Working improve forecast models: Q&A with Temple Lee

The Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies at the University of Oklahoma is highlighting those CIMMS researchers outside the National Weather Center in Norman, Oklahoma.

Temple Lee, CIMMS research scientist supporting NOAA’s Air Resources Laboratory’s Atmospheric Turbulence and Diffusion Division.

Temple Lee is a CIMMS research scientist based in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where his work supports NOAA’s Air Resources Laboratory’s Atmospheric Turbulence and Diffusion Division. Lee completed his doctorate from the University of Virginia in 2015.

For his research, Lee uses observations from surface towers, small unmanned aircraft systems – also known as drones – and weather balloons, as well as sophisticated high-resolution models of the atmosphere. The goal is to improve scientific understanding of processes occurring within Earth’s atmospheric boundary layer — roughly the first mile of Earth’s atmosphere. Knowledge gained from his work can improve weather forecast models, ultimately resulting in better weather forecasts.

Q: How did you get into your field?
A: I have had a passion for weather since the age of three when I would watch the local news out of Washington, D.C., for hours just so I could see the weather guy come on television. I also fondly recall getting excited about big northeast snowstorms (the 1993 Superstorm and Blizzard of 1996 particularly stick out, when we received nearly three feet of snow at my parents’ house in northwestern Virginia), and awaiting advisories from the National Hurricane Center so that I could plot the latest hurricane coordinates onto my hurricane tracking chart. Those things, coupled with receiving a Davis Weather Monitor II weather station when I was ten (best Christmas gift ever!), cemented my trajectory into the field.

Q: What is it about the job that interests you?
A: I really enjoy the intellectual freedom my job provides, as my job allows me to pursue different areas of research in the atmospheric sciences that excite me. I also like that I am able to work on a variety of tasks and no day is the same — some days I’ll be writing computer code or reviewing a paper, whereas on other days I’m out in the field launching weather balloons.

Q: Tell us something that might surprise us about you.
A: I did wilderness search and rescue for eight years and was a volunteer emergency medical technician for three years. This work made me briefly consider becoming a physician, but my interest in the weather won out.

Q: What one day sticks out to you during your career? Do you remember one day in particular detail?
A: Having done lots of field work, both during graduate school and now as a research scientist, I can think of several days that stick out, both for good reasons and bad reasons! However, the day I received my PhD still sticks out the most — seeing years of hard work finally pay off was very gratifying.

Q: Where is your favorite place to be?
A: The Outer Banks of North Carolina — my family had a cottage there while I was growing up, so I have many fond memories of playing in the ocean and catching blue crabs off our dock. Although I don’t do much research work on hurricanes nowadays, having a beach house at a place notorious for its hurricanes further heightened my interest in the weather.