Science Council

Guiding the Institute’s development is a distinguished Science Council consisting of:

  • Dr. Deborah Barnhart
    CEO and Executive Director, U.S. Space and Rocket Center
  • Dr. John Christy
    Director, Earth System Science Center, UAH and Alabama State Climatologist
  • Dr. Steve Goodman
    Chief Scientist, GOES-R, NOAA, Retired
  • Dr. Jack Hayes
    Director, U.S. National Weather Service, Retired
  • Colonel Brian Hastings
    USAF, Retired, Director, Alabama Emergency Management Agency
  • Mr. Daryl Herzmann
    Systems Analyst, Iowa Environmental Mesonet
  • Dr. Sytske Kimball
    Chair, Department of Earth Sciences, USA, Director, S. Alabama Mesonet
  • Dr. Kevin Knupp
    Professor, Atmospheric Science Department, University of Alabama in Huntsville
  • Mr. John McLaughlin
    Chief Meteorologist KCCI, Retired, Fellow AMS
  • Dr. Udaysankar Nair
    Associate Professor, Atmospheric Science Department, University of Alabama in Huntsville
  • Mr. Tom Thompson
    Partner, Chief Technology Officer, Baron Services

Baron Critical Weather Institute Staff

BCWI Bob Baron

Bob Baron

President and Chief Executive Officer, Baron Critical Weather Intelligence

Bob Baron who recently incorporated the non-profit Baron Critical Weather Institute, is a longtime resident and philanthropist in the Tennessee Valley. The Barons have contributed to special projects at Burritt Museum (Baron Bluff), Huntsville Botanical Gardens, The Community Foundation, and through the Institute, the U.S. Space and Rocket Center.

His company, Baron Services, Inc. is in its 29th year and is a pioneer in weather radar, advanced displays and industry leading weather data. Baron is by far the largest weather radar manufacturer in the U.S. and was chosen by the National Weather Service to upgrade all 171 Nexrad to state of the art, dual polarity. Baron also successfully teamed with Boeing to provide 2 dual-use radar for the SBX program.

In 2012, the State of Alabama accepted the Baron Alabama SafTNet program as an ongoing gift. The program consists of a free alerting app to all state residents (downloaded by over a quarter million) and a georeferenced 2-way communication program provided to each of 68 state EMA’s. Continued advancements in the program will be one of the primary focuses of the Institute.

Baron has brought weather to the cockpit, to the helms of boats, to mobile EMA applications and to millions of automobiles through partnership with XM Satellite Radio and intends to bring this experience to bear on the Baron Critical Weather Institute.

Rick Davis

Chief Operating Officer, Director, Development and PR Baron Critical Weather Institute

Rick Davis is the Chief Operating Officer for the Baron Critical Weather Institute and also holds responsibility for Development and PR for the Institute. Prior to joining the Institute Davis served as the Senior Vice President for Economic Development for the Birmingham Business Alliance, the lead economic-development agency in the seven-county Birmingham-Hoover metropolitan statistical area (MSA) in central Alabama.

Prior to his time in Birmingham, Davis served as the Executive Director of Cummings Research Park for the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber. CRP is the nation’s second-largest science and technology park and one of the largest in the world. During his time as executive director Davis played a key role in the sale and development of more than 480 acres of land in the Park, which resulted in more than $1.5 billion in capital investment and more than 8,000 jobs created.

Prior to joining the Chamber, Davis was Director of Communications for Teledyne Brown Engineering, a premier aerospace and defense contractor in Huntsville. Teledyne Brown (TBE) is widely recognized as the first “high-tech” company in Huntsville, having been established in 1953. TBE’s president, Milton K. Cummings, is credited with the establishment of Cummings Research Park, then-named Huntsville Research Park.

Before his employment with Teledyne Brown, Davis spent numerous years in a range of responsibilities in mass media, including sportscasting in radio, television, college football and basketball, and professional baseball (Class AA Huntsville Stars), and sports writing and business writing in the print media. Davis was recognized with multiple awards for his work during his time in the media, including being named Journalist of the Year for The Huntsville Times in 1992, Best (television) Sports Anchor in Alabama by the Associated Press in 1982, and Best Play-by-Play in Alabama radio in 1989, also by the Associated Press. In 2014 he was awarded a Special Achievement Award for his media work by the Huntsville/Madison County Athletic Hall of Fame.

