Richardson, Easterling named Fellows of the American Meteorological Society

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Yvette Richardson, professor of meteorology and associate dean for undergraduate education in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences (EMS), and William Easterling III, professor of geography and former dean of EMS, have been elected 2018 Fellows of the American Meteorological Society (AMS).

“I’m very honored to be among the group of Fellows,” Richardson said. “There are a lot of very worthy people out there. It means a lot that someone took the time to nominate me and I’m very grateful to have made the final selection.”

Richardson’s research focuses on severe storms and tornadoes and improving predictions of these weather events. Recently, her research took her to the Great Plains where she and a colleague used balloons to launch dozens of probes into storms to capture the thermodynamics occurring above the ground.

She participated in two Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes Experiment projects known as VORTEX (1994-95) and VORTEX2 (2009-10). These field experiments bring together atmospheric scientists from across the country to research the formation and evolution of tornadoes in the central United States.

Yvette Richardson

Yvette Richardson, professor of meteorology and associate dean for undergraduate education in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, was elected 2018 Fellow of the American Meteorological Society. 

Image: American Meteorological Society

Richardson, along with her graduate students and colleagues, analyzed the results from the VORTEX projects to learn more about the differences between tornadic and nontornadic storms and how tornadoes are maintained once they form. They also examined forecaster skill in issuing tornado warnings as a function of the atmospheric conditions. About 75 percent of all tornado warnings are false alarms, according to the National Weather Service.

“I was drawn to research that I felt had a clear societal impact,” Richardson said. “That was a bigger draw than the excitement of storm chasing. I enjoy storm chasing, but I like the way we can do it now with our balloons. We get a really good view of the storm, and we let the probes travel to the dangerous parts on their own. In the VORTEX2 experiment, I was in an instrumented car that needed to be very near the tornado. I’m happy to have a calmer, safer method of deployment that provides much-needed, potentially game-changing, above-ground observations.”

In addition, Richardson is the planning commissioner for AMS and was the chair of the President’s Advisory Committee for University Relations for the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research.

William Easterling III

William Easterling III, professor of geography and former dean of the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, was elected 2018 Fellow of the American Meteorological Society (AMS). 

Image: American Meteorological Society

Easterling, who stepped down as dean in 2017 to serve as head of the Directorate for Geosciences at the National Science Foundation, is an internationally recognized expert on how climate change likely will affect the Earth’s food supply, and was a convening lead author on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report, Chapter 5, which in 2007 shared the Nobel Prize with former U.S. Vice President Al Gore.   

“The American Meteorological Society has long recognized educators and leaders who are dedicated to addressing the impact of climate change and advocating for practical solutions to global threats,” Easterling said. “To be among the society’s Fellows responsible for a breadth of work that’s bettering society is an honor.”

Easterling has been a member of Penn State’s faculty for two decades. Before his appointment as dean, he served as director of Penn State Institutes of Energy and the Environment (2001-2007), the central coordinating structure for energy and environmental initiatives and research at Penn State.

Easterling is also a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He was named a distinguished alumnus by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), where he received his doctoral degree in geography and climatology.

AMS Fellows are elected on the basis of “outstanding contributions to the atmospheric or related oceanic or hydrologic sciences or their applications during a substantial period of years.” Each year, the number of newly elected Fellows is limited to two-tenths of one percent of the membership.” The AMS Fellows Program has been recognizing outstanding careers in the water, weather and climate community since 1966. Fellows retain the honor for life; represent all facets of the academic, government and private sectors; and work to ensure that their science, technology and services continue to benefit society. This year’s class was recognized at the society’s 98th AMS Annual Meeting in January in Austin, Texas.

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Last Updated February 13, 2018