Rich Thompson's lifetime interest in the weather began with watching thunderstorms as a toddler in his hometown of Houston. This interest eventually led him to the University of Oklahoma, where Rich was introduced to storm chasing in the mid 1980s while working on a degree in meteorology. He's chased several hundred times during the ensuing 26 years with both family and friends, including more than 100 chases with fellow Sooner and SPCer Roger Edwards (the "Two Chumps").
After graduating from OU with an MS degree in meteorology in 1992, Rich embarked on a career with the NWS in Houston. That initial job led to an opportunity to work with the SELS unit of the National Severe Storms Forecast Center in Kansas City in 1994. The SELS unit moved to Norman in 1996 and changed its name to the Storm Prediction Center, and Rich has been along for the entire ride. He's been a lead forecaster at SPC since late 2000.
Rich's passion focuses on scientific approaches to severe storm forecasting, with the ultimate goal of creating accurate and credible SPC convective outlooks and watches. His work at the SPC has included a primary role in implementing the convective outlook and watch probability forecasts. Rich has also authored dozens of formal journal articles and conference presentations documenting air mass modification and return flow, supercell proximity soundings, techniques for discriminating between tornadic and nontornadic supercells, and individual weather events such as the 3 May 1999 tornado outbreak. Most recently, Rich has collaborated with other meteorologists at SPC to create a huge database of radar-based storm types for severe weather events across the United States. He uses storm chasing as a means to observe storms first hand, and then bring that information back to help verify forecasts and identify areas in need of improvements.