Pam Heinselman

Dr. Pamela Heinselman is a research scientist with the NOAA/National Severe Storms Laboratory and an affiliate assistant professor of the University of Oklahoma School of Meteorology. Her research interests are warning and forecast applications of weather radars, with an emphasis on phased array radar.

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Phased Array Radar


Dr. Heinselman's primary research objective is to determine how to best capitalize on phased array radar capabilities to address 21st century forecast and warning needs, including the NOAA Weather and Water strategic mission goal to increase lead time and accuracy for weather and water warnings and forecasts. She is accomplishing this objective through a combination of innovative scanning strategy design, leadership of data collection and analysis activities, active involvement with end users, and graduate student mentorship.  Working with radar data has been Dr. Heinselman’s passion, as indicated by her earlier teamwork that was recognized by a NOAA Bronze Medal in 1998 and Silver Medal in 1999 for improvements to NEXRAD algorithms.

In July 2009, Dr. Heinselman was selected for the 2008 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). The PECASE Award is the highest honor bestowed by the United States Government upon outstanding scientists and engineers in the early stages of their careers. This award recognizes her research and leadership accomplishments in using phased array radar for observing hazardous weather. Subsequently, in October 2009 her Heinselman et al. 2008 paper entitled, "Rapid Sampling of Severe Storms by the National Weather Radar Testbed Phased Array Radar" was chosen for the OAR Outstanding Paper of the Year Award. In 2010 her publication also won the Professor Dr. Vilho Vaisala Award.

Dr. Heinselman is a Ph.D. graduate of the University of Oklahoma School of Meteorology (2004) and an M.S. and B.S. graduate (1994 and 1992, respectively) of the St. Louis University Depart. of Earth and Atmospheric Science. She is orginally from Westminster, Maryland.


Evolution of a Quasi-Linear Convective System Sampled by Phased Array Radar
Recently accepted for publication in MWR (click here; 4.5MB, pdf)

PAR data shows possible link between downdrafts and intensification of mesovortices in QLSC

As people were awakening on April 2, 2010, the Phased Array Radar sampled a fast moving, rapidly evolving QLCS that produced wind damage in central Oklahoma. Some of this damage was associated with a mesovortex embedded within the QLCS. An analysis of the 10 min of storm evolution preceding the intenfication of the mesovortex and onset of wind damage suggests that an intensifying rear-inflow jet and subsequent downdraft contributed to the mesovortex intensification.

NSSL/RRDD Rm 4905, 120 David L. Boren Boulevard, Norman, OK 73072

2012 Phased Array Radar Innovative Sensing Experiment (PARISE)

Phased Array Radar

Simulated NWS Tornado Warning Decisions Using Rapid-scan Radar Data

12 NWS forecasters are participating in the 2012 PARISE, which runs for six weeks during June – August 2012.  Two forecasters participate each week. The experiment's goal is to test whether rapid, adaptive sampling with the phased array radar at the National Weather Radar Testbed increases NWS forecasters’ ability to effectively cope with tough tornado warning cases. During the experiment each forecaster works four cases ranging from 18 – 52 min in length. Their activity is videotaped. For each case, the forecasters’ goal is to decide whether a tornado warning is warranted.  Before each case the forecasters receive a pre-recorded weather briefing that provides situational awareness of the environment. The forecasters then work the case in displaced real time using AWIPS II. RecordMyDesktop software records forecaster interaction with the radar data. After each case the forecasters reviews the video and works with researchers to build a timeline of their actions, what they saw and interpreted in the data, and their decision process. They also complete confidence and mental workload rankings. Finally, forecasters draw pictures and describe the conceptual model they developed during each case. Findings from the experiment will be presented at the upcoming Severe Local Storms Conference in November.   

Since 2007, NSSL has invited NWS forecasters to participate in experiments designed to demonstrate and provide user feedback on PAR weather surveillance capabilities.  The evaluations of PAR data given by previous participants have positively impacted PAR research and development.


A presentation showing comparisons of storm evolution depicted by the NWRT PAR and the WSR-88D is available here (39.6 MB; ppt). Click here and here to download accompanying movies.