Renowned Atmospheric Scientist Dr. Reid Bryson Dies At 88

Reid once said:  ‘You can go outside and spit and have the same effect as doubling carbon dioxide.’

From Roger Pielke 

Professor Greg  J. Tripoli of the University of Wisconsin – Madison has shared this sad news with all of us.

Excerpt:  “I have the sad news to report that Professor Emeritus Reid Bryson of the University of Wisconsin – Madison passed away in his sleep Wednesday morning. Reid founded the Department of Meteorology at the University of Wisconsin – Madison in 1948 . Although Reid is most well known for his work in Climate, People and the Environment,  it is less known that Reid was also a pioneer in tropical meteorology and hurricane forecasting.  As U.S. Army Air Corps meteorologist out of Saipan, Marshall Islands  during World War II (December, 1944).

Reid pieced together evidence that a  typhoon was apparently developing in harms way and commissioned reconnaissance of the storm that he believed surrounding observations suggested  must exist in one of the many data void regions.  The reconnaissance that he ordered found the storm, encountered 140 kt winds and  aborted an apparent eye wall penetration.  Reid then identified a trough of low pressure in the storms path and predicted to his superiors that the storm would recurve into the path of the US Third Fleet.  

Believing that typhoons never recurve so far to the east, Reid’s superior officers chose to not believe his forecast.  Reid pleaded that this was not a guess, they actually  flew into the storm and measured the winds!  His superior officers conceded to watch it closely but did not act to move the fleet.  

Reid tells me that he went so far as to place unofficial warnings (off the record) of his own which he is convinced did save lives.   Then 36 hours later the storm began the recurve, just  as Reid predicted and they tried to move the Third Fleet out of the way, but is was now too late.  

Unfortunately this resulted in one of the worst naval disasters in navy history (3 ships sunk, 28 ships damaged, 146 aircraft destroyed, 756 men lost at sea  (see Henderson, 2007: Down to the Sea, ISBN 978-0-06-117316-5 for a detailed account of this incident).  I suppose that this experience went a long way to shape Reid’s views on conventional thought and to compel him to dedicate the rest of his life to the science of weather and finding truth.”

Note from Anthony: That naval disaster due to the typhoon also was the basis of the idea for the novel and Movie The Caine Mutiny


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June 13, 2008 10:36 am

I’m glad he got to see the carbon paradigm develop cracks, and even gladder he got in a few blows on it.

June 13, 2008 10:50 am

Reid was part of a pioneering generation of meterologist that laid the foundation for much of the specialization that we see today. He joins the ranks of the late Colonel RC Miller and Major Fawbush (both were in the Army Air Corps and USAF).

Pamela Gray
June 13, 2008 10:56 am

In honor of a great scientist. He started my many years old fascination with weather.

Leon Brozyna
June 13, 2008 11:01 am

A truly huge loss.
Hadn’t heard that Third Fleet part of the story before. But it fits with everything else I’d heard of him as not fitting into orthodoxy and consensus. Very much an independent mind.

Brent in Calgary
June 13, 2008 12:28 pm

‘You can go outside and spit and have the same effect as doubling carbon dioxide.’
That’s profound!

Brent in Calgary
June 13, 2008 12:40 pm

That’s just a funny, great, simple , to the point great quote to stick it to Al Gore!

Dave Hoopman
June 13, 2008 1:50 pm

When I went to interview Prof. Bryson for the magazine piece that included his “you could go outside and spit” remark, I thought we’d be lucky to get 45 minutes with an iconic scientist who didn’t need uncredentialed scribblers cluttering up his busy day. What we got instead was two hours with one of the most gracious, generous and accommodating people I’ve ever met. Subsequent inquiries about climate issues great and small unfailingly received a cheerful, informative and witty response that proved no effort to get the benefit of Reid Bryson’s knowledge would be considered unworthy of his prompt attention. It is a sad thing that he is gone; a happy thing that he goes out, I am absolutely sure, with no apologies. R.I.P.

Bruce Cobb
June 13, 2008 1:53 pm

Yikes, Pam! Did you have to go and do that? There goes our climate.

John G. Bell
June 13, 2008 2:19 pm

Edwin P. Hoyt said that it was fortunate that the storm hit the US Fleet in 1944. Before 1944 our war mobilization effort would not have been able to offset the loss and the
Pacific War might have dragged on. Halsey just escaped a court-martial. After the storm, weather reporting and related information management problems were fixed. Previously, weather messages had had a low priority.
Nice quote from a sharp guy!

Evan Jones
June 13, 2008 2:45 pm

The fleet would have been a lot smaller in ’43. Halsey’s rep suffered badly from that one.

Patrick Powell
June 13, 2008 3:43 pm

Dr. Bryson was a truely visionary scientist and a terrific individual. He has been discussed as the “Father of Climatology” by many in the Meteorology and Climatology fields. This is a sad day. I had the chance to talk to him and invite him to be a panelist at an AMS conference. He said he didn’t travel much anymore but made himself available for a teleconference. Just a great man.
“If Global warming is a 100 story building, the human influence is equivalent to the linoleam on the first floor” – Dr. Bryson

Paul Ahee
June 13, 2008 7:06 pm

The storm in ’44 was called ‘Typhoon Cobra’ and a great account can be found in “Halsey’s Typhoon” by Bob Drury and Tom Clavin

June 14, 2008 4:30 am

I remember my folks telling me this story years ago WRT the Caine Mutiny. They were old hurricane watchers (born & raised in Miami in the 1920’s) and knew all the old stories about steering currents and pressure gradients. The barometer was kept in a central spot in our house.
Before the era of building on the beach, they had both ridden through a number of storms in the 1940’s and 1950’s w/ hand-made shutters bolted through the double-hung windows. Hipped roofs & barrel tile were the best ways to build a house back then.

Jay Alt
June 14, 2008 8:26 am

Bryson was a pioneer in looking at paleoclimate indicators.
Global warming skeptics called him an idiot for predicting another Ice Age in the 1970s.
Then they promoted him to visionary for the same prediction in the 21st century.
One goes with what they’ve got, which in this case ain’t very much.

Pamela Gray
June 15, 2008 4:00 pm

My grandfather had a barometer in the middle of the living room and checked it every day. I now have one too.

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