In Memoriam: Yale Pioneer in the Theory of Weather and Climate, Barry Saltzman

Barry Saltzman, professor of geology and geophysics at Yale University and a pioneer in the theory of weather and climate, died on February 5, 2001 at age 69.

Over his productive scientific career, Saltzman made several profound and lasting contributions to knowledge of the atmosphere and climate. He was one of the first to study the wave-like oscillations in the jet stream, the maintenance of the jet stream and trade winds, and the origin and development of winter storms.

His work in 1962 on thermal convection led to the discovery of chaos theory and the famous “Saltzman-Lorenz attractor.” He also developed a theory of the distribution of climate on Earth, using a simple energy balance approach.

“Barry Saltzman was a leader in the field of climatology during one of its most exciting periods,” said friend and colleague, Ronald B. Smith, professor of geology and geophysics at Yale. “His work brought together new observations of the Earth’s atmospheric circulation with new mathematical approaches such as harmonic analysis and non-linear dynamical systems theory. His work on ancient climates showed how the diverse components of the climate system could interact to generate free and forced oscillations.”

Saltzman was born in New York City in 1931. After graduating from Bronx High School of Science and the City College of New York, he received his Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He moved to Connecticut in 1961, working as a Senior Research Scientist at the Travelers Research Center in Hartford. In 1968, he became a professor at Yale, where he remained for the rest of his career.

Beginning in 1980, Saltzman turned his attention to the mystery of the Earth’s ancient climate, especially the problem of the ice ages. For two decades, he developed a series of models and theories of how ice sheets, atmospheric winds, ocean currents, carbon dioxide concentration and other factors work together, causing the climate to oscillate in a 100,000-year cycle. For this and other scientific contributions, he received the 1998 Carl Gustaf Rossby Research Medal, the highest award from the American Meteorological Society.

Saltzman was the author and editor of numerous publications. For 23 years, he was the editor of the leading review periodical, “Advances in Geophysics.” He had recently completed a new book to be published in 2001, “Dynamical Paleoclimatology” (Academic Press). In this monograph, Saltzman sets forth his generalized theory of global climate change.

Saltzman was a fellow of the American Meteorological Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He was an honorary member of the Academy of Science of Lisbon and a member of the Connecticut Academy of Sciences and Engineering, the American Geophysical Society, the European Geophysical Society, Sigma Xi and Phi Beta Kappa.

A resident of Woodbridge, he is survived by his wife, Sheila; sister, Jean Rosenstein; and children, Matthew D. Saltzman and Jennifer A. Stasior.

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Media Contact

Karen N. Peart: karen.peart@yale.edu, 203-432-1326