Fraud Allegations for the Center for Severe Weather Research (the DOWs)

As Josh noted, it sounds more like sloppy accounting rather than a crime. DOW research is important so I hope it does not effect their ability to work. There have been far more egregious acts by chasers.
Oh absolutely. Most of these places that get randomly audited usually don't keep track of everything so they just have to pay back what they didn't keep track of. I bet that's what happened.
 
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rdale

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As Josh noted, it sounds more like sloppy accounting rather than a crime. DOW research is important so I hope it does not effect their ability to work. There have been far more egregious acts by chasers.
The DOWs were sold to UIUC, presumably to cover the funds that needed to be paid back to NSF/DOJ.


Suggesting that chasers do things more egregious than one that required a DOJ investigation seems to be a pretty crappy view of chasers. Any examples?
 
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The DOWs were sold to UIUC, presumably to cover the funds that needed to be paid back to NSF/DOJ.

From the UIUC piece linked to by Rob above:
  • “How much did the new facility cost? How did the department raise funding for the facility?”
“The department doesn’t actually own the multi-million dollar facility, but instead has acquired it through a long-term contract. The contract is currently financed through internal departmental funds, but soon will be supported through external research grants through the National Science Foundation, other government agencies, and hopefully private industry usage and sponsorship.”​

Admittedly I have no idea how these types of things work in academia, but it sounds like the DOWs were not actually “sold.” The language used by UIUC is confusing, because “acquired” typically means purchased in a business/finance context, but perhaps here is just intended to mean *physically* acquired. I’m wondering if the DOWs were confiscated by a government agency as collateral and/or as direct repayment of the debt, and now UIUC is paying to use them? I would tend to think UIUC is leasing them, but then again why wouldn’t they just come out and say that? It can’t be that they are just financing the purchase, because when you finance something you own it, just like your car or your house. The statement clearly says they do not own the DOWs.

Interesting that Karen Kosiba remains involved with the DOWs as an adjunct professor of UIUC. Wasn’t she basically Josh Wurman’s #2? Josh is not mentioned as having any involvement.

Kind of funny to get caught up in this story as relative outsiders… While the general public couldn’t care less, here I am as a “fan” and observer of the “severe weather enterprise,” finding myself fascinated by the intrigue, no different than with scandals in sports, business or politics... 😏
 
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Randy Jennings

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The CWSR webpage now says "This website contains information that was current as of October 2020. The DOW Radar and Surface Instrumentation Facility has partnered with the University of Illinois and is excited to continue providing the best possible education and research opportunities! A new website currently is under development at: FARM: Home" The staff page has also been blanked out on the CWSR website. When you go to the new website, it looks very similar to the old one (and it's staff page just has a coming soon).

It is important to note that sloppy accounting on federal grant funds is a crime - and a serious one at that. While it is common for a company to self report and repay funds when errors are found in accounting, it is a serious matter when you see a DOJ investigation like this. The US Attorney for Colorado accused Wurman and Chan of improperly obtaining payments to which they were not entitled. Hopefully with UIUC taking over the DOWs the funding and research will continue.
 
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DOW research is important
I beg to differ. We've been chasing tornadoes with DOWs for a quarter century. I can't tell that they have made a contribution to better tornado warnings or tornado forecasts.

And, to dial up the blasphemy, I can't tell that VORTEX (with its multiple DOWs, mobile instrumentation, etc., etc.) have made a difference, either in the Great Plains or Southeast.
 

Dave C

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I beg to differ. We've been chasing tornadoes with DOWs for a quarter century. I can't tell that they have made a contribution to better tornado warnings or tornado forecasts.

And, to dial up the blasphemy, I can't tell that VORTEX (with its multiple DOWs, mobile instrumentation, etc., etc.) have made a difference, either in the Great Plains or Southeast.
The road to understanding is sometimes long and winding, and science is not always just a means to a specific end. Applications follow discovery of fundamentals.

The corroboration of low level wind data with damage surveys alone is worthwhile from the DOW. Some of the white papers associated with DOW and mesonet studies are quite interesting and revealing. Also, these instruments have looked at hurricanes, fires, snowstorms, and other topics all over the world. The DOW fleet and mesonets support broader science, not just a one track simple goal. It is easy to be dismissive if you focus on one thing like a laser, but there is value there I think you are overlooking. Capable instrumentation is useful in any well designed experiments, and properly applied, the DOW fleet can see things that add to the total knowledge of weather and other atmospheric phenomenon.

I've been critical of CSWR and some of its personalities and choices in the past myself, but as for the news story, I don't know the facts beyond what is reported. It is a shame correct accounting was not followed. Since no charges were filed and the monies paid back, I assume the issue was largely accounting based and the media headline of fraud is a bit alarmist. An organization has to screw up bad to get DOJ audit, but that still doesn't prove criminal intent, more like negligence.
 
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I have not been overly impressed with some of the personalities and practices I have observed in connection with CSWR
I wish to be clear: my comments apply to the entire field of DOWs, not just to CSWR.

If we lived in an era of unlimited resources, I would agree with you. Unfortunately we don't. What is worse is the DOW data, the special soundings and surface obs from VORTEX, etc., etc., do not get into the real time models' initializations (where they could be used for data starvation experiments) nor, in many cases, to NWS and other public and private sector forecasters.

My opinion is that every VORTEX experiment and every DOW observation should be used to wring out every morsel of value we can get from them until any new DOWs or field experiments are proposed, let alone approved. If we have (and I'm making this number up) observed 150 tornadoes from DOWs, I don't see what value #151 and #152 will bring -- especially since much of this field data has been sitting on a shelf.

