NORMAN — Steven Koch, who earned his doctorate from the University of Oklahoma in 1979, will return to Norman this spring as director of the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory.
The lab, located in the heart of tornado alley, is most involved with tornado research. Koch replaces Jeff Kimpel, who retired last year. Koch comes to Norman from his position as director of the Global Systems Division at NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo.
“Steve has the skills and the demonstrated ability to lead a research and development laboratory,” said Craig McLean, NOAA acting assistant administrator for research. “In this new position, he’ll build on a great foundation left by his predecessor to keep the laboratory in the forefront of severe storm research by working collaboratively with university and NOAA partners.”
Koch will lead a lab with 48 federal and 81 joint institute, post-doctoral and graduate student staff located in Norman. The lab focuses on research in weather radar, severe storm forecasts and warnings, and hydrometeorology.
The lab is co-located with the University of Oklahoma, NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center and the Norman office of the National Weather Service. This arrangement mixes research and operations to better serve the nation in time of severe weather events, as well as to enhance understanding of violent weather. In the last two years, the lab has co-led VORTEX2, a multi-state, multi-agency field study to understand how, when and why tornados form.
Koch began his career at NOAA in 2000 as chief of the Forecast Research Division at the then-Forecast Systems Laboratory. The lab was one of six that were merged into the Earth System Research Laboratory in 2006. Koch went on to become the acting director of the Global Systems Division in 2006; the following year, he was named director.
Most of Koch’s work focused on leading the research and development of observing, prediction, computer and information systems to deliver products dealing with local to global predictions of weather and air quality events, and longer-term climate projections.