For the month of October NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory is publishing a series of stories highlighting some of the women working at the lab. One Q&A segment will be published each Monday in October.
Kim Klockow is research scientist at The Unversity of Oklahoma Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies. Working with NOAA NSSL, her research involves behavioral science focused on weather and climate risk, especially issues in the communication of forecast uncertainty and hazardous weather warnings.
Q: How did you get into weather or your field?
A: Like many in the field, I had some frightening experiences with tornadoes during childhood, including one notable case where a large tornado hadn’t received any warning. Those experiences motivated me to learn more about severe weather, but also to understand the human element and how risks could be conveyed more effectively. What started as a motivated interest grew into a lifelong mission to improve our country’s weather resiliency.
Q: Describe the path leading up to your current job.
A: My career really began when I was a doctoral student. As an interdisciplinary scholar with interests in both human behavior and meteorology, I quickly found I was going to have to create my own path. After earning my Ph.D, I received a fellowship to work as a science adviser in the U.S. Senate, and from there worked at NOAA headquarters for several years on policy for social scientific research in the agency. Those experiences have been invaluable to me as I’ve now returned to Norman to help the NOAA National Severe Storms Lab create a group dedicated to social and behavioral science research.
Q: What educational background helped you get to your career today?
A: I received Bachelor of Science degrees in meteorology and economics with concentrations in communication and psychology. From there I went on to get an Master of Science in professional meteorology with an economics concentration, and a Ph.D. in human geography. I took Ph.D. level courses in seven different departments as part of my graduate studies — I wasn’t kidding when I said I had to make my own path!
Q: Tell us something that might surprise us about you.
A: As much as I’m proud of the career I’ve built, the effort I’m proudest to have been a part of is the Loveworks, Inc. program based in Norman. Early on in my graduate work, I helped launch a mentorship program for at-risk middle school youth that has now grown to include every middle school in the city and has reached more than 1,000 students. Working to cultivate the local community kept me sane through the challenges and doubt that surrounded my graduate path.
Q: What is one thing you couldn’t live without at work?
A: Coffee. Sadly. I’ve been an addict since those U.S. Senate days – the “marbled halls of congress” are real, and in the winter, they’re frigid. When my fingers got too cold to type I turned to coffee, and once you turn to coffee there’s apparently no turning back.