UCAR Communications


staff notes monthly

November 2003

Rick Anthes wins top Chinese award

When UCAR president Rick Anthes began visiting China in 1982, he was amazed to see Chinese meteorologists mark up hand-plotted maps because they lacked computers and automated data processing and analysis equipment. Now, thanks in part to Rick and other Westerners who shared advanced technology with them, Chinese scientists have developed modern weather prediction models, computer-generated maps, and numerical analyses. “They have virtually caught up to us,” Rick says.

Rick Anthes in Beijing with Tiananmen Square in the background.

To honor Rick for two decades of collaboration, the Chinese government in September granted him the highest award it bestows on foreigners: the Friendship Award. Rick is the first atmospheric scientist to earn this recognition.

“I am deeply honored by this award,” he says. “Since my first visit to China, I have become colleagues and friends with many Chinese scientists. Together we’ve helped advance atmospheric science and weather forecasting in China and in the United States. I look forward to many more years of friendship and close collaboration.”

Rick was nominated for the awardby the Chinese Meteorological Administration. In the nominating statement, CMA administrator Qin Dahe credited Rick with helping China adopt the Penn State/NCAR Mesoscale Model, Version 5 (better known as MM5), which was originally developed by Rick and his colleagues and students when he was at The Pennsylvania State University in the 1970s and has been widely applied in China’s weather and climate research. Dahe cited Rick’s work with the Chinese Academy of Meteorological Sciences in conducting joint research on new numerical weather prediction technology. Rick has also made a great contribution to the cultivation of China’s young scientists, Dahe said.

“You have devoted yourself to the active promotion of Sino-American cooperation in the field of atmospheric sciences and technology for many years,” Dahe concluded in a letter to Rick dated September 3, 2003.

Established in 1991, the Friendship Award honors outstanding contributions made by foreign experts to the development of Chinese society, economy, technology, science, and education. Of the 240,000 foreign experts who work in China, 50 win Friendship awards each year.

The Chinese government invited the 50 recipients and their spouses to Beijing during China’s National Day festivities to attend an award ceremony, meet with Chinese leaders, and participate in a banquet to celebrate the 54th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. Rick received a book of antique Chinese coins, a plaque, and a gold medal as part of the award.

Other Friendship Award winners included a physician from the World Health Organization who led the battle against SARS; the head engineer of the Three Gorges hydroelectric dam project; a researcher of Tibetan medicine; and experts in highway construction, international banking, and other areas.

Vice Premier Wu Yi stressed the importance of the winners’ contributions to China. “Thanks to you, China has been able to avoid some mistakes, quicken the pace of national growth, and improve the overall level of development,” she told them in a speech at the award ceremony. “We sincerely hope that you, as friendly envoys, may introduce China to your friends, to your countrymen, and to the whole world.”

A witness to change

Rick says he became intrigued by China while at Penn State in the 1970s. Several of his students were from mainland China and some were from Taiwan. He was struck by how well they interacted, given the tensions between their governments.

He first visited China as part of a delegation of atmospheric scientists in 1982, when he gave talks on mesoscale simulations of severe weather using an early version of MM5. During the monthlong trip, he met with Chinese researchers, attended conferences, and was taken on sightseeing excursions.

Since then, Rick has returned to China about once or twice a year. In addition to sharing technology, such as the computer codes for MM5 and its predecessors, he helped organize the first International Conference on East Asia and Western Pacific Meteorology in 1989, which brought together researchers from Taiwan and China for a scientific workshop in Hong Kong. The event proved a major success, and the second such conference was held three years later.

Beijing at sunset. (Photo by Rick Anthes.)

Rick’s trips to China have also given him a firsthand look at one of humanity’s most remarkable urban development stories. When he first came to Beijing in 1982, hardly anyone owned cars and it was common to see crowds of bicyclists in the city riding 30 abreast. Now, the city is home to major traffic jams, as well as modern hotels and office buildings. “To see these changes in a 20-year time frame is just mind-boggling,” Rick says. “China has gone from an early developing country, mostly rural, to the point now where the cities are practically indistinguishable in many ways from modern cities in Europe or the United States.”

Such changes have come with a price. Despite the government’s antipollution efforts, Rick says, “Even on a cloudless day in Beijing, you often can’t see the sun through the dust, smoke, and haze.”

Rick is looking forward to more collaborative projects with Chinese scientists. In April, for example, he signed a memorandum of understanding between UCAR and the Beijing Weather Bureau for UCAR to provide forecasting support for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. “I hope to stay involved in many more collaborations,” he says. •Nicole Gordon and David Hosansky

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