Here you wil find reminiscences from previous faculty and staff from the department's past 50 years.
Please select a person on the left to read their reminiscence.
The Department of Atmospheric Science 20-Year Perspective
Read the full 96 page perspective [here]
Jim Rasmussen, '68
Sonja and I wish to send greetings to all who are at the celebration - we recall with great fondness the 11 years we spent in Fort Collins and the many life-long friends we made. The two
photos were taken on the occasion of my Master's degree graduation day (9 Aug. 1963). As I recall, Prof. Bill Marlatt drew the "short straw" and attended the ceremony on behalf of the
ATS faculty, and I was the only student. The pictures are of me and Bill, and the other is of Sonja and I - as I recall the graduation took place in the "oval" in front of the Admin
When I enrolled at CSU (Aug. 1961) I was a Civil Engineering student since the Atmospheric Science Department was not yet in place. I had just completed my tour of duty at Westover AFB
at the 8th Air Force Headquarters Forecast Center. During my time there one of the big issues was the Hurricane forecast and I became familiar with the work of Herbert Riehl. I learned
that he was starting a department at CSU so, since Sonja and I always dreamed of living in Colorado, I applied and was accepted. My first course was AT200, Atmospheric Dynamics with
Prof. Ferd Baer. As I recall there were about 4 students starting the year but I was the only one around to begin the second term. It is a little "fuzzy" what happened then but I recall
that each day the Faculty and I would meet in the hallway of the Engineering Building on the main campus and have a rather intense weather map discussion, with the leadership rotating
each day (me included). Then Dr. Riehl would assemble a group of faculty (different participants depending on the subject) and we had what amounted to a continuing seminar class (I was
the only student) often preparing materials to include in proposals for research projects. I got the job of "gofer", data analyst, literature searcher, learning FORTRAN I, etc ... but it
was my best academic experience. The faculty included Dr Elmar Reiter, Lou Grant, Dr. Bill Marlatt, Dr. Bill Gray as well as Riehl and Baer (and others that I fail to recall). Soon other
students arrived including Joe Simmonds (Netherlands), Joe Pellessier, Brad Bean, Fred Alyea, Russ Ellsberry, Don Beran.... others, and we really started to form an active department
that included an active social component (FAC). The Department moved from the main campus out to the second floor of the new Engineering Hydraulic Laboratory near Horsetooth Reservoir
but still had most of our classes on campus. I realize this is really ancient history but I thought it might help fill a void as you prepare to celebrate 50 years.
Over the years I have been lucky to keep some contact with CSU/ATS. In 1993 I was surprised to be awarded the William E. Morgan Alumni Achievement Award -- and enjoyed traveling from the
World Meteorological Organization where I was the Director of the World Weather Watch Department to participate in the CSU Graduation Ceremony and visit the department. From 1994 - 1999 I
visited CIRA several times since it was part of the NOAA ERL Cooperative Institute structure -- many good discussions on those occasions with Tom VonderHaar and his group.
I will always remember the incredible pool of talent at Dept of Atmos Sci. from Cloud Physics (under Cotton and Rutledge) to Satellite Meteorology/CIRA (Vonder Haar and Stephens), CSU
is/was always many notches above other institutions. Who can forget Dr. Gray (UMDD!! UWDC!!)) with hundreds of maps to work on…or Dr. Johnson with pinpoint analyses of incredible
mesoscale events? The professors pushed you to your limits with challenges that would last a lifetime. May God always bless this proud department!
Professor Emeritus Dr. Edward (Ward) Hindman, '67
The Vietnam war was escalating in the early-1960's when I was an undergraduate meteorology major at the University of Utah. Every six-months, my student deferment (2S) changed to a
potential-draft status (1A) until I proved I was still successfully pursuing my BS degree. After graduation in 1965, I chose CSU to continue my studies because of meeting an enthusiastic
Lewis Grant at a winter-time research project and a subsequent research position with him the summer of 1964. That summer at CSU, I met Herbert Riehl.
