Dr Bill Gray R.I.P.

Posted: April 16, 2016 by Andrew in atmosphere, Natural Variation

Image credit: heartland.org

Dr.Philip Klotzbach has announced the passing of Dr. William “Bill” Gray.

William M. Gray (October 9, 1929 – April 2016) was Emeritus Professor of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University. A pioneer in the science of forecasting hurricanes and one of the worlds leading experts on tropical storms. (Wikipedia).

Dr Klotzbach has written:

Dr. Bill Gray – A Eulogy

Phil Klotzbach

How to describe 16 years spent with one of the greatest minds in hurricane research of the past 60 years? I’m still having trouble coming to grips with the fact that he’s gone. There are so many things about our relationship that I’m going to miss. The daily hour-long phone calls, the tag-team conference presentations, the forecast day donuts, the chats about topics ranging from hurricanes, to climate change, to politics, to baseball, to the Civil War.

I first was introduced to the Colorado State University seasonal hurricane forecasts and Dr. Gray when I did an undergraduate project on his research for my climatology class. I ended up doing my undergraduate Honors thesis on his research, and I was beyond excited when he called me to offer me a graduate research assistantship at CSU.

One of my first interactions with him was the AMS Hurricanes and Tropical Meteorology Conference in 2000 in Fort Lauderdale. After a brief introduction, his first question was “Who had the most RBIs in a single season, which team did he play for, and how many RBIs did he get in the season”? I knew that the answer was Hack Wilson for the 1930 Pittsburgh Pirates with 191 RBIs. At that point, Dr. Gray said he knew I would make a good project member. While we both loved meteorology, we also had a mutual love for baseball.

He grew up a Washington Senators fan while I grew up a Red Sox fan, so we were united by our mutual dislike of the New York Yankees. I was always appreciative of Dr. Gray for giving me opportunities to present at hurricane conferences when I was still quite young. He allowed me to share presentations with him at the National Hurricane Conference and the Florida Governor’s Hurricane Conference when I had just finished my Masters degree. He also encouraged me to pursue my dream of hiking the Appalachian Trail and generously promised that he would keep a position open for me when I returned.

He has always been dismissive about the amazing accomplishments that he has produced in an extraordinarily distinguished research career that spanned 60 years. The humility that he has demonstrated throughout his career is something that we would all do well to emulate. Dr. Gray had an incredible knowledge of the way that the climate works. His development of his genesis parameters – six key ingredients necessary for tropical cyclogenesis – was a groundbreaking piece of research when it was first published in the late 1960s. He also spent many years with his graduate students studying and publishing papers in a variety of fields from tropical cyclone structure to tropical radiation.

He is best known worldwide for his seasonal hurricane predictions. He instituted these predictions when he discovered that El Nino impacted Caribbean and tropical Atlantic vertical wind shear. This was the first time that any group had issued seasonal forecasts for the Atlantic. Now, nearly two-dozen groups have followed his lead issuing these predictions. He has consistently issued these forecasts for over 30 years – a track record unparalleled for university predictions. What distinguishes these forecasts from many others is the extensive write-up that is included. These forecasts typically reach 30-40 pages and discuss the primary factors why hurricane activity is being forecast at levels that it is.

He instilled his enthusiasm for weather/climate studies in his classes as well as through his interactions with graduate students. We spent many afternoons with maps of various climate patterns spread out across a table in his office. He also had the biggest affinity of anyone that I know for massive tables of data. I’ve never seen anyone get so excited for long tables of hurricane statistics or radiation budgets. Dr. Gray’s memory was extraordinary. I’m amazed at how he remembered all of his project member’s birthdays and could recount baseball statistics or Civil War generals at a particular battle at the drop of a hat. He also could rattle off winners of various AMS awards or characters in movies that he hadn’t seen in 50 years. Another love that Dr. Gray and I shared was for donuts. It was always tradition when the seasonal forecasts were released, the project would stuff envelopes with the forecast. Dr. Gray would always bring in several dozen donuts to fuel the endeavor.

When I defended my Ph.D. in the late afternoon, he told me that I still needed to be sure to provide donuts. Dr. Gray’s generosity with his resources was incredible. He contributed a considerable amount of his own resources to keep our project alive when research grants went dry a few years ago. He also let me stay at his house when I came back for in-person visits after relocating to California. I fondly remember sitting on the couch with him watching the Rockies game while eating Panda Express. My wife Kris and I also enjoyed several vacations at his cabin in the mountains west of Fort Collins.

