James F. Kimpel ’64

B.A., Denison University
USAF, 1964-1968 (Vietnam; Bronze Star)
M.S., Meteorology, University of Wisconsin
Ph.D., Meteorology, University of Wisconsin
Certificate, Institute for Educational Management, Harvard University

Director
National Severe Storms Laboratory
Norman, Okla.

Citation awarded June, 2004

Since 1997, Jeff Kimpel, whose research area is severe storms and tornadoes, has been the Director of the National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL), a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The NSSL mission is to conduct research to improve the National Weather Service’s ability to forecast and warn the American public of all forms of hazardous weather. If you’ve seen the movie Twister, you’ve seen depictions of NSSL scientists working on a “tornado intercept project.”

Before beginning his service with NSSL, Jeff served in a series of academic and administrative positions at the University of Oklahoma, including professor and director of the School of Meteorology, dean of the College of Geoscience, and senior vice president and provost of the Norman campus. As director of the Oklahoma Weather Center, an alliance of federal, state, and private weather organizations, Jeff is credited with leading the group into national prominence. In 1999, President William Jefferson Clinton designated the Oklahoma Weather Center as the National Weather Center and authorized the construction of an $87 million facility to collocate these federal, state, and academic weather organizations on the University of Oklahoma campus. The move, scheduled for 2006, will bring together 700 employees, 350 undergraduate and 80 graduate students with a combined annual operating budget in excess of $65 million. A nearby companion facility will house five or six weather-related private companies.

The most significant achievement of the Weather Center to date has been performing the research and development that led to the deployment of 140 Doppler weather radars across the United States. During the past eight years, this weather radar network is responsible for a 45% decline in tornado-related deaths and a 40% decline in personal injuries.

Along the way, Jeff was elected President of the American Meteorological Society, the world’s premier scientific and professional society for weather, elected chair of the board of trustees of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, and appointed chair of the National Science Foundation’s Advisory Committee for the Atmospheric Sciences.
Jeff has reached back numerous times through the years to give career advice and counsel to students fascinated by the science of weather.