Four women who changed the field of meteorology



In 2017, I wrote about Klara Dan von Neumann, a “hidden figure” in history who played an important role in pioneering modern weather forecasting. His story, like so many others, is hidden in the dark. As with many groups, women’s contributions are typically under-represented in history books or written from a very narrow perspective. Women’s History Month is an opportunity to celebrate these pioneers.

Shoulder to shoulder with my colleague Dr Michelle Hawkins, a rising star within the full-fledged National Weather Service, I decided to reflect on other women who have made their mark in meteorology. These four scientists are shattering the ignorant, outdated and insulting notion of the “weather girl”.

NASA, NOAA, AGU, Ada Monzon Twitter

Dr Joanne Simpson. As a young scientist fresh out of Florida State University, I was in awe that my first job was at NASA. Even more impressive, my office was just down the hall from one of meteorology’s most important legends, Dr. Joanne Simpson. At the time, she was the project scientist for a NASA satellite mission called the Tropical Rainfall Measurement Mission (TRMM). I learned my skills at NASA on TRMM science and awareness. Dr Simpson’s contributions are huge, and I couldn’t do them justice in this space. She was the first woman to earn a doctorate. in meteorology (at the University of Chicago). She had been a member of the Teacher Trainee Program which instructed aviation cadets in meteorology during World War II. After the war, most women had to return home. Dr Simpson received his doctorate. According to a NASA website honoring Simpson,

She finished her masters and wanted to do a doctorate. program. The faculty adviser told her and two other women that no woman has ever earned a doctorate. in meteorology, no one would ever do it, and if one of them did, she would never get a job.

Wow, that was of course a “planned bust”. Simpson went on to become one of the most important tropical meteorologists in history. His work in the late 1950s on “hot towers” ​​still informs tropical weather research and forecasting today. She, along with her collaborator Herbert Riehl, upset the status quo in meteorology by showing that the latent heat released when water vapor turns into cloudy water in cumulonimbus clouds sustains the trade winds and Hadley circulation. She later applied the concept of a “hot tower” to hurricanes and suggested that they help keep the central structure warm. Current research suggests that “hot turns” may in fact be a clue that a hurricane is intensifying. Dr Simpson also led the first cloud seeding experiments and laid the groundwork for NASA’s current precipitation satellite program, which includes TRMM and the Global Precipitation Measurement Mission (GPM). I served as an Assistant Project Scientist for GPM while I was at NASA. Simpson has often said that the TRMM mission was his greatest professional achievement.

June Bacon-Bercey. June Bacon-Bercey is truly a trailblazer with many “firsts” after her name. According to Physics today, “She holds the accolades of being the first African-American female meteorologist and the first female television meteorologist in the United States.. “She is also the first African American woman to earn the coveted American Meteorological Society (AMS) Seal of Approval. Bacon-Bercey received her undergraduate degree from the University of Kansas and her Masters degree from the University of Kansas. ‘UCLA. Having also worked in the private sector sector, the National Weather Service and NOAA, Bacon-Bercey helped establish the AMS Board of Directors on Women and Minorities, which I chaired over two decades ago, and played a pivotal role in establishing a meteorological laboratory at Jackson State University, a historically black college or university (HBCU) that is unique in its production of outstanding black meteorologists. I was fortunate enough to work with Dr Simpson, but never met Ms Bacon-Bercey.

Ada Monzon. I had the chance to interact with Ada monzon, chief meteorologist on television (WIPR-TV and Noticias 24/7) and on Univision Radio (WKAQ 580 AM). To this day I think she gave one of the most effective, inspiring and community-changing presentations I have ever heard at the American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting (link here) after Hurricane Maria. If there were any doubts about the human impact of this storm, she would put them to bed for anyone who listened to her. I probably underestimate when I say that Ada Monzón is a weather legend in Puerto Rico. Ms. Monzón has worked in the private and public sectors for over 30 years and has been a central voice for weather warnings in Puerto Rico. His empathetic warnings and communication work during Hurricane Maria should be studied in classrooms. His message reached 31 million viewers. Ms. Monzón is also the founder of EcoExploratorio: Science Museum of Puerto Rico and a recipient of the AMS Broadcast Meteorologist of the Year award. In 2017, the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes recognized her as the National Meteorologist of the Year. If you talk to the many Puerto Rican (and other) meteorologists who have been mentored or influenced by Ada Monzón, you will truly understand its importance. I know a lot of these scientists, and the respect for her is undeniable. Ironically, she is the recipient of the AMS Joanne Simpson Award for Mentorship. Heck, I’m also a huge fan of my Florida State University alumnus.

Catherine sullivan. Although not a trained meteorologist, Dr. Kathy Sullivan has been a historical figure in American history and has certainly had an impact on the meteorological community. She is the former Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and a Trustee of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA). NOAA is the parent organization of the National Weather Service. Dr Sullivan is a friend and colleague. I also had the opportunity to advise her during my tenure on the NOAA Scientific Advisory Board (SAB). Following her tenure with NOAA, Ms. Sullivan was appointed the Charles A. Lindbergh Chair in Aerospace History by the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. While Dr Simpson helped develop a satellite, TRMM, Dr Sullivan was actually a satellite. A press release from the Air and Space Museum,

Sullivan began her career as one of the first women selected into NASA’s Astronaut Corps in 1978 and was the first American female astronaut to walk in space. During her 15-year career at NASA, she flew three space shuttle missions, including the one that deployed the Hubble Space Telescope.

Under his leadership at NOAA, the agency made significant strides in becoming a Weather-Ready Nation. A new generation of weather satellites, modeling capabilities and radar systems also continued to emerge during his tenure.

A recent article in Nature chronicled the disparities between women in science-related fields. According to this article, nearly half of American women scientists leave full-time science after giving birth to their first child. This glaring gender imbalance affects pay equity, the number of women in leadership positions and the distribution of honors or awards. Even with systemic roadblocks, these four women have moved the needle, and I admire them all. As I write about four women here, there are so many more I could have highlighted: Margaret “Peggy” Lemone, Janice Huff, Ginger Zee, Janice Dean, Jenni Evans, Nancy Knight, Mary Newton, Rene Fair, Ruth Aiken, Patricia Brown, Jane Lubchenco and so on.

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