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Regional Isaac M. Cline awards being announced

It's that time of the year again!

For those of you who are unaware of the Isaac M. Cline awards, they are issued by the National Weather Service to honor achievements in forecasting and research. The award is named after Isaac M. Cline, a legendary member of the old Weather Bureau who pioneered numerous forecasting techniques. Cline was one of the first meteorologist to heavily rely on science to further forecasting and meteorology. This reliance on science meant that Cline had little faith in gut instinct, a force that all forecasters know can powerfully convincing. This blind faith in science unfortunately meant that Cline's greatest notoriety came when he was chief of the Galveston hurricane of 1900. Prior to the hurricane Cline published an article in the local Galveston News claiming "It would be impossible for any cyclone to create a storm wave which could materially injure the city." As we all know, that prediction proved to be tragically false.

Cline claims to have foreseen the hurricane's arrival and ridden on horseback down the beach of Galveston warning people of the coming storm, however, no witnesses ever verified his claims. Cline's exact role in the storms has become a hotly debated point since his death. Cline did post a hurricane warning without permission from the national office, a defiant step in those days, but by that point the city was already under water. There is little doubt that Isaac's brother, Joseph Cline, had felt that something was wrong days in advance but Isaac was dismissive of the idea. It is impossible to know whether Isaac's dismissal of Joseph's ideas stemmed from a sibling rivalry, his blind faith in 'science,' or some other cause. However, it is known that the public trusted Isaac and flocked to his new 'storm proof' house as the waters started to rise. The Cline residence was completely destroyed during the hurricane when a railroad trestle was washed into the building. Day's after that hurricane Isaac's pregnant wife Cora would be found underneath rubble very near to the original site of their home and joined the more than 6,000 dead. During the storm Isaac somehow managed to swim and save one of his children and later found his brother Joseph who was able to save Isaac's other two children. Unfortunately the hurricane would be the final wedge that forever alienated the Cline brothers. The next year in the wake of the storm, the Galveston bureau office was moved to New Orleans. Cline moved to New Orleans with the office and there he lived the rest of his life until his death in 1955.

For more information of the Galveston hurricane and Isaac Cline, I recommend reading Isaac's Storm by Erik Larson. Alternatively, there is a nice biographical page available online. So far this year I have found press released on two of the regional recipients of the Isaac M. Cline award. The regional recipients then become eligible for the national award which will be announced in late spring.

In Des Moines, IA from the AP:

Des Moines, Ia. — A Des Moines weather forecaster has received a National Weather Service award for developing an early warning system for severe hail.

Rodney Donavon was awarded the regional Isaac M. Cline Award for developing and testing a comprehensive warning technique for identifying severe-sized hail, National Weather Service officials said.

He evaluated radar data in arriving at the technique, which lets meteorologists recognize severe hail storms early on and issue warnings at an earlier stage than previously possible.

His research has “revolutionized the severe weather warning process at the Des Moines weather forecast office when hail is a concern,” said Brenda Brock, head meteorologist at the Des Moines forecast office.

Donavon is now in the running for a national Cline Award that recognizes achievements in areas such as meteorology, support services, engineering and hydrology, weather service officials said.

In Aberdeen, ND from the American News:

By Angela Mettler
American News Writer

Every day at 5 a.m. and 5 p.m., Aberdeen meteorologists release hydrogen-filled weather balloons into the atmosphere.

It's that kind of dedication that won the Aberdeen office of the National Weather Service the regional Isaac M. Cline Award for the excellence of its upper air observation program.

A balloon is tied to an instrument that measures temperature, humidity, air pressure and wind speed and direction. The balloon is tracked by Global Positioning systems and transmits data every second for two to three hours, said meteorologist Scott Doering.

The hydrogen inside the balloon expands as the balloon rises because air pressure decreases with height. Once the balloon reaches about 18 miles into the atmosphere, it bursts.

Factors such as severe thunderstorms and ice storms can prevent the balloon from being launched, said meteorologist Tim Kearns.

There are 91 NWS offices nationwide with upper air observation programs. There are 19 in the central region, which includes Rapid City, Minneapolis, Bismarck, N.D., and Omaha, Neb.

While the Aberdeen office has received the regional award before, this is the first time the award has been given for the upper air observation program.

The Aberdeen office received the regional award for producing the most consistent, error-free and timely data from Aug. 1, 2005, to July 31, 2006. Aberdeen will now advance to the national Isaac M. Cline Award competition.

Bob Bonack, upper air program manager for the National Weather Service's central region, nominated the Aberdeen staff for the award, according to a news release.

The award is named for the man in charge of the U.S. Weather Bureau office in Galveston, Texas, when the city was struck by a deadly hurricane in 1900.

"The death toll exceeded 8,000, but could have been much higher if not for Cline's acute understanding of the weather and his early hurricane warnings, in an era when meteorology was in its infancy and ship-to-shore communications were nonexistent," said the release.

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