Purdue Science alumnus named director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research

Dr. James Hurrell
Dr. James Hurrell

A College of Science product has been named the next director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

Dr. James Hurrell received his masters (1986) and PhD (1990) in Atmospheric Science from Purdue University, under the mentorship of Professor Emeritus Dayton Vincent. He will assume his position Sept. 2 at the institution dedicated to service, research and education in the atmospheric and related sciences and based out of Boulder, Colo.

“With extreme weather, air quality, climate change and space weather becoming increasingly important to society,” Hurrell stated, “NCAR’s research is more relevant than ever. NCAR must strive to produce critical and objective information in support of national and international decision making. The ultimate goal is to reduce our vulnerability to natural disasters and such environmental hazards as climate change and help make society more adaptable, sustainable, and resilient. Thanks to world-class computing and observational facilities, as well as weather and climate computer models, NCAR and its university partners are in an excellent position to address the most-pressing, grand challenge problems in Earth system science. NCAR must also embrace a leadership role and actively engage with community leaders, research agencies, professional organizations, policy makers, and others to convey significant research findings and emphasize the importance of investment in research and major facility development.”

Hurrell has been a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research for 10 years and he is currently the director of NCAR’s Earth System Laboratory, where he specialized in the Climate and Global Dynamics Division.

“NCAR has an unparalleled record of leadership and achievement in terms of advancing knowledge and providing community-based resources,” Hurrell said. “In keeping with our core mission, we have worked to develop and support specialized research codes, advanced observing facilities for field studies, powerful supercomputing capabilities and related software, valuable research data sets that describe the Earth and the Sun, and widely-used state-of-the-science community models. Educational and technology transfer activities at NCAR continue to encourage outstanding young scientists into the field and bring new research and technical achievements into the public and private sectors.”

Hurrell's research centers on empirical and modeling studies and diagnostic analyses to better understand climate, climate variability and climate change. He has authored or co-authored nearly 90 peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters, as well as dozens of other papers and editorials, and edited several books.

Hurrell has convened around two-dozen national and international workshops, and has served several national and international science-planning efforts, including the World Climate Research Programme and its Climate Variability and Predictability project, known as CLIVAR, as well as the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme.

During his career, Hurrell has been elected to the Council of the American Meteorological Society, and he is a fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society, American Meteorological Society and American Geophysical Union.

Dr. Ernie Agee, professor of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences, said he is “extremely proud and not surprised” by Hurrell’s appointment.

“When Jim was elevated to the level of Senior Scientist at NCAR, about 10 years ago,” Agee added, “the UCAR president stated in his announcement to the UCAR member universities, that Jim also represented the strength of Purdue's doctoral program and it was on par with the best in the country. NCAR is positioned well for the future, with Jim's leadership, scientific acumen and professional integrity. His Science citations further support this claim, including his notoriety for discovery of a weather-climate pattern known as the North Atlantic Oscillation.”

Hurrell joins Rick Knabb, director of the National Hurricane Center, and Angela Buchman, a top meteorologist in Indianapolis, as some standout Purdue Atmospheric Science alumni. Hurrell is also a 2006 member of the College of Science Distinguished Alumni.

“This is regarded as one of the top scientific positions in the field of atmospheric science,” Agee stated. “NCAR is one of the NSF's largest scientific centers, and it is known world-wide for scientific achievements and international community leadership. For Jim to be chosen to assume this position, I would say it is equivalent to a Krannert School graduate being named the CEO of one of the very top business giants that sets the economic tone for our nation and for Wall Street. To be named the Director of NCAR would be the pinnacle in almost anyone's career in the field of atmospheric science.

Agee continued, “I have known Jim since 1986, when he entered our department's graduate program. Jim took several courses from me in meteorology and atmospheric fluid dynamics, and he made the highest grade in all of these classes -- and yes, I have the grade books to show the results. He was always a shining star, destined for greatness. I have remained close to Jim for his entire career, and visited with him nearly every year during his entire career, particularly during visits to NCAR and UCAR.” 

The Atmospheric Science program is within the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences.

Hurrell credits his time at Purdue for laying the foundation for what became a stellar career.

“The faculty and staff infused me with energy, excitement and a sense of the importance of the atmospheric sciences to society at large,” Hurrell said.

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