Even at the end, Dr. Gray was focused on his research. He gave me very clear instructions on various projects I should be conducting over the next few years. He was still sketching clouds using his legal pad and #2 pencils and discussing the intricacies of cumulus convection when I came to see him a few days before his death. He told me several times throughout my time at CSU: “The only immortality that you have as a professor is through your graduate students”.

His graduate students, their students, and now even their students, are leaders in meteorological research around the globe. The incredible legacy left by Dr. Gray will last for generations to come. He will be sorely missed.

His formal obituary here.

  1. tchannon says:

    Straight. No politics. When you find a natural relationship like this, enjoy it, they are to be cherished. I know.

  2. Climatism says:

    Reblogged this on Climatism and commented:
    A great loss. RIP Dr Gray

  3. ren says:

    Such awareness is not annihilated.

  4. ren says:

    “Increases in CO2 and other greenhouse gases will not be able to bring about significant climate
    disruption in the next 75-100 years. The main problem with the Anthropogenic Global Warming
    (AGW) theory is the false treatment of the global hydrologic cycle which is not adequately understood
    by any of the AGW advocates. The water vapor, cloud, and condensation-evaporation assumptions
    within the conventional AGW theory and the (GCM) simulations are incorrectly designed to block too
    much infrared (IR) radiation to space. They also do not reflect-scatter enough short wave (albedo)
    energy to space. These two misrepresentations result in a large artificial warming that is not realistic.”

  5. ren says:

    “A slowing down of the global ocean’s Meridional Overturning Circulation (MOC = THC + SAS) is the
    likely cause of most of the global warming that has been observed since the latter part of the 19th
    century. Shorter multi-decadal changes in the MOC are hypothesized to be responsible for the more
    recent global warming periods between 1910-1940 and 1975-1998 and the weak multi-decadal
    cooling periods between 1945-1975 and 2000 to the present. This current weak cooling is projected
    to go on for the next couple of decades. Figure 13 shows the typical parameter circulation features
    which accompanies periods when the MOC (or THC) is stronger than normal and when it is weaker
    than normal. Note the typical changes in North Atlantic blocking action, El Nino activity, middlelatitude
    zonal winds, etc for strong vs. weak phases of the MOC (or THC).
    When the MOC (or THC) is stronger than average there is more upwelling of cold water in the South
    Pacific and Indian Oceans, and an increase in global rainfall of a few percent occurs. This causes the
    global surface temperatures to cool. The opposite occurs when the MOC (or THC) is weaker than
    normal. There is less upwelling of cold water, global rainfall is reduced a few percent and the global
    surface temperature warms. “

  6. oldbrew says:

    From Dr Roy Spencer: William Gray, Hurricane Researcher and Skeptic, Dead at 86


  7. ren says:

    “Many of us AMS members believe that the modest global warming we have observed is of natural
    origin and due to multi-decadal and multi-century changes in the globe’s deep ocean circulation
    resulting from salinity variations. These changes are not associated with CO2 increases. Most of
    the GCM modelers have little experience in practical meteorology. They do not realize that the
    strongly chaotic nature of the atmosphere-ocean climate system does not allow for skillful initial
    value numerical climate prediction. The GCM simulations are badly flawed in at least two
    fundamental ways:
    1. Their upper tropospheric water vapor feedback loop is grossly wrong. They assume that
    increases in atmospheric CO2 will cause large upper-tropospheric water vapor increases
    which are very unrealistic. Most of their model warming follows from these invalid water
    vapor assumptions. Their handlings of rainfall processes are quite inadequate.
    2. They lack an understanding and treatment of the fundamental role of the deep ocean
    circulation (i.e. Meridional Overturning Circulation – MOC) and how the changing ocean
    circulation (driven by salinity variations) can bring about wind, rainfall, and surface
    temperature changes independent of radiation and greenhouse gas changes. These ocean
    processes are not properly incorporated in their models. They assume the physics of global
    warming is entirely a product of radiation changes and radiation feedback processes. They
    neglect variations in global evaporation which is more related to surface wind speed and
    ocean minus surface and air temperature differences. These are major deficiencies.”

  8. ren says:

    William Gray died in Colorado during the great blizzard on 04/16/2016.