Name: Jerry Mahlman
Q: Where in NOAA do you work now?
A: I am currently Director of NOAA's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, Box 308, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08542.
Q: When did you begin your work with NOAA?
A: First, from 1967 to 1970, I was a faculty member (Civil Service) at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School. I gave up my tenured faculty position there to take an uncertain position at the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) of ESSA. On the exact instant I started at GFDL, midnight October 3, 1970, ESSA became NOAA. Not incidentally, I have declared my intent to retire on NOAA's 30th birthday, thus completing a most interesting circuit.
Q: Looking back, what events stand out as the most memorable during your time with NOAA?
A: Looking back what events stand out as the most memorable during your time with NOAA?
I came to ESSA/NOAA to work with the highly renowned Drs.Joseph Smagorinsky and Syukuro Manabe, pioneering mathematical modelers of the atmosphere. That experience has been the defining part of my scientific life. With their encouragement and guidance, I was able to construct first-ever models of three-dimensional atmospheric chemistry and of stratospheric circulation, capabilities that provided a solid underpinning for NOAA's world-leading work on ozone and its human-induced changes.
In 1984, I was granted the privilege of becoming GFDL's second-ever Director. Being able to serve NOAA's goals and to empower the scientific underpinning for NOAA's mission remains a deep personal privilege for me. As I prepare to leave this position, however, it is now clear that the greatest personal honor for me remains the daily association with my friends and colleagues in GFDL, in OAR, and throughout NOAA.
Q: From your point of view, what have been the most significant changes NOAA has experienced during the past 30 years?
A: When I began in NOAA at the exact moment of NOAA's "birth", I saw NOAA as being a far-flung coalition of largely unrelated activities with little unified focus. Today, essentially all of NOAA's widely recognized activities are highly integrated and interconnected, to its great credit, and sometimes to the dismay of those who prefer tidy and separable "bins" for everything. I must confess, however, that the terminally unhip spell checker for my PC insists that "NASA" is an English word, while "NOAA" is not! Where are the PC Police when we need them?
It has been a source of great pride to see the enormous utilization and empowerment of the results of NOAA research efforts into NOAA operations and services. It saddens me to mention an irony here. In the early days of NOAA, a strong research base was well supported, even though the anticipated payoffs had not yet occurred. Now that the value of such research is visible everywhere, the financial support for this critical research base has deteriorated alarmingly--and at a time of unprecedented national prosperity. Who could possibly have predicted that?
Finally, I would like to comment on the rapidly growing "stealth" revolution in NOAA: Climate. The huge increase in society's need for diverse climate-related (vs.traditional weather-related) information is already overwhelming NOAA climate research activities. This accelerating demand has arisen from two different exploding realities: 1. The NOAA-based discovery of an ability to predict some aspects of climate variations more than a year in advance; and 2. The now widespread realization that human-caused climate warming is a very real phenomenon and is likely to have major impacts on human societies and on most other living systems. (The first physically correct calculations of human-caused climate warming were produced at GFDL/ESSA over a third of a century ago. Some revolutions take a while!).
This page updated on: Monday, 07-Jan-2002 21:41:56 UTC
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