Thursday, June 12, 2008


Welcome to this memorial message board for Reid Bryson.

This is a place where you can express your sorrow, condolences or special memories for all that Reid Bryson has meant to you.

To post a message, click on "xx comments" below, and/or scroll to the bottom of the page and click on "Post a Comment".


Gregory Tripoli said...

Reid founded the Department of Meteorology at the University of Wisconsin - Madison in 1948 .

Although Reid is most well known for his work in Climate, People and the Environment, it is less known that Reid was also a pioneer in tropical meteorology and hurricane forecasting. As U.S. Army Air Corps meteorologist out of Saipan, Marshall Islands during World War II (December, 1944), Reid pieced together evidence that a typhoon was apparently developing in harms way and commissioned reconnaissance of the storm that he believed surrounding observations suggested must exist in one of the many data void regions. The reconnaissance that he ordered found the storm, encountered 140 kt winds and aborted an apparent eye wall penetration. Reid then identified a trough of low pressure in the storms path and predicted to his superiors that the storm would recurve into the path of the US Third Fleet. Believing that typhoons never recurve so far to the east, Reid's superior officers chose to not believe his forecast. Reid pleaded that this was not a guess, they actually flew into the storm and measured the winds! His superior officers conceded to watch it closely but did not act to move the fleet. Reid tells me that he went so far as to place unofficial warnings (off the record) of his own which he is convinced did save lives. Then 36 hours later the storm began the recurve, just as Reid predicted and they tried to move the Third Fleet out of the way, but is was now too late. Unfortunately this resulted in one of the worst naval disasters in navy history (3 ships sunk, 28 ships damaged, 146 aircraft destroyed, 756 men lost at sea (see Henderson, 2007: Down to the Sea, ISBN 978-0-06-117316-5 for a detailed account of this incident). I suppose that this experience went a long way to shape Reid's views on conventional thought and to compel him to dedicate the rest of his life to the science of weather and finding truth.

David Houghton said...

Reid's major contributions to our profession include the founding of our meteorology Department, the fostering of the formation of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, and the focus on important climate issues. I have had great respect for his innovative mind and his energetic way to share his beliefs and challenge the rest of us to be active persons.

Pat Michaels said...

There are very few people who leave truly earth-shaking ideas in their wake, and Reid was one. He was the main force behind the modern notion of antropogenerated climate change, and idea he promoted long before it was popular. In fact, it made him quite unpopular!

I'll just leave one story. Back in 1972, I was in an Ecology PhD program at Chicago. I proposed that one could determine the hurricane history of the Southeast coastal plain by coring trees, as they would change the community dynamics. It was laughed out. Ecologists then believed that weather and climate change had virtually no influence on community dynamics.

One day, Karl Butzer, a lion of physical geography, got mad at me, and said "You know, you ought to go to Wisconsin and talk to this guy Bryson. You're just like him. Now get out!"

And so I did. Within an hour, Reid explained that if I could define a new field that I could create my one program. I looked at him and said "Ecological Climatology", and, well, here I am now. I should add that Reid also taught a person how to take, let's put it gently, nonpopularity.

Anyway, that was the man: brilliant, innovative, never running from the fight, but always as kindly a person as who has ever lived. Frannie, the kids, and everyone in his huge community, my sincere condolences, remembering one of the intellectual world's great lights, and one of the world's finest people.

Jonathan E. Martin said...

I remember on August 15, 2005 I went down to Reid's office (as I had done hundreds of times in the years we knew each other) to get him talking about the end of the war in the Pacific. This was a selfish act on my part as I love the subject and I knew I would get a great lecture from Reid. Within a few
seconds, tears filled his eyes as he recounted how many lives were lost - and how many of them were lost as a consequence of ignoring science in decison making. Greg Tripoli relates one of the stories he told me that day in his post - Reid believed deeply in the power of rational thinking to unlock the secrets of the past and, to adequately prepare for the future.
We didn't agree on everything but Reid never demanded agreement as the price of his friendship nor of his respect. He loved to debate and so long as you brought your game, you had won his respect. I will miss him sorely and the only consolation is that I was lucky enough to have ever known him in the first place.

Matt Hitchman said...

I first heard of Prof. Bryson in 1976 while taking an undergraduate major atmospheric science class from Prof. Dick Reed, who often went on and on about "that crackpot at the other UW". It struck me that Prof. Bryson must be a very interesting person to hold Prof. Reed's interest to that degree. I even thought that maybe some day I'd get to work in Madison! The event also helped frame for me some of the social/psychological structures by which science progresses or stagnates, and the role of strong personalities in the process (although I have barely begun to figure that one out).

