1.1 How the President's Day Storm, 1819 February 1979, Brought Lance and Me Together through a “Research to Operations” Journey of a Lifetime

Thursday, 26 January 2017: 8:15 AM
2AB (Washington State Convention Center )
Louis W. Uccellini, NOAA/NWS/NCEP, Camp Springs, MD

The 18-19 February 1979 “Presidents’ Day” Snowstorm along the East Coast is well known for:

1) the impact of the storm on the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States;

2) the inability of the operational numerical models of that time to predict this explosive development phase of the cyclone that crippled the Washington, DC, to Baltimore area;

3) the focused research efforts which followed, and became the basis for several contentious Cyclone Workshops and many peer-reviewed articles; and

4) the moment of reckoning for the operational modeling community to begin addressing the important synoptic to mesoscale processes required to accurately predict the explosive development phase of these storm systems.

The Presidents’ Day Storm was also the basis for a rather competitive research battle within the meteorological community which pitted those who favored upper-level vs lower- level processes and dynamic vs thermodynamic processes, as we attempted to sort through the many science and operational issues related to storm development and predictive skill of the models.

The Presidents’ Day Storm will be reviewed in this presentation, the issues discussed, and how research efforts ultimately lead to a better understanding of rapid cyclogenesis and improved forecast models. The presentation will focus on how the churn of research advances led to a growing awareness that the atmosphere does not work through an “either-or” mentality that framed many of the pointed discussions between Lance and me at the front of this journey. Rather the Presidents’ Day Storm would show that we could both be right and that all of the processes we brought to the table need to be accounted for in upgrading numerical prediction systems. But most importantly for me, this experience led to a career-long friendship with Lance and a deep appreciation for everything he has brought to teaching, research and operational meteorology.

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