Tornado and severe weather research continues at OU with $ 208 million grant

High-level research into tornadoes and other destructive weather phenomena will continue at the University of Oklahoma with a $ 208 million grant from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration.

NOAA has chosen OU to host its new Co-operative Institute for Severe and High Impact Weather Research and Operations (CISHIWRO). The institute has a five-year mandate, which can be extended depending on the results obtained.

The new institute will itself develop the work carried out by the Cooperative Institute for Medium-Scale Meteorological Studies (CIMMS), the previous NOAA collaboration hosted in Norman. CISHIWRO will conduct research on extreme and high-impact weather conditions, enabling meteorologists to create better tools capable of analyzing and forecasting weather conditions.

The TORUS Windsond team at the Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies at the University of Oklahoma supports NOAA's National Severe Storms Laboratory.  The team is near the hail core of a storm in May 2019.

CIMMS Director Greg McFarquhar said the ultimate goal is to improve our basic understanding of weather.

“This will help produce better forecasts and warnings, save lives and property,” McFarquhar said.

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He said one of the institute’s key missions will be to develop reliable probabilistic forecasts for tornadoes, similar to what is now available for hurricanes. This way, meteorologists can issue warnings based on a forecast rather than having to wait until they detect a hook echo or other telltale sign of tornado weather.

Using probabilistic forecasts, the public could receive specific warnings hours, not minutes, in advance.

Students at the University of Oklahoma's Faculty of Meteorology participated in training normally provided to NOAA National Weather Service forecasters by the NWS Warning Decisions Training Division, with support from CIMMS researchers , in March 2019 as part of their courses.

The predecessor of the new institute, CIMMS, has been both productive and influential. Over the past five years, scientists at CIMMS have published hundreds of papers that have been cited thousands of times in other research.

In 2019, CIMMS participated in a large field study called TORUS, which allowed plains researchers to monitor the formation of severe weather phenomena from the ground and in the air.

Research at CIMMS has moved more than two dozen algorithms and products from the research phase to operational use in meteorology. Another project is the hazardous weather test bench.

“We have a spring forecasting experience there every year. This allows us to test the new products that we are developing and to see how weather forecasters are using those products, ”said McFarquhar. “Not only does this train forecasters on how to use the new products we are offering, but we also get feedback from them on what is very useful and what we can do to improve things in the future.”

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The award increases funding by $ 66 million and reaffirms the 43 years of NOAA and OU collaboration, the university said.

“It is an extraordinary honor for the university to be chosen to lead the new Cooperative Institute for High Impact and High Impact Meteorological Research and Operations,” said OU President Joseph Harroz Jr. ” As Oklahoma’s flagship institution, our mission is to harness revolutionary discoveries to advance society. Thanks to the new cooperative institute and the work of hundreds of researchers, we will see deep progress in the study of weather, leading to better warning systems that will ultimately save lives.

CICHIWRO will continue to address some of NOAA’s main research themes in addition to new research areas. The five research themes include: meteorological radar and observation research and development, mesoscale and storm-scale modeling research and development, research and development of forecast application improvements , sub-seasonal to seasonal forecasting of extreme weather events and the social and socio-economic impacts of high impact weather systems.

CIMMS was the largest research organization in OU with over 220 employees.

Editor-in-Chief Dale Denwalt covers tech, aerospace and Oklahoma news for The Oklahoman. Do you have a story idea for Dale? He can be contacted at [email protected] or on Twitter at @denwalt. Support Dale’s work and that of fellow Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today at

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