I ended up sharing the 13th floor with Reid for almost two decades. I ended up liking him very much and greatly enjoyed his engaging personality and stimulating conversation. Most of the discussions that I had with him were extremely interesting. Although I was working on volcanic aerosol, I learned quite a bit from him about the climate implications of eruptions. I have come to see that the primacy of the sun and volcanic eruptions in the mix of climate change cannot be overemphasized. We talked about the group velocity of capillary waves. We talked about the idea that wind stress on continents over a long enough time scale might have an interesting effect. We talked about the effects of tropospheric aerosol on climate and on human health. But the most fun conversations for me were about the past. Who really went where first in human global exploration? Interpretations of the rise and fall of population centers. Charismatic megafauna and osage oranges. In diagnosing climate change, I find that there is merit in his winnowing and sifting, his dynamical reductionist approach, as a complement to complex simulations. A key element is the relationship between Milankovich parameters and the positions of subtropical highs. I give these examples in celebration of a wide-ranging, fascinating mind with a zest for engaging in discussion.

He liked it when I disagreed with him about as well as when I agreed with him. He was personally supportive of me, a very warm person, and I will miss him very much.

Simone Riehl said...

I had the luck to make acquaintance of Prof. Bryson in 2006 as a CPEP fellow at his department, but was already inspired by his contributions to archaeology as a student in 1989 (Drought and the decline of Mycenae, 1974).
Despite various progress in the development of environmental archaeology in the US (e.g. the school of Karl Butzer), climatic influence on the development of human societies particularly during the Holocene kept to be a critical issue to most archaeologists.
The formidable in discussions with Reid was his holistic view of the world, and his deep understanding of that there are never single causes that are responsible for change. Therefore to work with him was always inspiring, and his creative impact on archaeology (and probably other fields) will continue to generate new ideas and ways of problem solving.
As an archaeologist I understood only little about controversial opinions in the field of climate modelling, but he seemed to have delivered the combustible for ongoing discussions, which is one of the motors of continuous development in science.

I thank God that I had the chance to meet such an extraordinary person.

Anonymous said...

I met Professor Bryson in the Geology Library several times and enjoyed talking with him. He was an elegant man.

Anonymous said...

Please publicize the memorial for Reid Bryson August 23rd, 6205 Mineral Pt. Rd. Madison, 10:00am Oakwood Village West.

Thanks, Thomas Bryson

Robert Schlesinger said...

Not many months after my arrival in Madison in the summer of 1966 to embark on my graduate studies in AOS, I came across the technical-report version of Reid's epic publication "Air masses, streamlines and the boreal forest" from that very year. It has been decades since I last saw that paper, with its mean monthly surface streamline maps of North America for each month of the year. Nevertheless, I still remember the dramatic change in the mean monthly flow over southern Wisconsin from east-northeasterly off Lake Michigan in May to southerly off the Gulf of Mexico in June as the northward march of the mean jet stream aloft overcomes the strong tendency for advancing tropical air masses in springtime to stall out near or just south of the Wisconsin-Illinois border under the inhibiting influence of Lake Michigan's cold waters.

Soon after the department's relocation from Science Hall to the AOSS building in November 1968, I attended one of Reid's seminars, during which he briefly raised the intriguing possibility of stopping smokestack-generated air pollution at its source. In that context, it's too bad that the now-notorious coal-fired UW heating plant on Charter Street just a block east of AOSS hasn't long since embraced that very concept in its day-to-day operations.. Had it done so, last winter's mounds of snow near the plant would not have become sources of sooty runoff into our beleaguered waterways.

About a decade ago, when I happened across Reid in an AOS hallway, he pointed out to me the need for global climate models to take clouds into account, a most apropos remark since my primary research topic in AOS ever since my predoctoral research years has been convective cloud modeling. Reid's wording went something like this: "The trouble with the climate models is they're missing one little thing: Clouds, my boy … clouds." Not that the situation was quite as dire as that. Rather, the climate models did take clouds into account, but could only try to model their mean effects "in the large" because their data grids were far too coarse to resolve individual cloud elements explicitly. But it was not surprising that Reid doubted the credibility of climate model predictions that project several decades into the future, given that cloud cover is a crucial modulator of the earth's radiation balance and in turn its temperature distribution.

Rev10:3-4 said...

I lament the lost opportunities that I had to converse with Reid, as he was just down the hall and around the corner...but I was fortunate to have on the order of a dozen or so conversations with him (along with being able to take one of his last classes) in recent years, on topics wide-ranging, including the potential impacts of solar cycles on the earth, evidence for the Noahic-era flood and the afterlife.

