Peter Lamb: 1947-2014.
Lamb's basic research focused on the physical and dynamical processes responsible for regional climate and its short-term fluctuations (intraseasonal, interannual, decadal), especially for Northern Hemisphere Africa and North America east of the Rocky Mountains. He authored or coauthored more than 100 peer-reviewed publications, which have received approximately 4,000 and 5,100 citations, respectively, according to the Web of Science and Google Scholar. He was the founding chief editor of the Journal of Climate (1989-95), and he was also a member of the AMS Council (2011-14) and Executive Committee (2012-14) as well as a Fellow of AMS since 1988.
Peter arrived in the United States in the fall of 1971 to study meteorology at the graduate level at the University of Wisconsin--Madison. He earned a Ph.D. in meteorology in 1976 under Stefan L. Hastenrath. The subject matter in his dissertation, "Variations in General Circulation and Climate over the Tropical Atlantic and Africa: Weather Anomalies in the Subsaharan Region," continued to be a major portion of his life's work, often in collaboration with Hastenrath. His focus was on linking regional climate science with real-world problems. He grew to love Africa and made many trips there to advise governments and hydrometeorological service providers.
Lamb was a postdoctoral research associate in 1978-79 at the Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies (CIMAS) at the University of Miami, where he worked closely with Eric Kraus, who encouraged him to focus on North Atlantic climate and ocean processes. His work documented the annual march of the heat budget of the tropical and North Atlantic Ocean. These included surface heat exchanges, net surface heat gain, subsurface heat storage change, and meridional oceanic heat transport. He had taken an early interest in the causes of the intense drought in the sub-Saharan regions of North Africa, which had begun in the late 1960s and was particularly intense in the early 1970s. At CIMAS, his research focused on understanding the factors that affected rainfall in the region. To this end, he began to compile statistics from stations in the Sahel region. This became the foundation of the long Sahel-Soudano rainfall time series, a record that serves as a vital data source for much of the research on West African climate to this day. In publications he showed that Sahel rainfall was linked to variations in the West African Monsoon. He posited that the drought of the early 1970s had continued into the 1980s, contrary to various scientific and media reports that had suggested that the drought had ameliorated. This paper alerted the community to the possibility of continued societal stress in the region, a warning that proved to be true. Indeed, the height of the drought was not reached until the mid-1980s, and drought continues to this day, albeit considerably weakened.
During Lamb's residence at CIMAS, he had discussions with Joseph Prospero, who was studying the transport of African dust across the Atlantic to the Caribbean based on aerosol measurements. These data showed large increases in dust transport in the 1970s and 1980s coincident with the two intense drought phases. In a joint paper, they showed that the year-to-year variability of dust transport over that time period had a strong negative correlation to rainfall in the Sahel as measured in Lamb's network. Because dust itself is a climate-forcing agent, the linkage between dust and rainfall suggested the possibility of a feedback loop between rainfall and forcing. This has a number of implications, including the possible role that dust might play in affecting ocean sea-surface temperatures and in modulating Atlantic tropical cyclones.
Peter joined the Illinois State Water Survey (ISWS) at the University of Illinois in 1979. He was hired to augment the breadth and depth of the weather and climate research at ISWS, particularly the interface between the two, which affected the agricultural sector of the state economy. He began his tenure at ISWS as a professional scientist (1979-81) and was soon promoted to principal scientist (1982-91), owing to his prolific research record and the foresight to reach across several disciplines to provide a full assessment of weather and climate impacts, the underlying science, and policy implications. In 1984, Lamb was promoted to head of the ISWS Climate and Meteorology Section and served in that capacity until 1990. In addition to his leadership role at ISWS, in 1983 Lamb was appointed an adjunct associate professor of meteorology in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Illinois, and in 1987 he was promoted to adjunct professor. He also was appointed as an affiliate of the Center for African Studies (1985) and as an adjunct professor of geography (1988) at Illinois.
While at ISWS, Lamb's research interests included studying the physical and dynamical processes responsible for climate and its seasonal-to-interannual-to-decadal-scale variations, particularly for regions in North America and Africa where the vital growing season rainfall is delivered by mesoscale weather systems. Some of his earlier lines of inquiry (sub-Saharan rainfall, oceanic heat budget) were expanded at Illinois. One of his key research efforts was directing extensive investigations of this type for the African Sahel and North America east of the Rocky Mountains, through a series of continuous National Science Foundation grants in the 1980s through the early 1990s. Lamb had a keen interest in how physical-dynamical regional climate research can benefit society, particularly in the aforementioned regions. Many of the collaborations he formed in the 1980s and early 1990s continued to flourish after he left Illinois. In particular, his applied research with economists to use weather and climate information for U.S. agriculture provided the material for his 1991 Margary Lecture to the Royal Meteorological Society. His various papers on African climate have been referenced well over 2,000 times and manuscripts he coauthored on the concept and application of the North Atlantic Oscillation have been cited more than 400 times in the literature, as of this writing. During his tenure at Illinois, he was chief editor of the Journal of Climate from 1989 to 1995. His excellence at editing and persistence in ensuring the highest scientific standards for publication fostered the growth and stature of that journal.