During my first semester at CSU, the fall of 1965, my 2S deferment was being carefully scrutinized by the draft board back in southern California. I was asked to appear. Instead, my father
obtained the telephone number of the board and the date of the requested meeting. The board agreed to speak with the chair of my department, Prof. Dr. Riehl.
I remember vividly the scene of the call. He was in his darkened inner-office at the end of one wing of the engineering building across the street from the noisy, smelly animals of the vet
hospital. I fidgeted nervously in the bright outer office. I could hear the mumbled German-accented talk but was too far away to hear the words. After a few minutes, he hung up the
phone and walked slowly to me with a sad expression. I was mortified.
He said with a slight smile, "I did all I could but, you are going to have to stay". I was overjoyed! I asked him what he had told the board. He said, "Why take Hindman, put him in
uniform, and send him back to me to educate him". At the time, the department was training active-duty Air Force officers.
So, I graduated with a MS in 1967 and took a research meteorologist position in a 'critical industry', the Navy Weather Research Facility (NWRF), Norfolk, VA, Thereafter, the
Officer-in-Charge, CAPT Willis (Slim) Somerville signed my deferment letters. QED
Greg Byrd, '80
Sorry to miss the festivities. I was only a civil engineering student at CSU in the early 60s. But wandering into the main corridor connecting the four engineering departmental side
corridors, I would be waylaid watching the big and slow difax printer pumping out MSLP maps. Total fascination there. Yet that was a clue that I did not appreciate until 1997, when I
finally joined Lyndon State college (am now an adjunct there). So my main claim to fame at CSU is knowing Bill Fingerhut, benefitting from his weather wisdom, and having taught some of
his Lyndon graduates who went on to CSU atmospherics, including Jason Furtado. Cheers!
Mike Smith, '07
Two of the best years of my life were spent in Ft Collins at CSU: Great teachers studying in a wide variety of disciplines exposed me to research and interests that I never would've found
on my own.
Roger Edson, '86
I was there from 1975 to 1978 and also from 1983 to 1986
Greg Byrd, '80
I think the most memorable facet of the Department is its location and beautiful facility. The Foothills of the Front Range, with unlimited views in 3 directions and forested mountains in
the 4th. What a perfect panorama for observing the weather along the Front Range!
Greg Byrd, '80
There was an incredible hailstorm on 30 July 1979. I had headed home early in anticipation of the storm, and was on my bike, thankfully less than a block from my apartment, when
widely-spaced, baseball-sized stones began to fall. Fortunately, I did not get struck as I raced that short block to shelter! I do recall my landlord sitting on his covered porch
snickering and pointing at me as I stormed into the driveway....I was probably shouting every expletive imaginable as I quickly ventured out of harm's way. The late 1970's was a great
time to be a student in ATS. I learned a great many things that provided a firm foundation for my subsequent career pursuits.
Bill Burrows, '75
Some of my fondest memories are from the years when I was a CSU student.
David "Ski" Cismoski
"What happened in Atmospheric Science, stays in Atmospheric Science"
Bill Kamm, '71
I remember...Processing TIROS III satellite data on the NCAR computer with Ferd Baer...Tropical storm research in Venezuela with Herb Riehl, Jim Rasmussen and "El Buto"
the departments first field computer...Bomex project in Barbados with Bill Marlatt...Programming for Bill Gray, Lew Grant, and Elmar Reiter...Great times...Bill Kamm
Gavin McMeeking, '08
It was a fun day when we discovered a snake in the men's bathroom of the new Atmospheric Chemistry building shortly after we moved in to the excellent facility. I guess he or
she really had to go!
Dallas Jean Staley
I started working for Dr. Roger Pielke Sr in 1986 and still continue to work for him today. It has obviously been a long and rewarding experience and one that I have treasured.
I have met so many wonderful and interesting people throughout this time that have become dear friends and colleagues and maintain those connections still. I credit Roger for
giving me this opportunity and it made a big difference in my life. What a wonderful experience it was and I am so thankful to Dr. Pielke and CSU.
