It is Black History Month, and this week we wanted to recognize one of the leading climate scientists in the United States, Warren Washington who recently retired from the National Center for Atmospheric Research, for his lifetime of public service and his pioneering work in the field of climate modeling. In the early 1960s, he was one of the first to build computer atmospheric models using the laws of physics to predict future atmospheric conditions. His accomplishments are even more impressive not only because he broke through racial barriers to do it, but also because he pulled up others with him. He was only the second African-American to earn a doctorate in atmospheric sciences and has been a mentor for generations of young researchers from diverse backgrounds, providing guidance to dozens of graduate students, as well as undergraduates in the UCAR-based SOARS program (Significant Opportunities in Atmospheric Research and Science).
He has advised six presidents on the subject of climate change — from Jimmy Carter to George W. Bush and Barack Obama. In 2010, he was awarded the National Medal of Science by President Obama, 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.” He was recently selected to receive the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement, which is often referred to as the environmental Nobel Prize, sharing it with another giant in the field, Michael Mann. Congrats to both, and our deepest gratitude to Dr. Washington for all he has contributed to our country and the planet in his fifty years of groundbreaking scientific achievement.