Dr. Warren 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.
He has more than 150 publications and an autobiography, Odyssey in Climate Modeling, Global Warming, and Advising Five Presidents. 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 general ciculation models and 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 has engaged in research for over 50 years, and has given advice, testimony, and lectures on global climate change. Dr. Washington has been a member of the President's National Advisory Committee on Oceans and Atmosphere and has had presidential appointments under the Carter, Reagan, Clinton, and Bush administrations. More recently, he served on the National Science Board as a member (1994-2006) and as its chair (2002-2006).
Washington has many awards, including being a member of the National Academy of Engineering, the American Meteorological Society (former president), the American Philosophical Society, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is a past President of the American Meteorological Society and a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union. Dr. Washington has honorary degrees from Oregon State University, Bates College and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst as well as the Vollum award from Reed College. In 2010, he was awarded the National Medal of Science by President Obama, the nation's highest science award "for his development and use of global climate models to understand climate and explain the role of human activities and natural processes in the Earth's climate system and for his work to support a diverse science and engineeringworkforce."
He has served on a number of National Research Committees of the National Academies, and is currently serving as chair of the Committee to Advise the U.S. Global Change Research Program.
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.
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."