Davis has served on the board of directors for the Alabama chapter of the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties (NAIOP) and has been involved with numerous boards for civic, charitable and nonprofit organizations. He is a graduate of two programs affiliated with Leadership Greater Huntsville, including Leadership Class 22 and Focus Class 3.

He is a graduate of the University of Tennessee, with a BS in Communications, and earned Economic Development certification from Georgia Tech. Rick and his wife, Debbie, are the parents of two daughters, Mae Margaret and Annie, both of whom are graduates of Auburn University.

Drew Richards

Operations Manager

Drew Richards has had a lifelong passion for weather. He lived briefly in Kingfisher, Oklahoma as a first grader, and spent many nights watching tornadic storms barely miss town. In middle school he would stand outside on windy days with his handheld wind meter measuring wind gusts. He got his first home weather station in 1998. He also started working with an online weather site covering Alabama weather in 1998 at the age of 14.

Drew started volunteering with the Florence Lauderdale EMA in 2004 as a search and rescue team member. He started working full time with the EMA in 2009. Part of the EMA job was to storm spot during severe weather. On the morning of April 27, 2011 Drew was dispatched to the western part of Lauderdale County when a tornado watch was issued. Shortly after 4am, a line of thunderstorms moved into Lauderdale County. A EF1 tornado with 110mph winds developed just southwest of Drew. This tornado quickly moved directly over Drew’s location as he was spotting in his EMA vehicle. “Huge oak trees started coming down all around me, and then there was silence. Then a huge crash rocked the vehicle as a tree branch slammed into the passenger window, throwing glass, leaves and rain all in on me. I instantly knew it was a tornado as the truck was rocking and my ears were popping. I instinctively turned the vehicle to face the wind so it didn’t roll me. I was okay, but cut from the glass that blew in on me. As a precaution I had to go get checked out at the local hospital, and ended up going down in the books as the first injury in the state of Alabama on April 27, 2011.”

Drew loves helping get the word out about severe weather. He loves watching lightning on summer nights, and flying his drone to get a better view of storms.

Baron Critical Weather Science Council

BCWI Dr Barnhart

Dr. Deborah Barnhart

Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director of the U.S. Space & Rocket

Dr. Barnhart became the Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in December 2010. The Center is the official Visitor Center for NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, the showcase for Redstone Arsenal and defense programs, an Official Visitor Center for the Tennessee Valley Authority, and a Smithsonian Affiliate. Home to the world renowned U.S. Space Camp®, U.S. Space Academy®, Aviation Challenge®, and Robotics Camp, the Center is Alabama’s leading tourist attraction. Leading technology initiatives in aerospace and defense are showcased along with international space artifacts including the world’s only complete full-scale Space Shuttle stack and the National Historic Landmark Apollo Saturn V moon rocket.

Dr. Barnhart’s career spans four decades of service in commercial industry, government, aerospace and defense. A retired Navy Captain (0-6), she was one of the first ten women assigned to duty aboard ships and commanded five units in her 26 year career.

She was Vice President of three Dow 30 aerospace and defense companies, serving in manufacturing, business development, program and research management, and congressional lobbying for Honeywell International, McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing), and United Technologies Aerospace.

Dr. Barnhart is a recipient of NASA’s Distinguished Public Service Medal, the highest form of recognition awarded by NASA to a non-government individual. In 2015, Honeywell Hometown Solutions awarded Dr. Barnhart with the Hometown Heroes award. In 2017, Dr. Barnhart was as one of the four Alabamians inducted into the Alabama Academy of Honor, a list of 100 living Alabamians who have made lasting positive contributions to the State. She serves as a member of the Smithsonian Affiliations Advisory Council and a Trustee on the Board of the University of Alabama in Huntsville Foundation. She is 2018’s Alabama Tourism Executive of the Year and is Vice Chair of the Alabama Space Authority.

Dr. Barnhart earned her doctorate at Vanderbilt University, holds degrees from the University of Maryland, the University of Alabama Huntsville, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology where she was a Sloan Fellow. She resides in Huntsville, Alabama and Clearwater Beach, Florida.

BCWI Dr John Christy

Dr. John Christy

Director, Earth System Science Center, UAH and Alabama State Climatologist

Dr. John R. Christy is the Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science and Director of the Earth System Science Center at The University of Alabama in Huntsville where he began studying global climate issues in 1987. Since November 2000 he has been Alabama’s State Climatologist.