I relished his quick wit, gentle spirit and 'integrator' approach to science. He is surely missed.

Marc Morano said...

Video of late great Dr. Reid Bryson - You can go outside and spit and have the same effect as doubling CO2’

Atmospheric Scientist Bryson's last TV appearance in December 2007. Bryson is a guest on CNBC with host Joe Kernen He died in June 12, 2008 at the age of 88. This clip shows he was lucid and persuasive right until the end of his life. Some of his colleagues tried to diminish Bryson’s skepticism, (see below) but as you can see from video clip, Bryson was no believer in man-made warming fears. One of the "Fathers of Meteorology," Dr. Bryson, was the founding chairman of the Department of Meteorology at University of Wisconsin (now the Department of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences.

CNBC TV Video clip:

RIP: Renowned Atmospheric Scientist Dr. Reid Bryson Dies At 88 – ‘You can go outside and spit and have the same effect as doubling carbon dioxide.’

[Note: Dr. Reid Bryson is prominently featured in the U.S. Senate’s report of now over 500 skeptical scientists of man-made global warming fears. (See: ) Senator Inhofe frequently cited pioneering scientist Dr. Bryson and he was always available to answer questions or email with me personally during the climate change battles. Whether it was posting comments on the New York Times blog or emailing data, Bryson was razor sharp to the very end. Bryson also did a fantastic appearance on a live CNBC TV business show in December 2007. One of Bryson’s most cited quotes on his man-made global warming views was his 2007 assertion: "You can go outside and spit and have the same effect as doubling carbon dioxide." (New peer-reviewed studies are validating Bryson’s views. See: ) Bryson was a legend in his field and we will be greatly missed and appreciated. God Bless you Dr. Bryson. ]
Dr. Reid Bryson’s entry into U.S. Senate Dissenting Scientist Report of December 20, 2008: See report:

One of the "Fathers of Meteorology," Dr. Reid Bryson, the founding chairman of the Department of Meteorology at University of Wisconsin (now the Department of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences, was pivotal in promoting the coming ice age scare of the 1970s (See Time Magazine's 1974 article "Another Ice Age" citing Bryson: & see Newsweek's 1975 article "The Cooling World" citing Bryson) has now converted into a leading global warming skeptic. On February 8, 2007 Bryson dismissed what he terms "sky is falling" man-made global warming fears. Bryson was on the United Nations Global 500 Roll of Honor and was identified by the British Institute of Geographers as the most frequently cited climatologist in the world. "Before there were enough people to make any difference at all, two million years ago, nobody was changing the climate, yet the climate was changing, okay?" Bryson told the May 2007 issue of Energy Cooperative News. "All this argument is the temperature going up or not, it's absurd. Of course it's going up. It has gone up since the early 1800s, before the Industrial Revolution, because we're coming out of the Little Ice Age, not because we're putting more carbon dioxide into the air," Bryson said. "You can go outside and spit and have the same effect as doubling carbon dioxide," he added. "We cannot say what part of that warming was due to mankind's addition of ‘greenhouse gases' until we consider the other possible factors, such as aerosols."

Bryson's alarmist colleague falsely claims Bryson ‘just wanted’ to ‘ask tough questions’
Update: In this story, it looks like Bryson's alarmist colleague Jonathan Foley tried to downplay the true extent of Bryson's AGW skepticism:
Bryson gained fame also as an outspoken skeptic of global warming. He accepted that the climate was changing, but he questioned the prevailing view that human causes are to blame. "I’m not convinced he 100% disbelieved the idea of global warming; he just wanted to make sure we were asking the tough questions," Foley said. "What was great about Reid is you could trust his motives. Reid’s healthy skepticism was one of integrity and honesty." An actual quote from Bryson from this May 2007 article: You can go outside and spit and have the same effect as doubling carbon dioxide.To me, that sounds like 100% disbelief. Regarding Foley's alarmism, here's a related paragraph from an April 2006 article: The future of a warming world looks bleak, says Foley. After only 0.6 degrees C of warming, we are already seeing major changes in plants, animals, rainfall, ice and sea level. Even the few skeptics of 10 years ago are now silent, and the scientific position is unanimous: "It's pretty much nailed... . You can't read a paper without reading another piece of evidence for global warming. At the edges, there are a few questions, but the scientific score is 1,000 to 0. This is not a big bunch of hooey."

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Anonymous said...

A great, great, scientist and a morally courageous man.

He makes scientists look good instead of being no better than prostitutes and I have just got his 1970s "Climates of Hunger" book and am reading it.