h u c k D o s w e l l
I'm Chuck Doswell, and I get paid to play! Really!!! I grew up in the Chicago suburbs and always dreamed of getting to see a tornado. I've been a "weather weenie" almost my whole life, although I don't really know why. Seeing and learning about tornadoes and severe storms has been a lifelong passion with me and I guessed that being a meteorologist would be a way to spend a lifetime being involved with something that really excited me. Since it was pretty obvious that you had to go to college to be a scientist, I set out along the road to becoming a meteorologist, starting with the University of Wisconsin. I didn't know very much about what meteorologists actually did, but I thought I wanted to be one, anyway.
Along the way, I had a lot of great experiences, including working in real weather offices during the summer and working with a lot of famous meteorologists. School actually became fun for me the farther along I got, because I got to focus more and more on Meteorology. Learning about this stuff was great. Then, one day, I had had so much fun, I wound up with a Doctorate from the University of Oklahoma!
I got my first real "job" working for the National Severe Storms Forecast Center, in Kansas City, Missouri, which was then the place where severe thunderstorm and tornado watches were issued. (It's now moved to the Storm Prediction Center, right here in Norman, Oklahoma). (Ed. note: The SPC will be the site of a live TV uplink during the second LIVE FROM THE STORM program airing April 11, 2000.) One day, after some training, I found myself actually issuing my first real tornado watch! This was so cool, I couldn't believe that they actually paid me to do it! I love to analyze weather maps and try to imagine what might happen.
After a few years of forecasting and some part-time research, I decided that I wanted to do full-time research into storms, and moved to Boulder, Colorado. This was a nice place (being near the Rocky Mountains) and while I was there, I became interested in flash flood forecasting. Then, when my boss moved to Norman, Oklahoma, I followed him and joined the National Severe Storms Laboratory, where I've been ever since. I get to study severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, flash floods, and other challenging topics, plus I work with students at the University of Oklahoma who are moving along the same road I traveled.
My work takes me all over the world, since weather is something that happens to people everywhere. I have friends around the globe and I like to exchange e-mails with them. A lot of my work involves the computer, using it to analyze data in trying to understand the atmosphere and to learn how to forecast it better than we now do. Sometimes I still get to forecast, whenever we go to the field to collect data on storms, as we did during Project VORTEX in 1994 and 1995.
I forgot to mention storm chasing! When I was a student, a bunch of my friends and I got to be in on the very beginning of scientific storm chasing in 1972, and I've been doing it ever since. Remember how I always dreamed of seeing a tornado? I saw my first one on April 30, 1972 and have seen quite a few more since then. Storm chasing is not a real profession, but it is one of my major hobbies. I also enjoy photography, and I use cameras to record what I see going on in the atmosphere, among other things. Some of my storm photographs and videos have been used in National Weather Service storm spotter training programs, helping people to recognize when dangerous storms are approaching. This saves many lives each year.
My research also contributes to this, as we learn more about storms and pass that knowledge on to forecasters and emergency planners around the world. My wife, Vickie, has become my storm chasing partner now that my two children have moved out of the house; we go out after storms for three weeks every spring. Vickie is a nurse who works in the Norman Regional Hospital's Emergency Room, but she's become very good at storm chasing and enjoys it almost as much as I do. My son, Chad, is doing graduate studies at Indiana University to be a symphony trombonist, and my daughter, Heather, is working for a software company here in Norman. My whole family has been involved in Scouting and we all like hiking and camping. I've done three 10-day, 60 mile backpacking treks at Philmont Boy Scout Ranch, in New Mexico, one with my son and another with my daughter.
I sometimes think back on my dreams as a kid, and realize that actually doing it has turned out even better than I ever dreamed it would be! I've gotten to know some great people all over the world, and I get to study storms with them, plus I get to visit a lot of terrific places, like the island of Mallorca in the western Mediterranean. I'm not getting rich, but I never really wanted to be rich in terms of money. Rather, I feel that I never really "work"--only play, and I have always made a pretty decent living being a scientist. The worst part of my job is the time I have to spend on official paperwork--fortunately, that's not something that happens all that much. It's nice to think that there are real human benefits to doing something that I enjoy.
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