Earlene Bradley - Librarian
My first introduction to the newly formed Atmospheric ScienceDepartment came in mid-November 1961 when I interviewed with Lewis O.
Grant and accepted a part-time position that involved setting up a Lab Collection of research materials for the faculty and incoming graduate
students. It truly was a dream job since I had three young children, and for the most part, I could choose my own work hours.
The first day on the job, in early January 1962, I recall that several inches of snow covered the city as I arrived at the
Engineering Building on the main CSU campus. On arrival, Lew Grant introduced me to the faculty, which consisted of Dr. Herbert Riehl,
Dr. Elmar Reiter and Dr. Ferdinand Baer. I also met William Gray (who then was only a research associate). Other members of the group were
Mr. Bill Green, Program Administrator, and Hedi Sargent, the very capable secretary that kept Dr. Riehl in line (most of the time). At
that time, there was only one graduate student, James Rasmussen.
While it would be nice to say that I got in on the "ground floor," that was not the case -- I believe it was more like the
basement level. The room was furnished only with a cold metal desk, a few unattractive metal bookshelves, and a conglomeration of
foreign-looking books, journals and other research material -- I had no idea where or how to begin.
By June 1962, things began to look up when the Atmospheric Science Department moved to an upper floor of the Engineering Research
Center (ERC) on the Foothills Campus. With the purchase of the late Harry Wexler's (one-time Chief of the U.S. Weather Bureau) personal
library collection, our Lab Collection took on a little more "class."
I enjoyed working with the graduate students and the great faculty, although at times Dr. Riehl could be a bit intimidating,
particularly when he wandered around in the Lab Collection stacks enjoying his habitual cigar. Communication problems sometimes occurred
when it became difficult to determine whether he was talking to me, or to himself (which was not unusual).
During the move to ERC, the Lab Collection became a "temporary depository" for unpacked boxes that did not appear to fit in elsewhere
(consequently there was a lot of confusion, and sometimes mistakes were made). Since we were receiving a lot of donations, I endeavored
to get the library material processed and shelved in a timely manner. Imagine my chagrin when a few weeks later, a somewhat flustered Montie
Orgill (who had arrived from the University of Hawaii to work on a SE Asia project with Dr. Riehl) came in search of his missing books and
journals -- which I had added to our Lab Collection! (Although Montie eventually forgave me, it took a long time -- we were married 48 years
Early in 1967, the Atmospheric Science Department moved into the new building on the crest of the hill east of ERC. The dedication
ceremonies (which I attended) were held in June of that year. From its humble beginnings in 1962, the impressive complex,on the same hill
today, tells the "rest of the story."
I can honestly say that the years I spent in the Atmospheric Science Department were some of the best years of my life. I had a lot
of fun and learned so much from all the wonderful people with whom I interacted. For those who are still with us, I wish to take this
opportunity to say thank you for all the kindness, respect and consideration that you extended to me throughout the many years.
Stephen Cox - Professor Emeritus
Thank you to Elmar Reiter for hiring me in 1969! Thanks to my fellow CSU/ATS faculty members, students and staff for making my 30+ years at ATS a most rewarding and
fulfilling experience. Congratulations to current and past faculty, students and staff for making CSU/ATS the BEST!!
Philip Durkee, '80
One of my most vivid memories was the hailstorm of 1981 (I think?). We were doing a summer measurements course with Pete Sinclar. That morning we received an incredibly unstable
sounding, so much so that we figured there was a sensor problem on the sonde. As the dark clouds formed in the early afternoon we noticed, from our third floor room, that the horses
in the pastures to the north, were running in circles - probably spooked by the first stones. We hurried down to the parking lot to watch the storm clouds approach. The first hail
stone, about the size of a golf ball, shattered on the ground. We all looked at each other and ran for the lobby door. The largest stone that day was softball size, I think we saved
it for a while in a freezer somewhere.
Ian Baker, '94
I'm proud to be a graduate of this department, and to also play a role (however small it may be) in its continuing excellence.
