The career of severe storm forecaster and teacher Colonel Robert Miller (1920–98) is historically reviewed and evaluated. His pathway to the position of recognized authority in severe storm forecasting is examined in light of his early education at Occidental College, his experiences as a weather officer in the Pacific Theatre during World War II (WWII), and his part in the bold and successful tornado forecast at Tinker Air Force Base in 1948.
We pay particular attention to Miller's development of a three-dimensional view of the severe storm environment in the precomputer age of the late 1940s—a viewpoint that remains central to current operational practice. This conceptual view led Miller and commander Ernest Fawbush to establish empirical criteria/rules that became the foundation of operational prediction at the military's Severe Weather Warning Center (SWWC). The success at the SWWC placed pressure on its civilian counterpart, the Severe Weather Unit (SWU) [later renamed the Severe Local Storms (SELS) unit] of the U.S. Weather Bureau. As part of our historical study, we explore and examine the circumstances that led to the spirit of competitiveness between these groups.
Finally, Miller's approach to forecaster training is discussed by reliance on reminiscences from his protégés. In the epilogue, we grapple with important issues related to forecaster education and training in light of Miller's philosophy.
National Severe Storms Laboratory, Norman, Oklahoma, and Desert Research Institute, Reno, Nevada
National Severe Storms Laboratory, Norman, Oklahoma