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Bob Henson Joins Weather Underground as a Full-Time Blogger

By: Dr. Jeff Masters, 3:23 PM GMT on January 05, 2015

A major shake-up is at hand in the Weather Underground blog world: Bob Henson, who is probably the world's premier science writer in meteorology and climate change, has joined us as a full-time blogger, and will be making regular posts in my blog on weather and climate change topics. Bob has been a writer/editor/media relations specialist since 1990 for the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research/National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado, where he updated their their excellent AtmosNews website. Bob literally "wrote the book on climate change"--he is author of ”The Thinking Person’s Guide to Climate Change” ($20.90 from Amazon.com.) The book is an updated version of his "Rough Guide to Climate Change", which I reviewed back in 2008. I've thought so highly of this book that I've purchased over 200 copies over the years, giving them to students, TV meteorologists, politicians running for U.S. Congress, and the leadership of The Weather Channel. If I were teaching a course on climate change at the high school or introductory college level, this would be the text.

Bob earned his Bachelor's degree in meteorology from Rice University in 1983, and went on to get a Master's degree in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma in 1988, where he engaged in a fair bit of storm chasing on the side. He has written five books on weather and climate change, including the number one textbook for 101-level college meteorology courses, Meteorology Today (11th edition), whose 11th edition (to be published in 2015) he co-authored with C. Donald Ahrens. Bob is a contributing editor of Weatherwise magazine and has also written more than 50 articles for Nature, Scientific American, Discover, Sierra, The Guardian, AIR & SPACE/Smithsonian, and other media outlets.

With Bob's arrival at Weather Underground, I plan on reducing the number of posts I do during the winter and spring, but will be blogging full-force once hurricane season begins in June. Bob has written his own introduction to the wunderground community, presented below. Bob is at the annual meeting of the American Meteorological Society in Phoenix this week, and plans on making several posts later this week on some of the more interesting research presented at the meeting.

Video 1. If we cared about the environment like we cared about sports, news of wunderground.com signing a major free agent like Bob Henson would be treated like LeBron James' signing with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Language warning: two F-bombs in video.

- Jeff Masters

Confessions of a Natural-Born Weather Geek
It was a dark and stormy night (really, it was) when meteorology grabbed hold of me. I was a seven-year-old at the time, watching a sitcom on a bedroom TV set in Oklahoma City. Suddenly, the laugh track was interrupted with the beep-beep-beep of a weather advisory. I saw a calm young weather anchor named Lola Hall standing in front of a hand-drawn weather map, announcing that we were in a tornado warning. I ran past my parents, darted out the front door, looked up at the sky—packed with swirling, low-hanging, city-lit clouds—and realized that I had to know more.

Within three years, I had a backyard weather station and was making forecasts by clipping daily maps from the newspaper and tracking the progress of highs, lows, and fronts. Each morning, I posted an outlook on the wall of my elementary school under the heading “The Far-Out Forecaster” (not realizing at the time that it was a pun!).

As you can tell, weather has been a keen interest of mine since childhood. I know that’s the case for many of you of as well. Whatever the extent of your own passion for the sky, I’m tremendously excited to be part of the Weather Underground team, so that together we can explore and discuss the spectacular atmosphere that we all share.

My number-one job here at Weather Underground is to continue the high-quality coverage of major weather events that you’ve come to expect from Jeff and our entire team. For the next several months, this includes the full array of wintertime weather, as well as the evolution of El Niño and its implications for national and global conditions. Later this year, as hurricane season arrives, Jeff will be ramping up his own posts once more, and I’ll be pitching in regularly.

Severe weather is what got me into meteorology, so you can expect a generous amount of storm coverage this spring as the convective season rolls around. Severe storm research and technology have made tremendous strides over the last several decades, and the innovations continue today. I’ve witnessed much of that evolution first hand, including meeting Ted Fujita, documenting the VORTEX1 and VORTEX2 research projects, and spending a summer chasing storms for NOAA to validate data from the first NEXRAD radar, which was deployed in northeast Colorado. (We found plenty of big hailstones, and more than a few “landspouts”—relatively weak tornadoes that form much like waterspouts.) Despite all the research progress, the toll from events like the Super Outbreak of April 2011 remains far too high, and the full process behind tornado formation remains elusive. What are some of the most promising developments for knowing where and when tornadoes will strike, and for keeping people safer? I’ll be covering these and many more topics.

For a number of years, I had the privilege of serving as a writer and editor at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, which operates the National Center for Atmospheric Research. This job gave me a front-row seat at a jaw-dropping array of research pertaining to the atmosphere—“from the Sun’s core to the ocean floor,” as we liked to put it. I encourage you to follow UCAR/NCAR’s diverse array of work through AtmosNews products on the web, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Here at Weather Underground, I’ll work to put ongoing weather events into the broader context of what we’re learning about our ever-evolving planet. This includes global warming, a topic that vaulted into public awareness and importance during my UCAR and NCAR days. I’ve devoted much of the the last decade to covering climate change and its effects, both in my UCAR/NCAR writing and in my after-hours book writing. Having given many public talks on the topic, I know how polarizing and distressing it can be. I am dedicated to presenting climate research in an accessible way, one that doesn’t preach to any choir and doesn’t sugarcoat the reality of the complex changes that researchers around the world are working to understand.

Sometimes it’s easy to turn our attention away from the risks of a warming atmosphere. It’s also easy to overlook the beauty of everyday weather events. Consider how many people on an aircraft keep their window shades shut during the entire flight, from takeoff to landing. I'd much rather keep my eyes and my mind open, taking in the full mystery of the atmosphere around us. It's a thrill to be part of Weather Underground, and I'm honored to be working alongside Jeff, the rest of the WU blogging team, and the community that all of you have built. Thanks for letting me join in!

Figure 1. Under a wall cloud in Oklahoma during the 2010 VORTEX2 tornado research campaign.

Bob Henson

Wunderground News

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.