Greg Holland, '81
The one time I could concentrate on a single task, with Bill Gray pushing for ever more creative ideas and Barb Brumit somehow keeping the whole show on the road. Throw in the long
bike rides and the great skiing trips. Perfect!
Laura Sample McMeeking, '05
Being a part of such a collegial group of students and faculty really helped shaped my future career in STEM education and outreach. I made lifelong friends in ATS, and I even met
Andrew Negri, '77
Tom Vonder Haar sending his students to White Sands Missile Range and Penal Colony in the middle of summer, and a particularly nasty plane ride with Tom and (real) pilot Jim Wallaber
from Las Cruces to Albuquerque.
I worked in Dr. William Cotton's research project as the Coordinator for over 28 years. During that time I saw numerous graduate students get their Masters and Ph.D. degrees. I
believe Dr. Cotton still holds the record for graduating the most students in the Department. It was a wonderful place to work and I am thankful that was I valued as a contributing
member of the team that helped Dr. Cotton with so many important research projects over those years. I will always treasure the memories of my time there with the many great people
I met and had the pleasure of working with both in the Department and in Dr. Cotton's Project from 1981-2009.
Tracy Lorraine Smith
I arrived in the fall 1980 class. We were the largest class AtSci ever had, at least up to that point, over 20 shiny new students. One of the things
i will always remember most is how we would get together in the classroom on Sunday nights to get our Monday Dynamics homework done. Those
who were proficient helped those that were less proficient, and we all benefited from the group one way or another. We were also there for the
20th Department Anniversary, and got our chauffeurs licenses to drive the big 15 passenger vans full of dignitaries around. Ted Fujita saw his first
tornado out on the Eastern Plains while here for the 20th Anniversary! Many of us were like Ted, and did our first storm chasing heading out east from
Ft. Collins to the beautiful Colorado LP supercells and frequent landspouts. FACs at Potts were always well attended, and the faculty/student basketball
game was usually pretty competitive. Bill Gray was always in demand for his pitching skills at the Department picnic softball games up the Canyon, and how
we all managed to have so much fun while working so hard is still a mystery. Graeme Stephens was a post doc while I was there, and on the Department
softball team. One night he got a good hit, and in his excitement reverted back to cricket and ran directly to second base, which he was ribbed about and
maybe that's why he went back to Australia for a while, until we had all left and couldn't tease him about it anymore.
Best quote: Bill Gray to our General Circulation class when we whined about not getting the Friday of Engineering Days off like everyone else "Life is not
fair". Favorite class- Avalanche Meteorology, Dr. Elmar Reiter, who took us all up to Steamboat and taught me to ski. Agricultural Meteorology, taught by
Lew Grant also had a great trip- west to the Grand Junction orchards and the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. That was a memorable trip because Bob
Rilling forgot to pay for the gasoline at Hidden Valley on I-70, and I took over driving the official CSU van to be the lucky one pulled over by the State Police
about 10 miles down the road. Bob realized what was going on pretty quickly, and we turned around to return to the scene of the crime to pay, State Troopers
following us. The rest of the trip was quite uneventful, thankfully.
Also the daily lunchtime card games are also a great memory, Hearts, Spades, and if you played with the Air Force guys,
cutthroat games of Pinochle and Sheepshead.
Curtis Seaman, '03
I want to thank Dr. Vonder Haar for giving me the opportunity to study at CSU. One Masters and one PhD later, and they still can't get me to leave CSU. I'm now down the hill
at CIRA. Lots of memories of my time as a student: trudging through knee-deep snow to repair a broken radar in Egbert, Ontario; fearing for my life on the back of a snowmobile
driven by Bill Cotton; being led down a mogul run near the Storm Peak Lab my first day on skis; losing the Corn, Steak and Beer race to Eric Guillot (who obviously bribed the official)
at the BACIMO conference in Omaha; all the free food and beer at CB&Potts after each one of Tom's student's successful defenses; and relaxing on the beach at the IGARSS in Honolulu.
