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WASHINGTON, D.C.—President Obama today named Warren Washington, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), as one of 10 eminent researchers to be awarded the National Medal of Science. The recipients of the science medal and of the National Medal of Technology and Innovation will receive their awards—the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on scientists, engineers, and inventors—at a White House ceremony later this year. Update: The ceremony took place on November 17, 2010; a webcast of the event may be viewed here.
“The extraordinary accomplishments of these scientists, engineers, and inventors are a testament to American industry and ingenuity,” President Obama said. “Their achievements have redrawn the frontiers of human knowledge while enhancing American prosperity, and it is my tremendous pleasure to honor them for their important contributions.”
“We are delighted that Warren’s many years of dedicated research in climate science are being recognized with this extraordinary honor,” said Roger Wakimoto, NCAR director. “His scientific leadership, innate diplomacy, as well as the mentorship to future generations of scientists have deeply and profoundly impacted our field.”
Richard Anthes, president of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), which manages NCAR, added: “It is a well-deserved honor for Warren as well as the atmospheric sciences, the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the UCAR and NCAR community. Warren is a wonderful scientist who has been at the forefront of climate modeling for 40 years. Even more importantly, he is a kind and generous person.”
Washington is an internationally recognized expert on atmospheric science and climate research and a pioneer in using computer models, which employ fundamental laws of physics to predict future states of the atmosphere, to study Earth’s climate. He has served as a science advisor to former presidents Carter, Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Clinton, and George W. Bush, published almost 200 papers in professional journals, and garnered dozens of national and international awards. He also served on the National Science Board for 12 years and was its chair for 2002 to 2006.
Washington became one of the first developers of groundbreaking atmospheric computer models in collaboration with his colleague, Akira Kasahara, when he came to NCAR in the early 1960s. With support from NSF and the Department of Energy, Washington subsequently worked to incorporate the oceans and sea ice into climate models. Such models were used extensively in the 2007 assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, for which Washington and a number of scientists at NCAR and around the world shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.
“I am very pleased to receive this honor, which recognizes not only my work but that of my many colleagues whom I’ve had the pleasure of working with for more than 45 years,” Washington said. “Akira Kasahara and Jerry Meehl, at NCAR, contributed significantly to the development of computer climate models, and support from NSF and the Department of Energy enabled us to make research advancements that I hope will contribute to mankind’s ability to sustain this planet.”
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, mentoring numerous undergraduate and graduate students. In 1999, Washington won the Dr. Charles Anderson Award from the American Meteorological Society “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.”
Washington was born and grew up in Portland, Oregon. He became interested in science in grade school, going on to earn a bachelor’s degree in physics and master’s degree in meteorology from Oregon State University, and then a doctorate in meteorology from Pennsylvania State University. In 1963, he joined NCAR as a research scientist.
The National Medal of Science was created by statute in 1959 and is administered for the White House by the National Science Foundation. Awarded annually, the medal recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions to science and engineering. Nominees are selected by a committee of presidential appointees based on their extraordinary knowledge in, and contributions to, the biological, behavioral/
social, and physical sciences, as well as chemistry, engineering, computing, and mathematics.
This year’s recipients are:
Honoring Science, Technology, and Innovation (White House webcast)
Tuesday Talk on the National Medals of Science, Technology and Innovation (White House webcast)
The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research manages the National Center for Atmospheric Research under sponsorship by the National Science Foundation. Any opinions, findings and conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.