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October 1997

California, here comes John McCarthy


John McCarthy

The reality of leaving Boulder sank in this summer for John McCarthy when he and his wife bought a home in Carmel, California, in preparation for leaving the Boulder area after 18 years. "I'm having separation anxiety," says John, "but I'm ready for new challenges."

The founder of RAP, and the man who helped get microbursts and wind shear on the nation's radar screens, is on his way to the Naval Research Laboratory in Monterey. John's new position will be manager of scientific and technical program development. It's a job roughly analogous to the one he's held over the past two years as a special assistant to NCAR director Bob Serafin, with a bit of RAP and WITI entrepreneurialism thrown in. A key task will be to improve communication between NRL research units and the end users of research: ship commanders, and tactical decision makers, among others. "I'm also going to work to broaden R&D at NRL beyond the Navy," he adds, which will entail looking at a wide range of possible funding sources. The third major piece of John's new job is to increase collaboration between NRL and NCAR: "There's already a fair amount, but I'd like to see more."

John's interactions with NCAR scientists began during his days in the 1970s as a faculty member at the University of Oklahoma. From 1981 to 1985, he collaborated with Jim Wilson (ATD/RAP) to direct landmark studies that established the role of wind shear as an aircraft hazard: the Joint Airport Weather Studies (JAWS) and the Classify, Locate, and Avoid Wind Shear (CLAWS) project. Afterward, he was tapped to head a start-up group within ATD that would apply the lessons from JAWS and CLAWS to create warning systems for airports. RAP grew by leaps and bounds in the late 1980s, becoming a division-sized program in less than five years. "RAP was something new and exciting for NCAR," says John. "It resulted in science and technology being transferred to help save lives of the flying public."

In 1993 John took a sabbatical, spending four months in Hong Kong to stimulate interest in airport weather-warning systems there. Since then, a new multimillion-dollar market for U.S. weather research and technology has evolved at airports along the Pacific Rim, including Hong Kong. John returned to serve as the second director of the short-lived Walter Orr Roberts Institute. When its doors were shuttered in 1995, John moved on to the current, consulting-oriented position he's about to depart.

John will remain a full-time NCAR employee, filling the post at NRL through a intergovernmental personnel assignment, with 10% of his work time assigned to NCAR director Bob Serafin. "I'll continue to assist Bob in advocating for a national aviation weather research program," he notes. Budgets for aviation weather research, including much of RAP, have been vulnerable to the fiscal axe of late. For now, though, John believes that U.S. aviation weather research "is in a very strong position."

John's wife, Carole Shawver, is a California native, so he says this move is a dream come true for her. As for John himself, he'll be adjusting to life on the other side of the Rockies. However, he notes, "Leaving Boulder and going to the Monterey/Carmel area is more than half good." •BH


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