In 1989 Dr. Roy W. Spencer (then a NASA/Marshall scientist and now a Principle Research Scientist at UAH) and Christy developed a global temperature data set from microwave data observed from satellites beginning in 1979. For this achievement, the Spencer-Christy team was awarded NASA’s Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement in 1991.

In 1996, they were selected to receive a Special Award by the American Meteorological Society “for developing a global, precise record of earth’s temperature from operational polar-orbiting satellites, fundamentally advancing our ability to monitor climate.”

In January 2002 Christy was inducted as a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society. In 2019 he was appointed to the Science Advisory Board of the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Dr. Steve Goodman

Chief Scientist, GOES-R, NOAA, Retired

Steve Goodman is a Senior Advisor to the GOES-R satellite program. He previously served as the Chief Scientist for the GOES-R Program (Retired) and as the Deputy Director of the NESDIS Office of Satellite Applications and Research (STAR). From 1988-2007 he served as a Senior Scientist at NASA. His research interests include the global distribution and variability of thunderstorms, lightning and precipitation physics, and the application of space-based remote sensing to improve the short-range forecasting of severe storms.

Past recognitions include the NASA Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement, NOAA Distinguished Career Award, and DARPA Medal. Dr. Goodman is a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society and a member of the UAH Graduate Faculty.

BCWI Brian Hastings

Colonel Brian Hastings

USAF, Retired, Director, Alabama Emergency Management Agency

Colonel (ret) Brian Hastings is the current Director of the Alabama Emergency Management Agency. Brian’s passion for service, science and flight led him to enter the United States Air Force Academy in 1986. He graduated with an Applied Physics degree in Astrodynamics and served as an A-10 pilot in the United States Air Force from 1990 until he retired as the Commandant of the Air Command and Staff College on 1 September 2017. Prior to his retirement, Brian also served as the Wing Commander of the 47th Flying Training Wing at Laughlin AFB, and the Deputy Director of Operations of the Combat Air Forces of Air Combat Command. During his military career, Brian also earned a MS degree in Aeronautical Sciences from Embry Riddle and a MA Degree in Resourcing National Security Strategy from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces (Eisenhower School). Additionally, for his military service he earned two Legion of Merit Medals, the Bronze Star for his service in Afghanistan, and three Meritorious Service Medals. Brian was a command pilot with more than 2,600 hours in attack and training aircraft and was an Instructor Pilot in the A-10, AT-38B and the T-38C.

In August 2017, Governor Kay Ivey named Brian as the Director of the Alabama Emergency Management Agency and he transitioned to public service for the people of Alabama on September 5, 2017. In less than one week, the State Emergency Operations Center activated for Hurricane Irma to receive and shelter more than 250,000 evacuees from Florida while caring for the needs of Alabamians. Brian walked into the costliest and 5th most active Hurricane season on record since 1851. The impacts of Hurricanes Irma and Nate on Alabama resulted in a Presidential Emergency Declaration from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and strengthened enduring partnerships in our southeast region, especially with Florida and the Virgin Islands. Since joining Governor Ivey’s Cabinet, Brian has led AEMA through multiple Federal Emergency Declarations and three Presidential Major Disaster Declarations.

Brian volunteers his time and has joined many national associations and local organizations like the First Responders Resource Group, the National Homeland Security Consortium, and the Wright Flyers of the Montgomery Chamber of Commerce. He serves as Co-Chair of a Committee for disaster assistance to low-income citizens for the Legal Services Corporation, as well as the Co-Chair of the Homeland Security Committee for the National Emergency Management Association. Brian also serves on the Board of Directors for the Central United States Earthquake Consortium and on the Science Council for the Baron Critical Weather Institute.

Regardless of Brian’s noteworthy career and service, he will quickly tell you his greatest accomplishments are at home with his beautiful wife Eileen and three sons—Sean, Jake and Luke.

Dr. Jack Hayes

Director, U.S. National Weather Service, Retired

Dr. Jack Hayes is a retired senior executive following a 47-year career in public and private sectors in the weather business. Dr. Hayes began his career in the US Air Force Air Weather Service and rose to the rank of Colonel, completing his military service in the late 1990s as the Commander of the Air Force Weather Agency whose mission is to support Air Force and Army operations worldwide.

