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New Warren Washington medal to be awarded by AMS

The medal will recognize individuals for research and scientific leadership

Feb 27, 2020 - by David Hosansky

The American Meteorological Society (AMS) has created a new national award in honor of Warren Washington, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and a pioneer in the development of computer models of Earth's climate.

The Warren Washington Research and Leadership Medal will be presented to individuals who are recognized for the combination of highly significant research and distinguished scientific leadership in the atmospheric and related sciences.

“Warren has made fundamental contributions to our understanding of the evolution of the Earth’s climate from the depths of time to the near future,” said AMS President Jenni Evans, a professor of meteorology and atmospheric science at Pennsylvania State University. “Warren’s delight in his science breaks down barriers, inviting others into a world of scientific exploration. He is a generous and talented leader.”

"Warren is a generational leader, inspiring researchers at NCAR and throughout the scientific community, especially those from traditionally underrepresented groups," said NCAR Director Everette Joseph. "This is a well-deserved honor, and I am very excited for him."

NCAR senior scientist Warren Washington.
Warren Washington. (Photo by Carlye Calvin, © UCAR. This image is freely available for media & nonprofit use.)

Washington said he is deeply appreciative of the recognition.

"I am so grateful that an organization as esteemed as the AMS has named a medal for me," he said. "I look forward to this award being bestowed in future years upon preeminent researchers who help society through their research and leadership."

AMS created two awards last month in honor of living scientists, the first time it has done so. The other award is the The Syukuro Manabe Climate Research Award, which will be presented to individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the fundamental understanding of Earth’s climate system. Manabe, who worked at the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, played an essential role in combining ocean and atmospheric simulations in the late 1960s, and he conducted landmark research into the influence of the oceans on the global climate system throughout his career.

In addition, AMS announced the new Joanne Simpson Tropical Meteorology Research Award to honor the late scientist, who became the first woman in the United States to earn a Ph.D. in meteorology in 1949. Simpson made pioneering contributions in the understanding of climate in the tropics, working at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and several universities.

Washington's career

An internationally recognized expert in atmospheric science and climate research, Washington specializes in computer modeling of Earth's climate.

Washington became one of the first developers of groundbreaking atmospheric computer models in collaboration with Akira Kasahara when he came to NCAR from Penn State in the early 1960s. These models, which use fundamental laws of physics to predict future states of the atmosphere, have helped scientists understand Earth's climate and climate change. As his research progressed, Washington worked to incorporate additional aspects of the climate system into the models, including the oceans and sea ice.

Engaged in research for over 50 years, Washington has also given advice, testimony, and lectures on global climate change. An Introduction to Three-Dimensional Climate Modeling, written by Washington and Claire Parkinson, is a standard reference in the field.

Washington served as a science advisor in the presidential administrations of Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush, and he also served as chair of the National Science Board. He is a past president of the American Meteorological Society, and he is a fellow of the American Geophysical Union and a vice president of the American Philosophical Society. He is also an elected member of both the National Academy of Engineering and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

In 2010, President Barack Obama awarded Washington the National Medal of Science, the nation's highest science award "for his development and use of global climate models to understand climate and explain the role of human activities and natural processes in the Earth's climate system, and for his work to support a diverse science and engineering workforce."

As the second African-American to earn a doctorate in the atmospheric sciences, Washington has served as a role model for generations of young researchers from many backgrounds. He has mentored dozens of graduate and undergraduate students. In 1999, he won the Dr. Charles Anderson Award from the AMS "for pioneering efforts as a mentor, and passionate support of individuals, educational programs, and outreach initiatives designed to foster a diverse population of atmospheric scientists."

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