Peter loved to travel, visiting nearly every continent to present his research. He was particularly fond of joint endeavors with the Reading and East Anglia (United Kingdom) groups. During the 1980s and early 1990s, he was invited to the International Meetings on Statistical Climatology, where he presented findings about applications of statistics to regional climate studies. His interest in weather processes made him a strong supporter of the University of Chicago and Illinois State Water Survey (CHILL) radar program, a forerunner of the present-day national dual polarization network. Under his leadership, CHILL was often deployed around the country to link the time and space scales ranging from cloud microphysics though climate. In the early 1990s, when the ISWS began to divest itself of such advanced sensor platforms and to diminish its scope of research, Lamb realized that would make it difficult for him to accomplish cutting-edge research and maintain his international collaborations, so he began a new phase of leadership in Oklahoma.
In 1991, he joined OU as a tenured full professor in its School of Meteorology and as director of its Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies (CIMMS), which is largely funded by the NOAA. During his 23 years as head of CIMMS, the number of staff and annual budget grew considerably. Lamb also served as director of the International Center for Disaster Research at OU from 1994 to 1999, and was associate director of Oklahoma Weather Center Programs from 1996 to 2006. In 2001, he was honored with a George Lynn Cross Research Professorship, which is OU's highest research honor.
Lamb's research topics expanded at OU since 1991, involving more than 20 graduate students, 3 of whom have won AMS awards for their efforts. In addition, shortly after moving to Oklahoma in 1991, Peter was appointed site scientist for the Southern Great Plains component of the U.S. Department of Energy's Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Program. The long-term effort he directed continued until 2012, and spanned scientific guidance for site operations, basic research, and educational outreach. Beginning in 1994, Peter led a multiyear program of collaborative research and development with the Moroccan National Weather Service that provided Morocco with an experimental long-range prediction capability for its crucial winter precipitation during 1996-2000. This program brought several long-term Moroccan visitors to OU, one of whom completed a Ph.D. and returned to his National Weather Service. In the mid-to-late 1990s, Lamb also worked with Emeritus Professor Yoshi Sasaki to develop a substantial collaborative research program with Japan, investigating small-scale weather phenomena and the resulting regional climate variability. This involved the Japan Science and Technology Agency, Kyoto and Tokyo Universities, and the Hitachi Corporation. Peter coordinated Hitachi's donation of a supercomputer to OU for use in the collaborative program.
Starting in 1997, Lamb led a program of collaboration and cooperation between CIMMS and the African Centre of Meteorological Applications for Development (ACMAD; Niamey, Niger), receiving significant funding from the International Activities Office of the U.S. National Weather Service and the U.S. Agency for International Development. This support facilitated the CIMMS research of graduate students from Kenya, Cote d'Ivoire, Morocco, Ethiopia, Chad, and Niger, most supervised by Lamb. Almost all of the African graduates are now working in their home countries. As part of this CIMMS-ACMAD linkage, Peter participated in several meetings of the ACMAD Governing Board. During the last decade, Lamb collaborated closely with the Institute of Atmospheric Physics in the Chinese Academy of Sciences (Beijing), including serving as principal organizer of the First U.S.-China Symposium on Meteorology (University of Oklahoma, February 2008) and co-principal U.S. organizer for the Second Symposium in this series (Qingdao, China, June 2013). Almost every year since 2005, Lamb visited China and gave invited presentations at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Peking University, Lanzhou University, Nanjing University, and the City University of Hong Kong. Over the last decade, his research had broadened to consider the monsoons of the Horn of Africa (especially Ethiopia) and North America (Mexico-Arizona-New Mexico), Australian dust and New Zealand sunshine variability, tropical cyclones in the western Pacific both north and south of the Equator, and the role of climate variability in Native American health.
Peter was an avid sportsman, having played rugby, basketball, and cricket for his school teams in New Zealand. He would persuade his friends to accompany him to Wisconsin rugby games and took great care to explain the rules and nuances of the game. His fellow graduate students presented him with the Southern Hemisphere Rotating Chair, which was an antique oak swivel chair appropriated from Old Science Hall. Even though he understood the humor involved, he used this chair as his desk chair throughout his time there. Peter was very proud of his Wisconsin heritage. It is appropriate then that Hastenrath dedicated the last sentences in one of his books to Peter.
The study of climate is most important where it may serve the needs of mankind. In particular, the tropics are above all the lands and seas of the Third World, whose manifold social, economic, and political problems are intricately intertwined with climate.
Pete Lamb was a good citizen of the world, and he will be missed by many.
--MICHAEL B. RICHMAN, LANCE M. LESLIE, JAMES F. KIMPEL, RANDY A. PEPPLER, JOSEPH M. PROSPERO, AND BERRIEN MOORE II
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|Author:||Richman, Michael B.; Leslie, Lance M.; Kimpel, James F.; Peppler, Randy A.; Prospero, Joseph M.; Moo|
|Publication:||Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society|
|Date:||Dec 1, 2014|
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