From 2000 to 2012, Dr. Hayes held several senior leadership positions within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the UN’s World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Within NOAA, he was the Director of the National Weather Service (NWS) Office of Science and Technology and developed the master plan for infusion of new science and technologies into NWS weather forecast operations nationwide. He was also the Deputy Director of NOAA’s National Ocean Service and played a lead role in the agency’s response to Hurricane Katrina. During a two-year assignment as the WMO’s Director of the World Weather Watch, he coordinated modernization plans for the Global Weather Observing, Data Processing and Forecasting Systems supporting government weather services worldwide. Dr. Hayes culminated his government career as the Director of the National Weather Service from 2007 to 2012, where he oversaw the creation of the agency’s strategic plans to improve weather and climate services over the next decade. In this position, he was also the US Permanent Representative with the WMO for weather and climate.

Following retirement from government, Dr. Hayes was the Vice President and Senior Executive Account Manager for Weather Products for the Harris Corporation from 2012 until his retirement 2018. In this position he provided strategic guidance for Harris products supporting the Nation’s new generation of geostationary and polar-orbiting weather satellites. Since March he has been consulting part time for the Baron Weather Company in Huntsville Alabama as they expand their weather business operations internationally.
Dr. Hayes has received several awards, including Presidential Rank Award and recognition, in 2003, as one of the Top 100 Information Technology Executives in the Federal Government.

Dr. Hayes a 1966 graduate of St Francis de Sales High School, and holds a Ph.D. and a master-of- science degree in meteorology from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. His bachelor of science degree in mathematics is from Bowling Green State University. He and his wife, Sharon, have three adult children and seven grandchildren and live in northern Virginia just outside the Nation’s Capitol.

BCWI Daryl Herzmann

Mr. Daryl Herzmann

Systems Analyst, Iowa Environmental Mesonet

Daryl Herzmann is a Systems Analyst III working for the Department of Agronomy at Iowa State University (ISU). Since 2001, Daryl has been working on building the Iowa Environmental Mesonet (IEM). The IEM is a data warehousing project that collects environmental data from sensors owned by ISU and also collects data from collaborating partners including those in government and the private sector.

Daryl’s areas of expertise include big data, data-basing, real-time data flows, and meteorological analysis. Daryl is happy to apply his 17+ years of experience in the area of building mesonets to the Baron Critical Weather Institute.

Past recognitions include the NASA Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement, NOAA Distinguished Career Award, and DARPA Medal. Dr. Goodman is a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society and a member of the UAH Graduate Faculty. Dr. Goodman earned a BS from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, MS from the University of Oklahoma, and PhD from the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

Baron Critical Weather Institute Dr Sytske

Dr. Sytske (Seetskah) Kimball

Professor of Meteorology and Chair of the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of South Alabama

Dr. Sytske (Seetskah) Kimball is a Professor of Meteorology and Chair of the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of South Alabama in Mobile, Alabama. She received her B.S in Applied Mathematics from the Delft University of Technology in Delft, The Netherlands in 1988; her M.S in Meteorology from Monash University in Melbourne Australia in 1993; and her Ph.D. in Meteorology from the Pennsylvania State University in 2000. She joined the University of South Alabama in 1999 and became Department Chair in August 2014.

Dr. Kimball’s research interests revolve around hurricane landfall and local north-central Gulf Coast weather and meteorological processes, as well as meteorological instrumentation. Her early research focused on numerical simulation of hurricanes; after joining South Alabama she began using observational data to study hurricane landfall processes. She founded the University of South Alabama Mesonet, a network of 25 research-quality weather stations, in 2006 using funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF CAREER) and a direct appropriation from Sen. Richard Shelby. The weather stations record atmospheric and soil parameters in the north-central Gulf Coast area and have led to numerous research projects including Gulf Coast sea and bay breeze activity, nocturnal inversions, wind reduction factors, hurricane landfall, rain gauge comparison, and testing and validation of Unmanned Arial Vehicle (UAV or drone) based atmospheric sensors. Real-time, archived-, and meta- data from the Mesonet are available on and are used by local forecasters, in K-12 and college teaching, emergency management, in university research, farming, fire weather, electrical load forecasting, and numerous other purposes in the community.

