UCAR > Communications > Staff Notes Monthly > January 2002 Search

January 2002

The long goodbye: Two NCAR stalwarts retire … and keep working

It was more than 34 years ago that the paths of Rol Madden (CGD) and Dennis Joseph (SCD) first intersected. Rol, a newly minted NCAR scientist, drew as his first major assignment the task of analyzing raw data from the 1967 Line Islands Experiment. His partner in the venture was Dennis, who had embarked on his NCAR career just one year earlier in the fledgling Data Support Section.

“Dennis taught me a great deal about handling data,” Rol recalls. “He knew the ropes, so to speak.”

Although the two men have not worked together on many projects since, their careers again are on a parallel course. Independent of each other, Rol and Dennis decided to retire at the same time.

Dennis, 61, stepped down at the end of December. Rol, 63, ended his formal employment 4 January.

SN Monthly asked the two men to reflect on their careers and learned that neither is planning to stray too far from the Mesa Lab in retirement.

Rol Madden: Meteorology is his hobby

A towering figure among NCAR scientists, Rol started work at NCAR in September 1967—and he plans to keep working during his retirement.

During a November symposium in his honor, Rol Madden (right) met with NCAR retiree Chester Newton (left) and Veerabhadran Ramanathan of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. (Photo by Carlye Calvin.)

“Meteorology in some way is my hobby,” the senior scientist says. “I’ll probably come in every day.”

Rol’s retirement plan includes the study of Rossby waves (also known as planetary waves), the large-scale waves circling the Earth that affect seasonal and day-to-day weather patterns.

“I want to further document their occurrence and establish how they might affect weather forecasts,” he says.

Rol, who this month is being presented with the 2002 Jule Charney award of the American Meteorological Society, is perhaps best-known internationally for his detection in the 1970s of a wave-like feature that propagates at large scales and low frequencies in the tropical troposphere. He helped discover this feature with fellow NCAR scientist Paul Julian through a careful statistical analysis of observational data. Called the Madden-Julian Oscillation, it may provide a key to predicting El Niño events.

Rol also developed the concept of “potential predictability,” an innovative analysis of variance that is used to assess atmospheric behavior. He has made important contributions in the area of climate change detection, sampling strategies, atmospheric angular momentum balance, and the estimation of frequency spectra of meteorological data.

Why retire if he plans to keep on working?

“I want to work on some things that maybe aren’t in the mission of NCAR,” says Rol, who will have his own carrel in the library. “I also have this feeling that it’s time for me to move over and allow young people to come in.”

He’s also looking forward to spending more time with his wife, Aggie, who retired from CU eight years ago, and their four children.

Dennis Joseph: Preserving the data

Dennis came to NCAR in September 1966. Hired by Roy Jenne, he had just earned a master’s degree in meteorology, and he was interested in working with computers.

Dennis Joseph (SCD) is retiring after 35 years.
(Photo by Carlye Calvin.)

Computer technology, of course, was quite different in those early days.

“CRTs at your desk were unheard of,” Dennis recalls. “The programs were punched into cards using a key punch, and the printouts were the big fanfold sheets.”

Looking back over the past 35 years, Dennis says he is very proud of the accomplishments of SCD’s Data Support Section. “It has a unique role in supporting the research,” he says. “It’s sometimes not a glamorous role, but I think it’s extremely important.”

At its onset, the section focused on preserving old data that future researchers might want to analyze. The staff, which has expanded considerably in the past three decades, now also works to improve the quality of data, as well as distributing them to different sites and making sure the data are easy to interpret.

Dennis says he doesn’t have any “grand plan” for retirement. Instead, he wants to devote more time to such favorite activities as digital photography, hiking, biking, skiing, and traveling with his wife, Sara, and to visiting with their two sons and one granddaughter.

He also plans to travel to many national parks, including Yellowstone in search of wolves.

But Dennis, like Rol and so many other retirees, is hardly leaving NCAR altogether. Instead, he is staying on as a casual employee.

“Anyone who’s been at a place as long as I’ve been has certainly accumulated knowledge and experience that are virtually impossible to transfer completely to someone else,” he says. “I’ll be available for consulting support for people in the section as things come up that I might have worked on.”

•David Hosansky

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UCAR > Communications > Staff Notes Monthly > January 2002 Search

Edited by David Hosansky, hosansky@ucar.edu
Prepared for the Web by Carlye Calvin
Last revised: Thu Dec 20 17:08:40 MST 2001