Washington, Warren M. (1936- )
Washington, Warren M. (1936- )
Warren M. Washington is an atmospheric scientist whose research focuses on the development of computer models that describe and predict the Earth's climate . He is the director of the Climate and Global Dynamics Division of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), in Boulder, Colorado. He has advised the U.S. Congress and several U.S. presidents on climate-system modeling, serving on the President's National Advisory Committee on Oceans and Atmosphere from 1978 to 1984.
Washington was born in Portland, Oregon. His father, Edwin Washington Jr., had hoped to be a schoolteacher, but in the 1920s, Portland wouldn't hire African-Americans to teach in the public schools. Instead, the elder Washington supported Warren and his four brothers by waiting tables in Pullman cars. His wife, Dorothy Grace (Morton) Washington, became a practical nurse, after the Washington children were grown.
Washington's interest in scientific research developed early and was nurtured by high school teachers who encouraged him to experiment. Refusing once to directly answer his question about why egg yolks were yellow, a chemistry teacher inspired Washington to study chicken diets and eventually to learn about the chemistry of sulfur compounds. Despite the boy's aptitude for science, Washington's high school counselor advised him to attend a business school rather than college, but Washington's dream was to be a scientist. He earned his bachelor's degree in physics in 1958, from Oregon State University. As an undergraduate, Washington became interested in meteorology while working on a project at a weather station near the campus. As part of the project, the station used radar equipment to track storms as they came in off the coast. In 1960, he earned his master's degree in meteorology from Oregon State. When he completed his graduate work in 1964 at Pennsylvania State University, he became one of only four African Americans to receive a doctorate in meteorology.
Washington began working for the NCAR in 1963 and has remained affiliated with that institution throughout his career. His research there has attempted to quantify patterns of oceanic and atmospheric circulation . He has helped to create complex mathematical models that take into account the effects of surface and air temperature, soil and atmospheric moisture, sea ice volume, various geographical features, and other parameters on past and current climates. His research has contributed to our modern-day understanding of the greenhouse effect , in which excess carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere causes the retention of heat, giving rise to what is known as global warming . Washington's research also provided understanding for other mechanisms of global climate change.
Washington was appointed the director of the Climate and Global Dynamics Division at NCAR in 1987. In 1994, he was elected President of the American Meteorological Society. He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a member of its board of directors, a fellow of the African Scientific Institute, a Distinguished Alumnus of Pennsylvania State University, a fellow of Oregon State University, and Founder and President of the Black Environmental Science Trust, a nonprofit foundation that encourages African-American participation in environmental research and policymaking.
Washington has published over 100 professional articles about atmospheric science. He co-authored, with Claire Parkinson, An Introduction to Three-Dimensional Climate Modeling in 1986, and the book has since become a standard reference text for climate modeling. Washington has six children and 10 grandchildren.