NOAA 2000-501
Contact: Jana Goldman


Jerry D. Mahlman, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton, N.J., will retire from federal service this fall.

"Under Jerry's leadership, GFDL has become a world leader on climate change research," said David L. Evans, assistant administrator of NOAA Research. "His work added significant knowledge to our understanding of how climate works and how we expect it to change. And, because he is able to communicate accurate and understandable scientific information to a general audience, he is one of the nation's key spokespersons on climate change."

Mahlman's NOAA career began the day the agency started – Oct. 1, 1970. His retirement from federal service, Oct. 1, 2000, is NOAA's official 30th anniversary.

During his three decades at GFDL, he has made pioneering contributions to the fundamental understanding of atmospheric motions. This work has led scientists to better understand regional and global pollution problems. His insight into the computer model results has been crucial in evaluating theories of human-affected stratospheric ozone loss as well as enhanced the current ability to predict future ozone changes.

Mahlman left a tenured position at the department of meteorology at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., in 1970 to join Joseph Smagorinsky and Syukuro Manabe in their pioneering efforts to develop atmospheric circulation models at GFDL. Mahlman is credited as the virtual founder of two key branches of numerical atmospheric modeling.

In 1984, Mahlman accepted the position of GFDL director and continued the tradition begun by Smagorinsky to recruit highly talented scientists and provide an intellectually stimulating environment for them. He consistently supports the younger scientists at GFDL, one of the key elements to the lab's success.

When global warming emerged as a major issue in the 1980s, Mahlman and GFDL provided valuable information about climate change research to the non-scientific community, including government leaders. He was invited by the journal Science to contribute an article, "Uncertainties in Projections of Human-Caused Climate Warming," which was designed to guide the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on climate change.

The laboratory had many achievements under Mahlman's tenure, including establishment of the science base that now anchors the worldwide debates on human-caused climate warming, the development of a comprehensive hurricane prediction system now in wide use, the Modular Ocean Model now used worldwide by major climate modeling groups, and the development of the first comprehensive coupled atmosphere-ocean model used to demonstrate successful predictions of El Niño/La Niña events a year in advance.

Mahlman has published nearly 100 scientific papers. Among his many awards he received the U.S. Department of Commerce Gold Medal in 1986, the American Geophysical Union First Annual Jule G. Charney Lecturer Award in 1993, the Presidential Distinguished Rank Award in 1994, and the highest honor given by the American Meteorological Society, the Carl-Gustaf Rossby Research Medal, in 1994.

He has served on a number of national and international science committees and panels, including chairing the Scientific Advisory Committee of NASA's Mission to Planet Earth and U.S. delegate to the World Climate Research Program. He has often testified at Congressional hearings on the subjects of ozone depletion and human-caused climate change.

Born in Crawford, Neb., Mahlman holds a bachelor's degree from Chadron State College and a Ph.D. from Colorado State University. He is a fellow of the American Geophysical Union and the American Meteorological Society.

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