& Emily Christopher
Pictures from Family Reunion at Nags Head, N.C., June, 2003.
Peter, Nancy and the gang on March 19th, 2003:
Attached are some photos from last weekend's peace march in Washington DC.
It was a very nice crowd, many old enough to remember Vietnam, many others
younger. Lots of pleasant cheering and chanting, with all the normal
demonstration stuff too many speeches, too crummy a loudspeaker system, and
no one caring because everyone seemed happy to be there. A significant
number of immigrant families was among a much larger number of families of
We felt good for going, came home tired and glad we had gone.
Of course, the warring will happen anyway, but at least we said something.
Peter, Nancy and the gang.
Peter Hildebrand on February 7th, 2003:
We have fond memories of our surprise meeting in Carmel last fall. Here's a
photo--finally! What a pleasant surprise that Nan and I had while wandering
around Carmel last October looking for a wedding gift!
All are fine here. Vanessa is threatening to return to Indonesia next week,
she's a determined young woman, and although this frightens us somewhat, we
understand her need to complete her work. Time waits for no one.
From the October, 1999 issue of the SN
Monthly, a UCAR monthly journal:
What does it take to lure Peter Hildebrand away?
The job had to be a good one to uproot Peter Hildebrand after 21 years in
Boulder. And indeed it is. Peter moved to Greenbelt, Maryland, last month to
head up the Microwave Sensors Branch at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.
The group uses familiar technology--radars and radiometers, largely deployed
on aircraft and satellites--and applies it to global-scale problems. "It's
really an exciting opportunity to start applying what I've learned about remote
sensing to the problems of global measurements of hydrology, surface moisture,
precipitation, and ocean-surface characteristics," says Peter. "These
kinds of opportunities don't come along very often, and I just decided I'd
better do it."
The only catch is that Peter won't get to see his pride and joy, the Electra
Doppler radar (ELDORA), in action this fall at MAP. "I'm really going to
miss all the fun in MAP. I put a lot of effort into getting it going."
Peter joined NCAR as a postdoc in 1978 and became an ATD scientist in 1979.
As far back as the early 1980s, he began feasibility studies on combining NCAR's
expertises in aviation and radar to build a plane-based Doppler radar.
"Within a year or two after joining ATD, I realized that it was the
perfect place to develop airborne Doppler. I just started pushing on it, and the
details of the design developed as we worked." Peter and Chuck Frush
collaborated with NOAA to help get the radar aboard their P-3 up and running,
and "those efforts demonstrated quite convincingly that airborne Doppler
would work." Craig Walther then joined the design team, and by the early
1990s ATD was partnering with the French government to build ELDORA, which
debuted in 1993.
Although he's being forced to miss MAP, the timing of Peter's departure makes
sense in other ways. He has gotten several other high-priority projects rolling
in his 10 years as head of ATD's Remote Sensing Facility (RSF), including the S-Pol
multiparameter radar, the airborne imaging microwave radiometer (AIMR), and
NCAR's first major foray into lidar, SABL (the scanning aerosol backscatter
lidar). "When I took over leading RSF, Rit Carbone [then the director of
ATD] told me he wanted me to completely renovate RSF's capabilities and to get
some lidar capabilities going. That turned out to be a tall order, but now we've
got SABL operating, we've developed very strong collaborations with NOAA's
Environmental Technology Lab [renowned for its lidar expertise] and we've got
Volker Wulfmeyer here doing some very exciting things with Doppler lidar and
water vapor DIAL lidar."
Craig Walther will stand in for Peter as acting manager of RSF, and Wen-Chau
Lee will head up scientific applications of ELDORA. Peter plans to return to ATD
for several periods to complete some research and tie up a few loose ends. He
also hopes to develop links between his old and new institutions. He points out
that NASA has made use of ATD facilities in the past and said he expects that to
continue in future field campaigns.
"In the process of making a career decision like this, a lot of soul
searching goes on," says Peter. He adds, though, "If I'm going to
leave, this is a good time to do it. Things are working well; RSF is an
excellent group and their instruments are in good shape and in high demand. I'd
say the hardest part of the move is leaving Colorado and the mountains,
actually. That's going to be tough." •BH
And the following describes some of the research that
Peter has been involved in:
it or not, there really are scientists out there like the ones in the
movie Twister whose mission is to tempt fate and get into the
vortex of a tornado. But this kind of storm tracking isn't just for
the thrill. There's a lot to learn when you're in the eye of the
storm, like how to predict one. But sometimes getting there can be
half the battle.
Every year about one hundred million dollars is lost and fifty
people are killed by the two-hundred-mile-per-hour tunnel winds of
tornadoes. Early warning systems have helped, but killer tornadoes
still strike in seconds.
These scientists are looking for a tornado. They'll fly straight
toward its base to prove a theory that to spot a tornado you don't
have to look to the skies. "Believe it or not, we still don't
have a handle on what
creates tornadoes," says Roger Wakimoto of the Severe Storm Lab.
"One of the hypotheses to prove is whether it comes from the
ground or descends from the cloud base. There's a lot of data that
suggests the former."
This flying laboratory has been custom built to house its new
Doppler radar. Inside the plane are rows of weather data collecting
equipment manned by severe storm scientists. Only fifteen years ago,
they would have to wait for a storm to come to them using ground
radar. Now, they can fly to the storm.
The Doppler radar takes two measurements: the speed of the wind in
the tornado and the amount of rain so they can map out the complete
circulation of air in the storm.
Every morning these scientists pray for a storm. If one is
forecasted, they will fly to thirty thousand feet to get a good look.
"We don't see any thunderstorms developing yet, but we'll keep
out here a while and keep prowling around to see if we can find
one," says Peter Hildebrand.
If they do spot one, they head right for its base one thousand feet
above the ground. The plane flies not into the storm -- where winds
are up to two hundred miles per hour -- but outside it at just one
minute flying time away from the middle of the storm.
"We fly in a race track pattern flying past the storm on the
south side, where the inflow is, and we can see well enough to stay
out of the storm," says Hildebrand. "It's quite turbulent...
it's like being on a roller coaster. It's not a particularly
comfortable flight. But for those of us who like it, it's a lot of
And this is where the Doppler radar comes into play. "The
Doppler radar has a tone, a frequency, that we know very precisely.
Then, we listen to the return radar signal from the cloud,"
explains Hildebrand. "And if that tone changed, we know the cloud
is moving towards or away from us just as when you hear a car go by
you hear a higher tone when it's
coming towards you. And then when it's going further away, you hear a
lower tone. We listen exactly for the same thing."
As the plane passes the tornado, the forward and aft antennas send
out their beams. The improvement in technology lets them measure wind
speeds six times higher then they ever could record before. The data
from the radar is then fed to computers on the aircraft, but they can
tell a lot more once they're back at the base.
It's this kind of data that suggest that tornadoes form close to
the ground. "We are telling these people that based on our
research that tornadoes build up from the ground," says Wakimoto.
"Then, we need to tell the National Weather Service this because
right now, for example, they are looking, they are concentrating,
their scans up in the clouds themselves to look for storm scale
rotation. It may be that they should concentrate their scans on a
If their theory proves correct, then Doppler radar could help warn
people more quickly about tornadoes and save hundreds of lives.
If you want to learn more about the Doppler radar and other
weather predicting technology, go to http://www.ucar.edu/.
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