CIMMS researcher follows her passion for science

Katie Vigil, researcher with the Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies since 2014 at the National Weather Service Training Center in Kansas City, Missouri
* Note: This is part of a series of profiles about OU CIMMS employees working at the National Weather Service Training Center in Kansas City, Missouri.

Katie Vigil always asks questions and she’s loved science since she was a kid, but it wasn’t until high school when she knew she wanted to be a researcher.

She got to do a project with Dr. Al Bedard of NOAA on the dangers of sheltering from tornadoes under an overpass. After that she was hooked.

Originally from Colorado, Vigil traveled to Missouri to receive her Master of Science and doctoral degree in Atmospheric Science from the University of Missouri. She’s been a researcher with the Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies since 2014 at the National Weather Service Training Center in Kansas City, Missouri.

Vigil works in the NWS Operations Proving Ground where the team of five plans technical evaluations on new products released into NWS operations.

“Sometime in the past, new technology went into the field – into operations – without being fully tested for the Weather Forecast Office environment. This caused issues” Vigil said. “We’re here to make sure everything is forecaster approved and will run properly.”

From Digital Aviation Services to Near Storm Environmental Awareness applications, Vigil said she does a little of everything.

“We’re here for the forecasters,” she said. “We’re trying to keep products from crashing and to make sure their voice is heard. You don’t want to waste resources on products they won’t use.”

Recently, Vigil had forecasters with color vision deficiencies evaluate Red-Green-Blue satellite imagery products. Vigil will submit a report of her findings to NWS leadership. She will also present this research at the American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting in Austin, Texas, in January.

“Color vision deficiencies don’t keep them from doing their job,” Vigil said of the forecasters. “They’ve learned to adjust color tables in the NWS software to improve contrast and visibility of certain colors. What we are trying to do is identify which Red-Green-Blue composites pose the biggest problems, and to determine whether there are technological or procedural aids that might help to mitigate their difficulty in using these products.”

She said each day she is amazed by the forecasters she meets.

“They are dedicated to their job,” she said. “They love what they do and they put their whole heart into it. Forecasters want to make things better. Forecasters work 24/7, 365 days a year all because they want to protect life and property.”

Vigil said she will continue to support and help forecasters through bettering technologies and bringing new and improved tools to the field.