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NOAA’s National Weather Service will present its prestigious Isaac M. Cline Award in meteorology
to Richard L. Thompson, a lead forecaster at the NOAA Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., for work in developing severe weather probability forecasts and tools to identify areas with tornado potential.

The Isaac M. Cline Award honors individual and team employees for operational excellence in the delivery of products and services in support of the National Weather Service mission.

“Saving lives and property is the central function of the National Weather Service and the Isaac M. Cline Award demonstrates the hard work of Richard to accomplish this goal,” said Brig. Gen. David L. Johnson, USAF (ret.), director of NOAA’s National Weather Service.

Louis W. Uccellini, director of the NOAA/NWS National Centers for Environmental Prediction, will present the award during a ceremony to be held May 18 in Norman.

The award recognizes Thompson’s extensive research to improve severe weather forecasting techniques. He led an effort to develop and organize a large database of the environmental conditions associated with 413 supercell thunderstorms that occurred from 1999 through 2001, then used it to examine the environmental conditions prior to supercell development. Thompson noted the environmental conditions that help to differentiate between storms that produce tornadoes and those that do not.

The results of this study are used routinely by forecasters at the Storm Prediction Center and in local NWS forecast offices to determine when and where tornado watches and warnings should be issued, resulting in fewer false alarms and unneeded tornado watches.

“While severe thunderstorm forecasting remains challenging, thanks to Rich’s efforts, today’s SPC is much better at forecasting tornado potential than it was only a decade ago,” Uccellini said.

In addition, Thompson was instrumental in using the database to develop two parameters that help identify environments where supercells and significant tornadoes are likely to develop. The Supercell Composite Parameter identifies favorable environmental conditions for supercells, and the Significant Tornado Parameter (STP), which highlights favorable conditions for strong and violent tornadoes. These two parameters have aided SPC forecasters in surveying the country quickly to locate potential severe thunderstorm threat areas.

The award is named for the man whose courage and dedication is credited with saving thousands of lives during the Galveston, Texas, hurricane of 1900. Isaac Cline was in charge of the U.S. Weather Bureau office in Galveston when the popular coastal city was struck with the deadliest natural disaster in the nation’s history. The death toll exceeded 8,000, but could have been much higher if not for Cline’s acute understanding of the weather and his early hurricane warnings in an era when meteorology was in its infancy and ship-to-shore communications were non-existent.

The National Weather Service is an office of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce. NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and environmental stewardship of our nation’s coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners and more than 60 countries to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes.

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