Story Archive

Weather Radar Development Highlight of NSSL's First 40 Years
by Susan Cobb
Posted 11/10/04

New phased-array radar can scan multiple areas simultaneously.Who would have imagined that radar technology designed to detect and locate hostile aircraft and missiles in WWII would serve as the basis for today's advanced weather radar systems. At that time, storms were a nuisance that obscured valuable data. Later, however, users realized the potential benefits of radar for weather detection. Now, the NOAA National Weather Service relies daily on radar to detect, locate and measure precipitation inside clouds. In fact, today's radars are so advanced they can even identify types of precipitation, detect important weather features that make a storm severe, and track and predict the motion of storms.

NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory Much of the credit for modern weather radar systems should be given to the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory in Norman, Okla., which celebrated its 40th anniversary in mid-October. "We want to take this time to savor our accomplishments over these past 40 years and look optimistically toward the future," said James F. Kimpel, NSSL director.


NSSL Researcher Answers the Question: "When and Where Does Severe Weather Occur?"
by Rachel Shortt
Posted 10/8/04

Picture of the web page... It all began when Brooks attended a meeting with the Federal Emergency Management Agency about tornadoes in Washington, D.C., in 1998. One of the main questions from this meeting was, "How do we determine the real threat of things that are happening and how often should we expect certain kinds of events to occur and where?" This brought about the concept of focusing efforts on understanding the climatology of severe weather.

The study has become a major solution to the problem of how to gather together observations of severe weather, where there are a lot of biases, and take those biases away to produce an estimate that is more believable, Brooks said.

"Once I had started working on it, I also realized I could apply it to lots of things ..."

Helen Hunt signed a photograph thanking NSSL for what we doTwister Movie Put NSSL on the Map
by Rachel Shortt
Posted 9/27/04

Did you know the movie "Twister," from producers Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy and director Jan de Bont was written about the National Severe Storms Laboratory right here in Norman, Okla.?

Michael Crichton and his wife, Anne-Marie Martin, wrote a screenplay about the lab's activity with the University of Oklahoma in the early 1980's on TOTO, a 55 gallon drum researchers attempted to place in the path of a tornado to collect measurements. Their screenplay turned into the movie "Twister" starring Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt, and NSSL staff had an opportunity to provide input to the script, production and even the direction the movie took.

Union City Tornado Makes History
by Rachel Shortt
Posted 9/21/04

Union City tornado of May 24, 1973As the devastating tornado tore through the small town of Union City, Okla., on May 24, 1973, no one knew the tremendous impact it would have on the development of weather radar. Researchers from the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory now look back on that day as a significant event in the history of severe weather research and forecasting.

"We weren't expecting much that day, just storms, but not necessarily tornadoes..."