And, yes, this applies to hurricanes, winter storms, etc.

The people whose very hard-earned (especially in the era of COVID) tax dollars go to fund this deserve value for their money, not esoteric science data that never gets used.
 
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Just to clarify - Mike's comments do not reflect the opinions of actual warning meteorologists.
I am an actual warning meteorologist, Rob. While I'm retired, visit Wichita and I'll show you the state-of-the art warning center I created.
 

rdale

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Here are just a brief snip of papers showing the value...




 
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Rob,

Evidently, you didn't go far enough up in the thread to see my objection to continuing to fund DOWs and Vortex-type field experiments. I wrote:

I beg to differ. We've been chasing tornadoes with DOWs for a quarter century. I can't tell that they have made a contribution to better tornado warnings or tornado forecasts.

While what you posted was interesting, it had nothing to do with forecasting or warning of storms.
 
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I am not a meteorologist (although I wish I were!) so perhaps I shouldn’t comment, but I think it is pretty clear that severe weather and tornado forecasts and warnings have improved over the past 25 years. Whether or not it is possible to draw a direct correlation to specific data or findings attributable to the DOW, how could they not have had at least some contribution to the overall body of knowledge that has made the improvements possible?
 
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First, it was....
We know that DOW and VORTEX work has dramatically improved tornado forecasting.
Then, to improve tornado forecasting...
I think going back to the basics of tornado forecasting and warning might be helpful to you. Don’t dig in too far to the DOW data.
This isn't even consistent, let alone scientifically accurate.

You, StormTrack readers, and everyone can see my forecasts on my blog and on Twitter. I'll let my record speak for itself.
 
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rdale

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You self-admitted that you miss a lot of EF2s and EF3s. That should not be happening - and missing those has little to do with understanding DOW research.

Anyways - you've made your attack on researchers, NWS, and just about anyone else you feel you needed to attack. I think it's time to return to the thread.
 
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rdale

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Oh - thanks for clarifying. I can't answer for the royal you or explain why others are missing some of those tornadoes.

I can suggest that people interested in the actual research use some of the links I shared, showing how tornado forecasting and warnings are getting better as we understand the physical process better - thanks in part to these field experiments.

I'd encourage all AMS members to sign up for the free online SLS conference next week - here are some that would apply that relate to this topic;

Environmental Controls on Close Proximity Supercells Observed by TORUS on 8 June 2019

Observations of Rear Flank Internal Surges from the 2019 Targeted Observations by Radar and UAS of Supercells (TORUS) Project

Using Remote and In Situ Observations from TORUS to Investigate a Preexisting Air Mass Boundary and its Influence on a Tornadic Supercell on 28 May 2019
 
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I can't answer for the royal you or explain why others are missing some of those tornadoes.
[/QUOTE]

I can't explain it, either, Rob -- but it keeps occurring.

Here's an unfortunate example from this morning. There are two rotation tracks, the one to which I am referring has an arrow. I tweeted about the storm (also attached) because I was surprised there was no tornado warning and I thought people needed to be informed. The red polygon to the immediate south in that tweet's radar image was for a tornado farther south (longer rotation track to the east).

According to a news report from a BPT TV station, there are power failures just northeast of Beaumont and "children are being held in school and learning (yea, right with no power)." There was a lowered CC at least for a time. I don't have any more news on the damage at this point.

My point is that, [royal] we are missing tornadoes that seem relatively straightforward, all the way up to EF-3 intensity. Here is one of several from this past summer: Bensalem Tornado: Another Dangerous National Weather Service Warning Miss

My motivation for criticizing the DOW and VORTEX field experiments is that they do not seem to be getting us anywhere while tornado warnings are getting less accurate. The funds that are going to these projects would probably be better directed elsewhere: https://www.washingtonpost.com/weather/2021/05/21/joplin-tornado-warning-improvement-nws/ As you will read, the decrease in tornado warning accuracy is per the NWS's own statistics.

A.png
22338[/ATTACH]
 

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rdale

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Just to be clear - field projects are why we're here in the first place. Suggesting we stop studying tornadoes because we "know it all" would be ludicrous. Could you imagine someone actually saying "We have all the info on tornadoes and have nothing new to be learned about it"? That's not based in science. That is a statement when someone's ego exceeds his knowledge.
 
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As I said above, if we have studied (wild guess) 150 tornadoes with DOWs, what are we going to learn from #151 or 152? What have we had, six VORTEX projects, including the two recents in the Southeast?

While it is a cliche´, it is true: Einstein's definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Tornado warnings are getting less accurate. That isn't going to get fixed by endlessly chasing tornadoes with DOWs.

Some thoughts: Perhaps spending that money to build sophisticated training simulators (like the ones in aviation) would be useful. A NSSL scientist, prior to Dr. Jeff Kimpel passing away, found there were a number of interesting signatures in the WSR-88D Level I data that might provide clues to tornado development. Perhaps spending money on gap-filler radars.

All of the above might result in better services to the public. Continuing to chase tornadoes with DOWs doesn't seem very fruitful at this point.
 
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rdale

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Assuming that once we’ve studied 150 that we’ve studied them all is not the claim an expert would make.

Tornado warnings can be more accurate today than they were 20 years ago, largely in part to field experIntents.

Since you are not now - nor ever were - connected to field research, I’d say it’s a good call not to proclaim yourself a research expert :)
 
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