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Science Briefing

It was part tribute, part roast, part reunion, and part scientific meeting. The Harry van Loon Symposium held at the Mesa Lab on 21-22 October brought visitors from across the nation and Europe to celebrate Harry's scientific accomplishments and influence and to present papers on the themes Harry has developed in his 33 years at NCAR. Harry, a senior scientist since 1977, officially retired in 1991 but has remained active in CGD as a senior research associate.

Bob Chervin and Harry van Loon converse at a symposium break. (Photo courtesy Liz Stephens.)
Rol Madden and a small organizing committee pulled together the symposium with minimal funding. "Virtually everyone who attended came on their own money," he says. Rol combed Harry's vita to assemble a list of every collaborator over the years, then sent out invitations. More than half of those contacted were able to attend. They included Karin Labitzke (Free University of Berlin), who has cowritten several papers with Harry on the solar cycle and its influence on the stratosphere; Eugene Rasmusson (University of Maryland), a long-time colleague of Harry's in global circulation studies; Hans and Jin-Song von Storch (Hamburg, Germany); and Kingste Mo (National Centers for Environmental Prediction). Other visitors included Jill Jaeger (International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, Laxenburg, Austria), Marilyn Raphael (University of California, Los Angeles), Jeff Rogers (Ohio State University), Mike Chen (Iowa State University), Silke Leder (Free University of Berlin), and--closer to home--George Kiladis (NOAA Aeronomy Lab). NCAR presenters included Rol, Jim Hurrell, Roy Jenne, Bill Large, Jerry Meehl, Ralph Milliff, Chester Newton, Dennis Shea, Kevin Trenberth, and Harry himself.

Many of the talks were reviews summarizing decades of achievement by Harry and his colleagues, while others presented recent work in such topics as Southern Hemisphere meteorology and quasi-stationary waves. Perhaps the most unorthodox science talk came from Rol, who unveiled a spectral analysis of Harry's publication productivity over the years. "There's some indication of a quasibiennial oscillation," he said, "but I decided if I was going to get anything out of this I'd have to do some filtering." The result was a clearly defined trend: "When Harry reaches his 100th birthday, he'll be publishing 12 papers a year."

Afterward, Rol said, "I thought it went great. There was a certain spirit in the room. I haven't been to a scientific meeting that I enjoyed so much in many, many years." Harry adds, "I was very pleased with the quality of the papers. It was good to see that people brought their best." He is now in the midst of a month-long circuit through Europe for several scientific presentations interspersed with vacationing.

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Prepared by Jacque Marshall, jacque@ucar.edu, 303-497-8616