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NCAR and UCAR mourn the passing of pioneering scientist Akira Kasahara

Kasahara’s legacy lives on in NCAR’s community modeling

Apr 1, 2022 - by Staff

Akira Kasahara with magnetic tapes. 1970
Akira Kasahara and Warren Washington relied on the Control Data Corporation 6600 supercomputer to run the NCAR General Circulation Model that they were developing in the 1960s and 70s. The output from the GCM runs were stored in the IBM 9-track magnetic tapes shown in the picture with Kasahara. Image: UCAR

Akira Kasahara, one of the giants of NCAR’s scientific legacy, passed away overnight on March 30.

Kasahara arrived in Boulder to work at NCAR in 1963. He was one of several Japanese scientists trained at the University of Tokyo, including 2021 Nobel Prize winner Syukora Manabe, who would go on to make foundational contributions to climate modeling. In 1964, Kasahara and NCAR Distinguished Scholar Warren Washington launched the center’s effort to build one of the first general circulation computer models of the atmosphere.

At the time, several other groups, including at Princeton and the University of California Los Angeles, were also working on general circulation models. Kasahara and Washington’s groundbreaking work cemented NCAR’s place among the leading climate modeling centers in the world. Kasahara and Washington’s model became the first of NCAR’s Community Climate Model series and, along with its successors, helped define NCAR’s community modeling philosophy. Later versions of NCAR’s climate models would be the first to provide extensively documented manuals so that they could be of use to the broader community. 

Kasahara maintained his affiliation with NCAR throughout his life. Despite his many monumental scientific achievements, he is remembered by many of us for his unassuming nature and humility. He was an invaluable colleague who will be deeply missed, and although he is gone, his legacy remains in our continued work to keep improving Earth system models in collaboration with our community.

Warren Washington and Akira Kasahara
Akira Kasahara (left) with longtime collaborator Warren Washington at the NCAR Mesa Lab in 2016. Image: UCAR

 

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