Involving undergraduate students in research is one of Dr. Kimball’s passions. Many of her research students have presented their work at professional conferences and gone on to graduate school. She also works with high school students to get them involved and excited about research early in their lives. She frequently gives presentations about local meteorological phenomena to community groups in the Mobile area.

Dr. Kimball has published peer-reviewed papers in American Meteorological Society and other journals and has given numerous presentations at professional conferences. She has received research grants from NASA, SUN Microsystems, NSF, NOAA, and private companies to support hurricane and Mesonet data research. She served on the American Meteorological Society’s Measurement Committee from 2012 through 2016. She is currently a member of the National Mesonet Pilot Program Advisory Board and served on the Science Advisory Board for the Alabama Mesonet.

BCWI Dr Kevin Knupp

Dr. Kevin Knupp

Professor, Atmospheric Science Department, University of Alabama in Huntsville

Dr. Kevin Knupp is a professor in the Atmospheric and Earth Science Department at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH). He obtained the B.S. degree in Meteorology from Iowa State University (1977) and the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from Colorado state in 1980 and 1985. Dr. Knupp played a key role in developing the Atmospheric Science program at UAH after moving to Huntsville in 1985.

Dr. Knupp’s research involves use of ground-based remote sensing, including radars of various types. He has developed expertise in severe storms, boundary layer processes, cloud processes, and mesoscale meteorology. Current research activities include investigations of mesoscale variability, primarily within the boundary layer, around tornadic storms as part of the VORTEX-Southeast project.

Mr. John McLaughlin

Chief Meteorologist KCCI, Retired, Fellow AMS

John McLaughlin retired as Chief Meteorologist for KCCI-TV in Des Moines, IA after serving the station for 31 years. He guided KCCI through the purchase and implementation of three Doppler radar systems, including the very first Baron Very High Definition Doppler (S/N 001) in 1995 and developed a reputation for his on-air excellence in using radar and remote sensors in severe storm coverage.

McLaughlin has taught hundreds of broadcasters in severe storm recognition on radar through dozens of presentations at AMS, NWA and Baron training conferences. He is a Fellow of the AMS, a past chair of the AMS Board of Broadcast Meteorology and a past president of the National Weather Association. He is a certified broadcast meteorologist (CBM) and has received numerous national awards for his lifetime of contributions to both the weather industry and public education. He is a graduate of the Mississippi State University Broadcast Meteorology Program.

McLaughlin is also a commercial pilot and flight instructor in helicopters and fixed wing aircraft. Combining his passion for aviation and weather, he has served as a designated pilot examiner (DPE) for the Federal Aviation Administration since 2007, conducting practical tests in both the United States and abroad.

Since retiring from KCCI, McLaughlin has been volunteering his time to faith-based properties in developing safety and security ministries and has facilitated firearms training for hundreds for volunteers across the country. He is a National Rifle Association certified firearms and personal protection instructor.

His weather commitment to the local community did not end after retiring from KCCI. Working with Baron Weather of Huntsville, Alabama, McLaughlin released the Storm Hunter WX mobile weather application, which currently has more than 60,000 downloads. He is proud to continue to contribute to the future of meteorological science through his role with the Baron Critical Weather Institute.

BCWI Udaysankar Nair

Dr. Udaysankar Nair

Associate Professor, Atmospheric Science Department, University of Alabama in Huntsville

Dr. Udaysankar Nair is an Associate Professor at the Department of Atmospheric Science, University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH). He received a B. Tech in Mechanical Engineering from University of Kerala, India, M. S. in Meteorology from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology and a Ph. D. in Atmospheric Science from Colorado State University.

He teaches graduate level courses in Numerical Weather Prediction and Atmospheric Dynamics at UAH. His research interests include atmospheric numerical modeling, fate and transport of air pollutants, land-atmosphere interactions, boundary layer phenomenon, mountain weather, machine learning and development of low-cost sensor systems.

He has also led multiple, international field experiments investigating the impact of land cover change (e. g. deforestation) on weather and climate. Dr. Nair is excited about the Low-cost Environmental Monitoring, Economical Sensor Hubs (EMESH) developed by his group being deployed as a part of the Baron Critical Weather Institute high density network.

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Rick Davis, COO / Development & PR
(205) 936-4412

Drew Richards, Operations Manager
(256) 519-0000

PO Box 2165 | Huntsville, AL 35804 | 256-808-5085