Some days were better than others, obviously. Shout out to the CLEX team (now mostly scattered in the wind) that brought me here and the JPSS team (which hasn't had time to scatter
in the wind) that kept me here.
I started working for the Atmospheric Science Dept in September of 1961 as a mathematician and was there for 3 years before we moved to Austin, TX, for 7 years and then to El Paso,
TX where we have lived since. Where did those 50 years to go. I didn't realize that the department was that new when I worked there. Lots of good memories of the people and the time.
William Gray - Professor Emeritus
Historic Overview of the Development and Growth of CSU's Dept. of Atmospheric Science over the Last 50 years (1962-2012)
Nobody could have foreseen the likelihood that a world-class meteorology-atmospheric science academic program could have been established in little Fort Collins during the late
1950s. This is the time when Bill Morgan (then CSU President), Ray Chamberlain (then New CSU VP for Finance), and Maurice Albertson (then Dean of Engineering) first invited Herbert
Riehl to come to CSU and take on the task of forming a new academic department that would concentrate on improving our understanding of the atmosphere. Fort Collins was then a town
of about 25,000 residents and CSU had about 6,000 students - with few graduate programs and graduate students. There were critics who said that Fort Collins was too much of a
backwater location and CSU too much of a 'cow' college to be able to attract high caliber faculty and outstanding graduate students. The last 50 years has proven these critics to be
wrong. The CSU Department of Atmospheric Science is now considered one (if not 'the') best academic department in this discipline area in the world. Over the last 50 years our
Department has produced 291 Ph.D. and 659 MS graduates.
Herbert Riehl was a well known figure in the field of meteorology when he came to CSU in June 1960 to attempt the establishment of a new graduate Department of Atmospheric Science
(Figure 1). An early and wise decision was made not to have an undergraduate program and thus only to offer Masters and Ph.D. degrees. Riehl used his many contacts to help bring in
the indispensible early research funds that were needed to get a broad based and high class atmospheric science academic program off the ground. When he handed over his Department
Head position to Elmar Reiter in 1966, the Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University had become well established on the national and international scene.
Figure 1. Herbert Riehl early biographical sketch.
The new Atmospheric Science Department was really a broadening of the discipline of meteorology to include more related specialized topics such as atmospheric chemistry, cloud and
radiation physics, remote sensing, numerical modeling, etc. - topics more specialized and somewhat removed from day-to-day weather forecasting and the more typical meteorological
Earlier research on the atmosphere had been started in the CSU Civil Engineering Department during 1958-1960. This included studies of hail size and frequency in NE Colorado
(Schleusener) and winter-time cloud seeding in the Colorado mountains (Grant). Beginning in the summer of 1961 with the first assembly of incoming faculty, research was initiated in
the global general circulation (Reiter and Riehl), aircraft remote sensing for satellite calibration and climatology (Marlatt), numerical prediction dynamics (Baer), and tropical
meteorology and hurricanes (Riehl and Gray). This newly formed faculty group also started to help plan and participate in many national and international atmospheric science field
programs that were beginning to be organized at that time.
Many favorable national developments were coming together in the late 1950s and the 1960s to make the decision to form an Atmospheric Science program at CSU a very wise and ultimately
a very successful one. Figure 2 chronologically shows the new developments that were occurring around and after the time of our Department's formation which enhanced its growth.
NSF and NASA and their university funding programs had just been formed following Sputnik's launch in October 1957. The awakening of the country to the need for more science was
being strongly felt. Weather modification research was going strong and much funding was available at that time. The baby boomers were only a few years away from applying for
graduate education. The environmental movement was beginning to take root. Specialized meteorological field programs were beginning to be planned (LIE, BOMEX, GATE, etc.). In
addition, commercial jet aircraft had just begun (1958) and flying to-from Denver was not so time consuming.
Figure 2. Favorable national trends which aided our Department's formation and growth.
