Atmospheric science professors earn three American Meteorological Society honors

Portrait of James Hurrell, Department of Atmospheric Science
James Hurrell, Scott Presidential Chair in Environmental Science and Engineering in the Department of Atmospheric Science

Colorado State University’s Department of Atmospheric Science is one of the top programs of its kind, a reputation established by its remarkable faculty, who lead the field in research and education. But don’t take our word for it, just ask their peers.

The American Meteorological Society will recognize three CSU professors this year with prestigious honors. Russ Schumacher will receive the Clarence Leroy Meisinger Award; Susan van den Heever will be inducted as a fellow; and James Hurrell will be the first recipient of the Warren Washington Research and Leadership Medal. Their nominations were led or co-led by atmospheric science colleagues from other universities.

First of its kind

Hurrell will receive the inaugural Warren Washington Research and Leadership Medal for his “highly influential climate system research, and a distinguished and impactful record of national and international leadership,” according to the AMS citation.

“Jim Hurrell is an outstanding scientist, an outstanding leader, and a truly caring person. I can think of no one more fitting to be the first recipient of this award,” said University of Washington Professor Emeritus Mike Wallace, who nominated Hurrell for the medal.

The award is especially meaningful for Hurrell because Washington was one of his mentors.

“This particular award is special because Warren has been a very influential figure in not only my career, but my life,” said Hurrell. “There are few people I respect and admire as much as Warren.”

Hurrell joined Washington’s group right out of graduate school, when Washington was directing the Climate and Global Dynamics (CGD) laboratory at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). Washington taught Hurrell valuable lessons about science as well as how to be an effective leader.

“I’ve always tried to emulate his leadership style, which is defined by inclusivity and treating everyone with dignity and respect,” Hurrell said.

Hurrell followed in Washington’s footsteps, becoming an NCAR senior scientist, then directing CGD. During his time at NCAR, Hurrell held numerous other leadership roles. He served as NCAR director for five years, before joining CSU in 2018 as the Scott Presidential Chair in Environmental Science and Engineering.

Hurrell has been extensively involved in the World Climate Research Programme and currently serves as an officer on its scientific steering committee. He has led the international WCRP Climate Variability and Predictability (CLIVAR) project, as well as U.S. CLIVAR. Hurrell also has held leadership positions with the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the American Geophysical Union, AMS, and National Academy of Science committees. His research uses empirical and modeling studies and diagnostic analyses to better understand climate, climate variability and climate change.

Hurrell acknowledges the support of mentors like Washington and the opportunities those mentors created for him.

“I’ve had an opportunity to work with many amazing people over the years, and now that includes colleagues at CSU,” he said. “Awards such as the Washington Medal reflect their support and motivation.”

Fellowship and fundamental advances

A portrait of Sue van de Heever, Monfort Professor in the Department of Atmospheric Science
Sue van de Heever, Monfort Professor in the Department of Atmospheric Science

van den Heever has been elected a fellow for her extensive record of contributions to atmospheric science. No more than two-tenths of one percent of all AMS members are considered for the honor any given year.

Texas A&M University Professor Courtney Schumacher nominated van den Heever, describing her as a “good friend and co-conspirator on big science ideas.”

“The field would not be the same without Dr. van den Heever’s scientific contributions and vision,” Schumacher said in her nomination letter. “She is giving of herself to her students and to our community to an extent that is humbling.”

van den Heever, a Monfort Professor, recently was named the 2021 MIT Houghton Lecturer and scientist-in-residence, as well as a visiting professor in the Department of Physics at Oxford University. Her research focuses on cloud dynamical and microphysical processes, aerosol-cloud feedbacks, and the representation of these processes in numerical models. Recently, her research has utilized unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, to take storm measurements.

van den Heever has held numerous community leadership positions, including co-chair of the committee advising NASA’s Aerosol-Clouds-Convection and Precipitation mission that is expected to shape the science of clouds and convection for the coming decade.

“It is a tremendous honor to have been made a fellow of the AMS. I feel most humbled to have been selected to join this group of top scientists and leaders of our field,” van den Heever said. “I am very grateful to Courtney Schumacher, Liz Page, Graeme Stephens, Dick Johnson and Ed Zipser for their support of my nomination, and for having been inspirational colleagues and collaborators from the early days of my career.

“Awards like this are representative of the efforts of many. I would like to extend great appreciation to my research staff and my past and present students for joining me every day on our pathway of scientific discovery, and to our highly supportive faculty here at CSU.”

Early-career distinction

Russ Schumacher, Colorado State Climatologist, Director of the Colorado Climate Center and Associate Professor of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University, April 20, 2018
Russ Schumacher, Colorado State Climatologist, Director of the Colorado Climate Center and Associate Professor in the Department of Atmospheric Science

Russ Schumacher, associate professor and Colorado State Climatologist, will receive the Meisinger Award for his innovative analyses of observations and model simulations that improve our understanding of flash floods and other weather phenomena.

Professor Emeritus Richard Johnson and University of Georgia Professor John Knox co-led Schumacher’s nomination.

“Russ has distinguished himself at an early age in terms of his research,” Knox said. “Russ is one of the top early-career scientists in our entire field, so it was a no-brainer to nominate him.”

Schumacher researches storms that produce extreme rainfall and cause flash flooding, with the goal of improving predictions of these high-impact weather systems.

“The list of past winners of this award is a who’s who of great scientists in our field, including many who have been important influences on my career,” Schumacher said. “To be added to that list is an incredible honor.

“I’ve been fortunate to work with some exceptional graduate student researchers here at CSU, and any recognition I receive is really a reflection of their creative and important work.”

Schumacher is the second consecutive CSU atmospheric scientist to receive the Meisinger Award. Associate Professor Elizabeth Barnes earned last year’s distinction.

The three atmospheric science professors will be honored at the 101st AMS Annual Meeting in January. AMS is a global community of weather, water and climate professionals committed to advancing science and service in those fields.