Scientific Mentors

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Dr. Rodger A. Brown

Research Meteorologist
Convective Weather Research Group, National Severe Storms Laboratory, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Severe thunderstorms and Doppler weather radar

Rodger Brown received his B.S. degree in Earth Sciences at Antioch College, Ohio in 1960. He obtained his M.S. degree in Geophysical Sciences from the University of Chicago in 1962 and his Ph.D. in Meteorology from the University of Oklahoma in 1989.

Dr. Brown has worked at the National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) since 1970. He arrived at NSSL just as Doppler weather radars were starting to be used to study thunderstorms. Brown and his colleagues wanted to find out how the storms became severe and produced damaging winds, large hail, and tornadoes. "We soon discovered that most of the thunderstorms that produced damage had a Doppler velocity signature of a rotating updraft (called a mesocyclone) 20 minutes or more before there was damage on the ground. We also discovered the Doppler velocity signature of the tornado while the tornado was still in its formative stage up in the storm, before it descended below cloud base." The National Weather Service now uses these mesocyclone and tornado signatures -- those that are measured by the national network of NEXRAD Doppler radars -- to issue more timely severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings.

Dr. Brown is a member of the American Meteorological Society (in which he has chaired the Severe Local Storms Committee), the American Geophysical Union, the National Weather Association (in which he has held elected offices of Secretary Royal Vice President, and Councilor), Sigma Xi, and the Royal Meteorological Society in England.

Brown states, "We have been successful in detecting Doppler velocity signatures that indicate the presence of developing severe storms. However, trying to understand how storms become severe and produce tornadoes has been a frustratingly slow process owing to lack of detailed measurements (in space and time) within the storm and within its immediate surroundings. It has taken decades to gain what limited information we now know and it will take at least a decade or two more before we can hope to have a complete understanding of the complex processes taking place within tornado-producing storms."

"During a typical day, I spend most of my time trying to understand how ordinary thunderstorms evolve into severe thunderstorms and occasionally into tornado-producing storms. I may be analyzing single or multiple Doppler radar data within severe storms to document how the storms evolve. Or I may be using computer simulations of Doppler velocity signatures of storm features in order to better understand how to interpret the signatures relative to storm evolution. To let others know what I have learned, I may spend time writing up my findings for a professional journal. Being involved with professional organizations, I may spend some time discussing (by phone or e- mail) matters of professional concern with other members of the organizations."

Rodger Brown's interests outside of work include reading, juggling, and working with Boy Scouts as an adult leader. Through Boy Scouting, he became interested in learning how to make various American Indian crafts. In particular, Dr. Brown makes and plays wooden Plains Indian style flutes. He and his wife have three grown children and five grandchildren.