CCR Staff: Warren Washington, Senior Scientist

About Warren

Warren M. Washington is an internationally recognized expert on atmospheric science and climate research. He specializes in computer modeling of Earth's climate. Currently, he is a senior scientist and Chief Scientist of the DOE/UCAR Cooperative Agreement at NCAR in the the Climate Change Research Section Section in the center's Climate and Global Dynamics Division. Over the years, Washington has published almost 200 papers in professional journals, garnered dozens of national and international awards, and served as a science advisor to former presidents Carter, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton.

Climate Modeling

Washington became one of the first developers of groundbreaking atmospheric computer models in collaboration with Akira Kasahara when he came to NCAR in the early 1960s. These models, which use fundamental laws of physics to predict future states of the atmosphere, have helped scientists understand climate change. As his research developed, Washington worked to incorporate the oceans and sea ice into climate models. Such models now include components that depict surface hydrology and vegetation as well as the atmosphere, oceans, and sea ice.

An Introduction to Three-Dimensional Climate Modeling, written by Washington and Claire Parkinson in 1986 and updated in 2005, is a standard reference in the field.

Washington's past research involved using the Parallel Climate Model (PCM). His current research involves using the Community Earth System Model (CESM) to study the impacts of climate change in the 21st century Both models were used extensively in the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment, for which NCAR scientists, including Washington, and colleagues around the world shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.


Washington was born and grew up in Portland, Oregon. He became interested in science in grade school, going on to earn a bachelor's degree in physics and master's degree in meteorology from Oregon State University. His next step was to Pennsylvania State University for a doctorate in meteorology. In 1963, he joined NCAR as a research scientist.

Diversity Efforts

As the second African-American to earn a doctorate in the atmospheric sciences, Washington has served as a role model for generations of young researchers from many backgrounds. He has mentored dozens of graduate students, as well as undergraduates in the UCAR-based SOARS program (Significant Opportunities in Atmospheric Research and Science). In 1999, Washington won the Dr. Charles Anderson Award from the American Meteorological Society "for pioneering efforts as a mentor and passionate support of individuals, educational programs, and outreach initiatives designed to foster a diverse population of atmospheric scientists."

Recent Publications

Selected as letter contributor for the book "Letters from Leaders" along with T. Boone Pickens, Walter Cronkite, Gerald Ford, Dali Lama, Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump, and others. Lyons Press, published, 2009, Compiled by Henry O. Dormann, The Lyons Press.

Contributor to "Lasting Impressions", a book of "an inspiring collection of insights, wisdom, and hopes from Men and Women Honored with "the Colorado Nobel"" , The recipients of The Bonfils-Stanton Awards in their Own Words, 2010, Paros Press.

Washington, W.M., R. Knutti, G.A. Meehl, H. Teng, C. Tebaldi, D. Lawrence, L. Buja, and W.G. Strand, 2009: How much climate change can be avoided by mitigation? Geophys. Res. Lett., 36, L08703, doi:10.1029/2008GL037074.

Washington, W.M., L. Buja and A. Craig. 2009: The computational future for climate and Earth system models: on the path to petaflop and beyond. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A-Mathematical Physical and Engineering Sciences, 367, 833-846, doi:10.1098/rsta.2008.0219.

Washington, W.M. 2009: Scientific Grand Challenges: Challenge in Climate Change science and the Role of Computing at the Extreme Scale. Report from the Workshop Held November 6-7, 2008, Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Biological and Environmental Research and the Office of Advanced Scientific Computing Research, 89 pages.