It was beginning to be realized that the Rocky Mountain region needed a strong academic program in atmospheric sciences. Figure 3 shows that there was no other atmospheric science
facility in the entire Rocky Mountain region in 1960. Most atmospheric (or meteorology) programs were in large cities. The 1960s - following Sputnik - was also a period of great
confidence, excitement, and growth of the physical sciences. Nearly every few months some new (first ever) advanced space event was taking place towards the goal of putting a man on
the moon. And NCAR had just been formed and begun gathering a staff (1961) in Boulder. Plans for the large NCAR Mesa Research Building were moving forward. This building was opened
less than a year before we moved into our new ATS building 'On The Hill' in February 1967. And the US Weather Bureau (later to be NOAA) was establishing research facilities in
Boulder by the mid-1960s. Other atmospheric scientists were thus moving close to Fort Collins which began to allow beneficial collaboration with many talented like-minded
Figure 3. Location of meteorological programs at the time of our Department's formation. Note the lack of any program in the Rocky Mountain Region.
Computer technology and communication was rapidly developing to allow research collaboration over long distances. Cutting edge research could go on outside the large cities where
most of the active and prominent meteorology programs had earlier been formed in the 1930s and 1940s. Meteorology programs in big cities were then beginning to find it harder to
attract faculty members and graduate students who were less inclined to raise families in crowded cities with growing crime rates.
The Department later on developed in-depth research programs in radar and atmospheric vortices (Sinclair), atmospheric chemistry and air pollution (Corrin, Poland, and Pearson),
weather satellites and remote sensing (Vonder Haar and G. Stephens), radiation physics (Cox), tropical convection (Betts), western US and Colorado climatology (McKee and Pielke), and
continued its strong efforts in numerical modeling (D.B. Rao and Schubert).
In more recent decades the Department also took on cutting edge research in meso-circulation and cloud dynamics (Cotton and Pielke), Great Plains severe weather and Asian monsoon
studies (Johnson), accelerated in-depth dynamic studies and numerical modeling (Stevens, Randall, and Montgomery), special new weather radar studies (Rutledge), and new efforts in
atmospheric chemistry (Collett and Kreidenweis).
Figure 4 gives an abbreviated 50-year chronological listing of some of the pivotal events in the Department's development. Figure 5 is a picture of the just completed 4th floor on
the ATS Building that we then called "The Miracle on the Hill", by many of us who had been fighting budget problems for a long time. It did indeed seem like a miracle at its time.
Recent decade permanent additions to our faculty have included outstanding younger scientists; Chris Kummerow (satellite and remote sensing), Scott Denning (CO2 analysis), David
Thompson (global circulation analysis), Sue van den Heever (cloud and weather analysis), Eric Maloney (tropical analysis), Thomas Birner (stratospheric studies), and Russ Schumacher
Figure 4. A chronological time line of some of the pivotal events in the evolution of the ATS Department over the last 50 years.
Figure 5. View of the ATS Building at the time the 4th floor was completed in the fall of 1994.
Summary. In retrospect we see that the formation of the Atmospheric Science Department in Fort Collins in the early 1960s occurred at the right time, in the right
location, and for
the right needs of our country and the world for more in-depth atmospheric knowledge. For those desiring more detailed information on the first 20-years of the Department from the
perspective of Herbert Riehl, Lew Grant, Elmar Reiter, Bill Gray, Bernard Haurwitz, Pete Sinclair, Steve Cox, Tom McKee, Bill Cotton, Wayne Schubert, Duane Stevens, Dick Johnson,
Roger Pielke and Tom Vonder Haar, you can consult the 1982 report titled "The Department of Atmospheric Science at CSU - a 20 Year Perspective" (86 pages with pictures). This
report has been made available on the Department of Atmospheric Science's 50-year Anniversary website.
Our Department's success over the last 50 years has been the result of the organized and talented contributions and hard work of almost a thousand individual faculty members, research
associates, staff members and, of course, hundreds of talented graduate students - the main purpose of this 50-year venture. It is our graduate students who will further advance our
discipline in ever new and unknown ways. They are the ones to whom this 50-year venture ultimate success will be measured. They are our heritage! We are confident they will
advance our discipline well beyond our current horizons and our current efforts.