Saturday, May 30, 2020

Les Lemon: Rest in Peace

Based on a Facebook posting from a mutual friend, Meteorologist Les Lemon has passed away. He had been unwell for several years.

On May 20, I wrote the piece below on the anniversary of the Ruskin Heights Tornado (RHT).
It went on to state:
Les documented the "Lemon Method" for diagnosing the supercell thunderstorms most likely to create the worst tornadoes and large hail. He, along with Don Burgess, was at the other end of the phone when I was discovering and reporting on one of the first known (June '73) "low precipitation supercells" and Les and Don incorporated that knowledge into their future research. More on his research career, here.

But, Les's biggest achievement was getting the "NEXRAD Doppler Radar Network" off the ground. America's, then-poor radar network was literally falling apart. While the contract for new, Doppler (wind measuring) radars had been let, the procurement process was falling apart just like the radars. It was Les that outsmarted the bureaucrats that were trying to torpedo the new radars (the story is here, p 187) and got them installed. For that, every American owes him a debt of gratitude. 

Doppler radar is like an X-Ray. Meteorologists could finally see inside of a thunderstorm and measure the speed of the winds and, perhaps, the presence of a tornado.
One of his last papers (above), and it was excellent, was on the unique Greensburg (Kansas) Tornado of 2007. The radar he had a key role in developing, told the story: this was going to be an extraordinary violent tornado. And, meteorologists were able to warn according to the saving of 200+ lives.
The Greensburg Tornado produced a "hook echo" that told
us a tornado was likely. But, NOT weather it was weak or strong.
From WeatherData, Inc.'s SmartRAD®
The wind data, internal to the storm, told us that this was going
to be a MAJOR tornado. That allowed better quality-warnings and
200+ lives saved. 
Kathleen and I wish his family and friends all of the best at this difficult time. 

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