Luncheon honored pioneer hurricane scientist Bob Simpson

The Explorers Club Washington Group honored the legendary hurricane scientist and forecaster Bob Simpson, FE’79, who celebrated his 101th birthday last November, with a luncheon at the Cosmos Club on Saturday, March 8, 2014

Bob Simpson at the Dec. 7, 2013 ECWG annual dinner. Photo by Darlene Shields

Bob Ryan who was chief meteorologist for 30 years at NBC4 and then for three years at WJLA (ABC7),  described the highlights of Simpson’s career with the help of a few others who worked with Bob and his wife, Joanne, also a leading atmospheric scientist, who died in 2010.

Those taking part included Neil Frank, who succeeded Bob Simpson as director of the National Hurricane Center in 1973 and retired in 1987, Max Mayfield who was HNC director from 2000 to 2007, Richard Anthes, who was president of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research from 1988 to 2012 and who worked closely with both Bob and Joanne Simpson, and David Atlas, a weather radar pioneer.

In addition to the talks, Barbara Schoeberl, a NASA co-worker with Joanne Simpson and long-time friend of the Simpson family, displayed posters illustrating several aspects of the lives of Bob and Joanne Simpson and also a video slide show of the Simpsons’ lives and careers that attendees viewed before and after the program.

Bob Simpson with (from left) Neil Frank, Jack Williams, Max Mayfield, David Atlas. Photo by Darlene Shields

In the mid-1950s after Congress decided the U.S. desperately needed to learn more about hurricanes, the Weather Bureau selected Bob to organize and run the National Hurricane Research Project, which
 continues today as NOAA’s Hurricane Research Division.

The core of this project was research flights into hurricanes, which Bob had been urging, and which continue today.

Joanne Malkus, who was
 conducting pioneering tropical weather research, was asked to work with the program. Bob said in 2009 that this “scientific association and collaboration with Joanne… melded into a personal relationship culminating in our marriage in January 1965 and the beginning of a long, happy, and fruitful life together.”

Bob Simpson was director of the National Hurricane Center in 1969 when Hurricane Camille hit Mississippi. His use of a then-new storm surge forecasting model to issue unusually urgent warnings is credited with saving hundreds of lives. It also helped lead him and Herbert Saffir, a wind damage expert, to develop the Saffir- Simpson Hurricane Damage Scale with its well- known one though five categories.Washington Post story on Bob Simpson Luncheon

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