In this historical paper, we trace the scientific-and engineering-based steps at the National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) and in the larger weather radar community that led to the development of NSSL's first 10-cm-wavelength pulsed Doppler radar. This radar was the prototype for the current Next Generation Weather Radar (NEXRAD), or Weather Surveillance Radar-1998 Doppler (WSR-88D) network.We track events, both political and scientific, that led to the establishment of NSSL in 1964. The vision of NSSL's first director, Edwin Kessler, is reconstructed through access to historical documents and oral histories. This vision included the development of Doppler radar, where research was to be meshed with the operational needs of the U.S. Weather Bureau and its successorthe National Weather Service.Realization of the vision came through steps that were often fitful, where complications arose due to personnel concerns, and where there were always financial concerns. The historical research indicates that 1) the engineering prowess and mentorship of Roger Lhermitte was at the heart of Doppler radar development at NSSL; 2) key decisions by Kessler in the wake of Lhermitte's sudden departure in 1967 proved crucial to the ultimate success of the project; 3) research results indicated that Doppler velocity signatures of mesocyclones are a precursor of damaging thunderstorms and tornadoes; and 4) results from field testing of the Doppler-derived products during the 1977-79 Joint Doppler Operational Projectespecially the noticeable increase in the verification of tornado warnings and an associated marked decrease in false alarmsled to the government decision to establish the NEXRAD network.
Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society – American Meteorological Society
Published: Oct 12, 2005
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