OCTOBER 15, 2003

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OU to be partner in $40 million engineering research center

Ground-breaking sensing technology that will improve forecasts and warnings of such weather hazards as tornadoes and flash floods will be the focus of a new $40 million research center in which the University of Oklahoma is a primary partner, the National Science Foundation announced Oct. 1.

Funded in part with a five-year, $17 million grant from the National Science Foundation, the Engineering Research Center for Collaborative Adaptive Sensing of the Atmosphere - one of only four new ERCs - is expected to increase the warning time for tornadoes, flash floods and other severe weather disturbances, and provide more accurate forecasts than ever before. The center will be based at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

The NSF grant was awarded through its Engineering Research Center program, which fosters collaboration among researchers from many disciplines and provides an educational and research environment that prepares a new generation of engineering leaders. Along with its companion Science and Technology Center program, the ERC grant is among the most prestigious offered by the NSF. In 1989, one of the first 11 NSF Science and Technology Center grants established OU's Center for the Analysis and Prediction of Storms, which today is a world-renowned center that develops techniques for the computer-based prediction of high-impact local weather. OU is the only institution in the country at which a Science and Technology Center has helped lay the foundation for an Engineering Research Center.

OU researchers will be led by Kelvin Droegemeier, professor of meteorology and director of CAPS, who will serve as CASA's deputy director, and by Fred Carr, professor of meteorology and director of the OU School of Meteorology, who will serve as CASA's associate director for Oklahoma activities. OU will head CASA's meteorology efforts, while the University of Massachusetts will lead the radar engineering aspects. OU units that are members of the interdisciplinary team are: CAPS; schools of Meteorology, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Civil Engineering and Environmental Science; Department of Mathematics, a unit of the College of Arts and Sciences; and Oklahoma Climatological Survey.

Current forecasting and warning technology uses data from high-power, long-range radars that cannot observe the lower part of the atmosphere because of Earth's curvature, which hampers, for example, direct observation of most tornadoes. CASA will develop low-cost, dense networks of radars that operate at short range, communicate with one another and adjust their sensing strategies in direct response to the evolving weather and changing user needs. A new generation of meteorological software will use this radar data to support emergency managers and government and private industry organizations that need weather data for making critical decisions.

OU will run the first test bed of up to 16 CASA radars that will be located on OneNet towers and other facilities in central and western Oklahoma - a region that experiences approximately 22 tornadoes per year - with the first four radars scheduled to be in place by spring 2005.

For more information, contact Jerri Culpepper at 1-405-325-1701.