OU SMART-R team deploys to Hurricane Irma

OU Shared Mobile Atmospheric Research and Teaching Radar Team Deploys to Hurricane Irma 


Meteorology has been on minds nationwide as the West Coast battles wildfires, Houston recovers from Hurricane Harvey, and the East braces for Hurricane Irma. While members of the University of Oklahoma School of Meteorology never really stop thinking about weather, we’ve seen particularly focused efforts recently as the Shared Mobile Atmospheric Research and Teaching (SMART) Radar Team set out for several hectic days to coordinate data collection on Hurricane Harvey, and then turned around and headed out again for Hurricane Irma. The team, which is led by School of Meteorology professor Dr. Mike Biggerstaff, deployed with OU CIMMS’ hurricane-tested SR2 C-band dual-polarimetric SMART radar truck and NOAA National Severe Storm Laboratory’s “Mobile Mesonet”, a truck which began life as an average Dodge Ram, but has now been modified to include a collection of remote-sensing equipment, including radiosondes.  

The OU team will take part with the Digital Hurricane Consortium, working with researchers from multi-university, multi-agency and private-sector entities, and will include Dr. Biggerstaff, research scientist Gordon Carrie, OU Meteorology Ph. D. student Addison Alford, OU grad and NSSL scientist Dr. Sean Waugh, Dr. Dan Dawson of Purdue University (another OU Meteorology grad), Dr. Kevin Knupp of the University of Alabama-Huntsville, Dr. Forrest Masters from the University of Florida, and Dr. John Schroeder of Texas Tech University. Dawson is bringing the Portable Integrated Precipitation System, which is under shared OU and Purdue ownership, to measure winds, temperature, pressure and humidity. The system also includes a Parsivel 2 laser disdrometer to measure the size of the rain drops. 

We heard from Addison this afternoon: “Our primary focus in Harvey was to capture processes that cause rainband formation which can lead to inland flooding. Obviously Harvey will be remembered for its impacts in Houston, rightfully so. We captured data during the landfall near Rockport, but the results can be used to understand flooding impacts in landfalling hurricanes. In Irma, however, we plan to examine extreme winds. Obviously (at present), Irma is stronger than Harvey. We plan to examine all aspects of extreme wind events in Irma, not limited to just the Category 4/5 (whatever it is at landfall) winds over land. That can include miniature tornadic supercells in the outer rainbands and structures nearer the eyewall that are associated with strong local winds.” 

Speaking to Jana Smith of the OU Research Communications office earlier this week, Dr. Biggerstaff mentioned that because Irma is expected to be a stronger hurricane at landfall, “…which will require the team to deploy farther inland. The heavily wooded and developed east coast make finding suitable sites especially challenging.” 

OU’s Advanced Radar Research Center is the largest academic radar program in the nation. It is home to a fleet of mobile research vehicles with radar systems that can analyze severe storms of all types, from any location in the country. ARRC operates the radars in coordination with the School of Meteorology and CIMMS. Earlier this year, OU, AT&T and The Weather Channel collaborated to equip several of the ARRC’s mobile research trucks with cameras capable of streaming live video and near real-time radar data during severe weather events. Hurricane Irma radar imagery will be at [insert link] when it becomes available.   

We are incredibly proud of and grateful for the partnership between the School of Meteorology, the Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies, the College of Atmospheric and Geographic Sciences, the ARRC, NOAA, and the National Weather Center, all converging here in Norman, OK.  


This piece was informed in part by an article on the University’s central website. The original article can be read in its entirety here: http://www.ou.edu/content/web/news_events/articles/news_2017/ou-smart-radar-team-deploys-to-hurricane-irma.html