WARREN Washington is an African-American meteorologist and atmospheric scientist whose research focuses on the development of computer models that describe and predict the Earth's climate. Washington was one of the first developers of atmospheric computer models in the early 1960s at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. These computer models use the basic laws of physics to predict the future states of the atmosphere. Because these equations are extremely complex, it is almost impossible to solve them without a powerful computer system. Washington's book An Introduction to Three-Dimensional Climate Modeling (1986), coauthored with Claire Parkinson, is a standard reference for climate modeling. In his subsequent research, Washington worked with others to incorporate ocean and sea ice physics as part of a climate model. Such models now involve atmospheric, ocean, sea ice, surface hydrology, and vegetation components. Washington 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, in 1936. His father, Edwin Washington, Jr., wanted to be a schoolteacher, but in the 1920s, it was impossible for African Americans to be hired as teachers in Portland public schools. Thus, Edwin was forced to work as a waiter in Pullman cars to support his family. His wife Dorothy Grace Morton Washington became a practical nurse after Warren and his four brothers grew up. Washington's interest in scientific research was apparent from an early age, and he was encouraged by his high school teachers. When Washington had to choose what to do after high school, his counselor advised him to attend a business school rather than college. However, his ambition was to be a scientist, so he enrolled at Oregon State University, where he earned his bachelor's degree in physics in 1958. During his undergraduate years, Washington became interested in meteorology while working on a project at a weather station near the campus. The project involved using radar equipment to follow storms as they came in off the coast. Because of his growing interest in meteorology, Washington began a master's degree in meteorology at Oregon State, graduating in 1960. He then began a Ph.D. at Pennsylvania State University, graduating in 1964, thus becoming one of only four African Americans to receive a doctorate in meteorology.
Washington began working for NCAR in Boulder, Colorado, in 1963 and has remained associated with that institution throughout his career. His research at the center has attempted to describe patterns of oceanic and atmospheric circulation. Washington has contributed to the creation of complex mathematical models that include the effects of surface and air temperature, soil and atmospheric moisture, sea ice volume, various geographical traits, and other factors on past and current climates.
Washington's research has helped further our present understanding of the greenhouse effect. He has contributed to determining the process in which excess carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere causes the retention of heat, thus leading to what is known
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