchers,” Spinrad said. “Their work provides a strong foundation for understanding the complex oceanic and atmospheric systems that govern our planet.”

The research team includes:

  • Lead author Pamela Heinselman, Ph.D., of the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory
  • David Priegnitz, Kevin Manross, Travis Smith and Richard Adams of the NOAA Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies at the University of Oklahoma

The team evaluated the performance of phased array radar technology that has the potential to produce faster scan times than the Doppler radar systems used in weather forecasting today. The radar was used to scan three Oklahoma storms – a supercell thunderstorm, a microburst producing thunderstorm and a hailstorm – to compare data gathered by the phased array and Doppler radar systems.

Using phased array radar rapid scan capability, the researchers found that for each type of storm mored detailed clues were detected prior to the development of severe weather.   Faster scans showed rapid re-intensification in a supercell, the entire life cycle of a microburst, and more details to determine the threat of hail.

Further testing and development of phased array radar technology could ultimately bring about longer lead times for severe storm warnings and provide people in a storm’s path extra time get to safe shelter.