1.1 Peter Webster’s Contributions to Theory, Observations, and Practice of Tropical and Monsoon Meteorology

Tuesday, 9 January 2018: 8:30 AM
Ballroom G (ACC) (Austin, Texas)
Robert A. Houze Jr., Univ. of Washington/PNNL, Seattle, WA

Over the first three decades of his career, Peter Webster made several landmark contributions to the field of atmospheric and climate dynamics—theoretical, observational, and practical—which have influenced a generation of atmospheric scientists. He was the first to point out that atmosphere-land interaction might result in intraseasonal fluctuations in the Indian summer monsoon. Land-air interaction has since become a top research subject not only for the monsoons but also for other types of weather and climate variability over land. His innovative work on the monsoons covers many subjects, including interaction of the Asian monsoon with the El Niño/La Niña cycle over the Pacific. The processes that he has elucidated range from interannual to interdecadal timescales. He helped to develop a now widely used monsoon index and has shed light on the probabilistic prediction of monsoon rainfall. He has made important contributions to understanding the interaction of tropical and high-latitude atmospheric circulation, especially through tropical westerly regions, known as the “westerly duct.” Webster was one of the first to point out the importance of cloud radiation long as a key component of the Earth’s climate. His explanation of the intertropical convergence zone in terms of the vorticity gradient is a leading theory on this subject. Perhaps most importantly, he has eloquently interpreted the tropical atmosphere and monsoonal circulations in the context of the global hydrological cycle.

Peter Webster led to one of the grandest international observational campaigns in the history of atmospheric sciences—TOGA COARE. This program employed numerous ships and aircraft in a logistically complex array over the remote tropical Pacific Ocean “warm pool.” Webster has received numerous accolades for his fundamental research on the weather and climate of the tropics—the American Meteorological Society's Rossby and Charney Medals, the Royal Meteorological Society's Gill and Mason Medals, the International Award of the Americn Geophysical Union, and the Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz International Prize for Water.

Webster has also projected his research onto societal needs. He has worked substantively toward improving 1-2 week predictions to help food production and mitigate natural disasters connected with monsoon dynamics in Bangladesh, Pakistan, India and other South Asian Countries. He has worked tirelessly with agencies and governments concerned with disaster mitigation and regional forecasting in South Asia. He and his Georgia Tech colleagues realized, however, that because no single government was likely to work on this multi-country problem, and they organized a private-sector business approach to deal address this forecasting in South Asia.

Few in the history of atmospheric sciences have contributed so strongly in theory, observations, and applied meteorology.

- Indicates paper has been withdrawn from meeting
- Indicates an Award Winner