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Image of Chris Broyles, Mesoscale/Outlook Forecaster

Chris Broyles
Mesoscale/Outlook Forecaster
Operations Branch
Storm Prediction Center


By Keli Pirtle (NOAA Communications) and Ariel Cohen (SPC)


Q: How did you get into weather?

My dad was an ultralight pilot back in the early 1980s when I was a kid. He used NOAA Weather Radio to get weather information to adjust his flight plans. One day, he gave me his radio to keep. Not long afterwards. I experienced two inspiring weather events. The first was a tornado outbreak when a tornado moved through our southeast Texas community close to our home. Three people were killed in southeast Texas, each from a separate tornado. The two-day event spawned 43 tornadoes, killed six, and injured 90. After the tornado, we were out of power for a couple days. Then, three months later, the eye of Hurricane Alicia passed over my house. During the storm, I was the weatherman for our family. Near the height of the storm, a tornado moved down a neighboring street. I peered out the window and watched our trees violently shake. As the tornado warning came out, my family took shelter in the interior hallway of our home. It was there that I read the book, "Hurricanes and Twisters," by Robert Irving. After that, I wanted to be a meteorologist. As a 12-year-old boy, I put up my weather station. I would get up at 5:30 a.m. to take weather observations and watch "AM Weather" on a black and white TV. I was hooked.

Q: Describe the path leading up to your job at the SPC.  How did it develop your interest in severe storms forecasting?

After graduating from college, I was assigned to my first National Weather Service office in Jackson, Kentucky. About two years later, I was promoted to forecaster and went to Aberdeen, South Dakota, and about two years after that I became a forecaster at Amarillo, Texas. In January 2003, I moved to Norman to work at the Storm Prediction Center as a Mesoscale/Outlook forecaster. I have always been interested in forecasting severe storms since my college days. Wherever I have moved for my career, I have chased storms during my off-work time. I also have enjoyed providing talks at area schools. I like to show kids a supercell model I made that is six feet long, four feet high, and produces a tornado using rotating air and dry ice steam. At each NWS office, I work on projects that fuel my passion for severe storms. By the time I worked at Amarillo, I informally practiced creating severe weather outlooks. That prepared me for working at the SPC.

Q: What educational background helped you get to your career today?

I earned degrees in Meteorology and Journalism from the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley. The meteorology program at UNC was run by Dr. Glen Cobb who was one of the best teachers I have ever had. Glen really cared about his students and you could relate to him on a personal level. I considered him a good friend. He set a great example for me and helped inspire my love for weather. Glen's program focused on the forecasting aspect of meteorology. He was very good at teaching his students how to apply what we learned to real world situations, and his program did a good job preparing me for the NWS.

Q: What is it about your job that interests you?

The convective outlook is my favorite product to issue. I enjoy forecasting outbreaks more than any other event type. I have focused my research on understanding tornado outbreak patterns. Recognizing the potential for a tornado outbreak is the key to getting a "High Risk" correct. The "High Risk" days are the most exciting to forecast because everything is on the line. To me, issuing a "High Risk" is the most packed and intense decision you can make at the SPC. I enjoy that challenge.

Q: What do you consider to be the greatest accomplishment of your career?

My greatest accomplishment is getting to work at the SPC. I work with people who have outstanding professionalism and are fun to work with. The chemistry among our staff is top notch. People here are smart and communicate very well. My co-workers are self- motivated and rarely miss opportunities to excel. It is a great privilege to work with people of this caliber.

Q: Tell us something most people don’t know about you.

I'm a four-wheel-drive enthusiast. I've taken three excursions this past year. Two were to the Little Sahara Sand Dunes in northwest Oklahoma and one was to the Big Red Off Road Park about 25 miles east of Norman. I’m planning on going to Moab, Utah in August. I love the challenge of driving through difficult terrain. When going over boulders, I love to be bounced around in my seat while every bolt is tested on the Jeep.

Q: What advice would you provide to the up-and-coming meteorologists?

The first thing would be to find your interests and focus on developing your strengths. If your interest is severe weather, practice making your own forecasts and compare those to the SPC. Forecast where you think the greatest tornado threat will be on a given day and then evaluate your forecasts. Also, observing storms in the field can help your understanding of the severe weather process. The second thing would be to network with people. Make friends within the weather community and develop relationships with people in your specific area of interest. Finally, learn to write computer programs and research papers. Programming enables you to make applications that make life easier and more interesting for others. Writing papers helps transfer knowledge to those who are learning.

Q: What are the most memorable experiences of your career?

Issuing the initial Day 2 "High Risk" for April 14, 2012. The intensity associated with forecast was off the charts. After issuing the "High Risk," I got a total of five hours of sleep during the two nights preceding the event. Then, my wife and I chased into northwest Oklahoma on April 14 where we saw eight tornadoes and a couple of high- contrast tornadoes at close range. Seeing the "High Risk" actually verify was the most exciting day of my career and being out in the field to see some of the tornadoes made it even more special.

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