Profile - Kevin Manning

An eye on Antarctic weather

Kevin Manning

Lab/Division: NESL/MMM • Job title: Associate Scientist • Years at NCAR: 20 • Fun Fact: Told his family when he was 8 years old that he’d live in Colorado some day

Kevin Manning

You’re an associate scientist here in MMM. Let’s hear about your job. I work mostly on WRF [Weather Research and Forecasting model] development and applications. When I came to NCAR 20 years ago, we were just beginning to use the MM5 model. As time went on, I shifted my work over to WRF. I do quite a bit of programming, in Fortran mostly, and a lot of C shell scripting. And I’ve been using Python more and more.

What’s with all the maps of Antarctica decorating your office? One of my projects is the Antarctic Mesoscale Prediction System, or AMPS, which is a prediction system used by the weather forecasters down in Antarctica. We run it up here on the bluefire supercomputer. I’ve been down to McMurdo several times to interact with the forecasters and see how they are using the tools that we give them. It’s interesting to see their forecast office and realize how much everything that gets done in Antarctica depends on the weather. People wander into the forecast office and want really badly to know what the forecast is going to be.

How did you get into meteorology? In high school, I thought that it sounded interesting. It was a lucky guess. I went to Penn State and got a bachelor’s degree in meteorology. Then I went to grad school at CSU and did work with radar meteorology and mesoscale meteorology. After my master’s degree, the right job was open at NCAR. I’m doing what I was hoping I’d be doing in high school and enjoying it.

Three black and white photos of Kevin Manning.

What is most challenging about your job? The computers. Every day they find a new way to torment their users. Especially with forecasting—when you’re working in real time, if something goes down, you need to address it as fast as you can.

Is there anything that you can’t survive the workday without? My mug warmer.

What do you do when you’re not here at Foothills working on WRF? I do quite a bit of reading. I like history, general science, and the history of science in particular. And an occasional mystery or spy thriller.

Can you give us a favorite author? One of my favorite authors over the past few years has been David McCullough. The book that really turned me on was his biography of John Adams. He also has a biography of Truman, which I never would have imagined that I would enjoy since the politics of modern presidencies don't really interest me. But Truman was president during some fairly significant times—the Atomic Age, the end of World War II, the beginning of the Cold War, the Korean War. It was the beginning of the era that shaped the modern world.

Do you prefer old-fashioned paper, or have you switched over to e-books? Mostly I read real books. But I recently got a Kindle and it’s growing on me. At first it felt like I wasn’t reading a book, but now the device is less apparent.

What are your other hobbies? In the summer, I do a fair bit of hiking. I love Rocky Mountain National Park. A friend and I try to hike a Fourteener every summer. It’s nice to get up there and push yourself a bit. And recently, a friend talked me into doing some cross-country skiing. I’ve been to Eldora and I hit the trails off the Peak-to-Peak Highway. I’m thoroughly enjoying it.

If you had a second career, what would it be? Running a bookstore.