Modern Energy Innovators and Trailblazers Series: Warren M. Washington

Dr. Warren M. Washington smiling for a portrait, wearing glasses, in a suit and a colorful red bowtie, standing in front of a blue wall and wall art.
Image attribution: Photo by Joshua Yospyn/ :

We cannot imagine going about our daily lives without first checking the weather. In fact, we know with relative confidence whether it will be sunny in three days or if we should prepare for a storm tomorrow. Many civilizations have observed natural patterns and tried to make predictions, but modern weather prediction, as we know it today, originated in the 1960s. Dr. Warren M. Washington, an atmospheric science trailblazer, transformed his field when he and his colleague, Akira Kasahara, at the National Center for Atmospheric Research Climate and Global Dynamics (NCAR) developed atmospheric computer models.

Dr. Washington’s story, however, began in Portland, Oregon years before. His father, who was deeply interested in astronomy, helped to plant the seed of scientific curiosity. That seed grew and was encouraged by a high school teacher who told him to go search for answers when Washington asked a simple question “Why are egg yolks yellow?” That simple question sparked Washington’s scientific passion, and despite being told by a counselor to pursue business school, he decided to study physics instead.

Growing up in the era of segregation and Oregon not providing accommodations for African Americans, Washington knew travel would be difficult. He became the chair of the Junior NAACP, leading youth in the fight for public accommodations in tandem with the NAACP. Soon after, Washington networked his way into a job at a hospital in Corvalis, Oregon making it possible for him to attend Oregon State University. At the time, there were ten African American students, eight were football players. Although admitting he experienced little discrimination, he did use what he learned from being an activist to confront injustices on campus.

Washington graduated from Oregon State University in 1958. Then, during a summer job at Stanford as a mathematician, he stumbled across a group of scientists working on a climate model. His fascination with storm paths led to his pursuit of a master’s degree in meteorology and, eventually, a Ph.D. from Pennsylvania State University, only the second African American to do so in the discipline. He was fast becoming the most influential climate scientist to date.

A photo taken from space of the formation of a hurricane. It is a dense, white swirling mass of clouds.

Dr. Washington then began his work for NCAR, where he would develop one of the first computer models of Earth’s climate alongside Akira Kasahara. It was groundbreaking as it was the first time that pattern observation was replaced as the primary technique for weather prediction. In essence, it was a crystal ball for predicting future weather.

Moreover, the computer models allowed humans, for the first time in history, to witness climate change. The models use fundamental laws of physics to see how heat, energy, water vapor, and chemicals move throughout the atmosphere. The small glimpses into Earth’s past and future spurred Washington on. His research eventually led to the incorporation of ocean temperature, sea ice, and carbon dioxide levels into the models. The increasing sophistication of these models led to their use in the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The conclusion was that humans had a direct impact on climate change, and now the scientific community wholeheartedly accepts this reality. Dr. Washington and his team won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize because of their work on the IPCC.

A photo of a large iceberg floating in the ocean with sun shining on the ice.

Despite his success and acceptance by the scientific community, Washington has faced many critics.

We’ve had to take on the skeptics.” – Dr. Warren M. Washington

The political implications of climate change caused Dr. Washington to step into the role as an advisor for five different presidential administrations. But he embraced the work with open arms and became an important environmentalist and energy trailblazer. His work in the field was recognized by President Obama who awarded him the National Medal of Science.

Never content on working on just one problem, while at NCAR, Washington was concerned that he was one of only three African American scientists in his field. Once again, Washington took on the role of activist and made a mission of increasing minority presence within the science community. He embraced every opportunity he came across to herald diversity. He led seminars that heralded fellow Black scientists. He was on the city’s Human Rights Commission and aided in placating both police and protesters when relations were intense. He even influenced then White House Correspondent Dan Rather to speak on the negative effects of segregation to a segregated audience. Throughout his career, fighting for equal rights would be a recurring theme.

Eventually, Washington would become the first African American president of the American Meteorological Society. He continues to inspire, and at age 82, he won the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement in 2019. As an African American energy leader, Dr. Washington has guided and inspired the next generation of energy innovators.

Mentoring should be an ingrained part of every scientist.” – Dr. Warren M. Washington.

Here at Corefficient, we look to Dr. Warren Washington as a leader in the field, a caretaker of the human race and of our planet, and we hope to follow his example as modern energy innovators. We recognize the realities of climate change in today’s world. Our transformer core designs are created to save energy and offer the highest quality to those within the green energy market. We are proud to meet growing energy standards across North America and encourage sustainability practices within the industry.

More about Corefficient

Corefficient is a fully independent organization committed to the utmost customer information confidentiality. Our vision is to be a leader in the electrical transformer core market by consistently fulfilling the needs of customers, through operational excellence and product innovation. At Corefficient, we do not just sell cores – we create Value to the Core™. Please contact us today at: 1 (704) 236-2510.

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