Leslie “Les” Lemon has passed away at the age of 73. Born on January 19, 1947, Lemon became famous for his expertise in working with weather RADAR and severe thunderstorms. Beyond developing the “Lemon Technique” to estimate the strength of thunderstorm updrafts and organization, Lemon was instrumental in developing technology that could detect microbursts in RADAR. Lemon co-discovered the Tornado Vortex Signature (TVS) on NEXRAD RADAR that is used today to detect tornadoes within thunderstorms on RADAR.
At age 10, Lemon witnessed the “Ruskin Heights” tornado that devastated portions of Kansas and Missouri. While doing some damage to his family’s home, it brought complete devastation to nearby areas. That same outbreak created destructive winds and huge hail; hail with a 7″ diameter fell in Concordia, Kansas. Amazed by the destruction, Lemon decided to pursue a career in meteorology. He studied meteorology at the University of Kansas and then the University of Oklahoma, graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in 1970. During the height of the Vietnam era, Lemon joined the NOAA Commissioned Corps.
Lemon eventually worked with the National Severe Storms Forecast Center and became a major developer of the WSR-88D “NEXRAD” system deployed across the United States. In 1976, Lemon won the Special Achievement Award for co-discovering the TVS. Lemon brought his expertise to a range of companies he worked at, including Unisys and Lockheed Martin. He most recently operated a forensic and consulting meteorology company.
In 1997 he received the “Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Advancement of Applied Meteorology” from the American Meteorological Society (AMS) for “pioneering work including design and development of the WSR-88D Doppler weather radar system.”
In 2001, Lemon served on a National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council committee concerning “Weather Radar Technology Beyond NEXRAD”. In the same year, Lemon served as President for the National Weather Association (NWA).
In 2010, Lemon won the Special Lifetime Achievement Award from the NWA. Upon receiving that award, Lemon said, “I want to be in a weather office and I’ve been blessed to have been there and the passion, it’s the passion that led me to do everything I’ve done. And it’s amazing to me to think back at the opportunities I’ve been given, the things I have done in my life. I never dreamed of ever doing anything like the things I have. I’m just blessed in very many ways. And I certainly think the NWA, the NWA Awards Committee, this is just a tremendous award. I’m very humbled. And I looked to see who had won this award previously, and I’m included with Jim Moore, Rod Schofield, and several other tremendous people. And that’s very humbling to be listed among them.”
Lemon is survived by his wife and three children.