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The National Weather Center and NOAA Severe Storms Laboratory, Norman, Oklahoma


Ever wonder why the National Severe Storms Laboratory is in Oklahoma? According to Kevin Kloesel, University Meteorologist at the University of Oklahoma’s Office of Emergency Preparedness, Oklahoma is a storm-trackers paradise, with the most declared weather disasters in the nation. Every county has been declared a disaster area at least three times in the last decade.

Cold air from Canada clashes with warm, moist air from the Gulf. The Rockies to the west and Appalacians to the east act like bumper guards on a bowling lane, creating Tornado Alley.

The National Weather Building is on the University of Oklahoma’s research campus. It is a partnership between the university’s school of meteorology and NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. And it’s open for tours.

This is one of the largest facilities of its kind in the world, with five floors of offices, laboratories, forecast centers, instrument shops and classrooms–including one on the rooftop. It brings research scientists, faculty, students, meteorologists and climatologists, engineers and technicians together under one roof.

It’s a place to watch 30 days of global weather in 1 1/2 minutes on an enormous rotating orb known as Science on a Sphere. See where weather information comes from with meteorologists and students at work forecasting the movements of the invisible atmosphere in the Storm Prediction Center.

The collaboration led to the development of things like Doppler radar and Phased Array Radar for fast storm system imaging. Military technology, like radar dishes used in the Arctic Circle to monitor for missiles in Cold War have been repurposed for weather prediction.

The work of the National Weather Service is important to decisions made by private companies and is in collaboration with other university departments, like sociology–how do people use weather to form decisions?–economics–a third of the GDP is weather-impacted–agriculture–for farmers, ranchers, and other growers and producers who need to make key decisions that will determine success. It advises ships at sea and conducts lightning work with NASA.

It’s a field that is changing rapidly, and each year students graduate with new proficiencies.

Tours are available, but because of security issues reservations must be made 2-4 weeks in advance.

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