Colorado State University Distinguished Professor Thomas Vonder Haar Elected to Prestigious National Academies

Thomas H. Vonder Haar, director of the Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere and University Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University, has been elected to provide engineering leadership in service to the nation as a member of the National Academy of Engineering. Vonder Haar will formally receive the honor, one of the highest professional distinctions possible for an engineer or scientist, at a special ceremony on Oct. 11 in Washington, D.C.

The NAE is one of four branches of the National Academies which, by order of Congress, advises the government in scientific and technical matters. The NAE’s mission is to promote the technological welfare of the nation by marshalling the knowledge and insights of eminent members of the engineering profession.

According to the NAE, academy membership honors those who have made important contributions to engineering theory and practice, including significant contributions to the literature of engineering theory and practice. NAE membership also honors those who have demonstrated accomplishment in the pioneering of new fields of engineering, made major advancements in traditional fields of engineering or developed and implemented innovative approaches to engineering education.

Vonder Haar was specifically elected to the prestigious membership in honor of his accomplishments in researching and developing fundamental measurements and analyses of the Earth’s radiation balance from satellites, and using the meteorological satellite data to explain Earth’s weather and climate processes.

"I believe my election to the National Academy of Engineering is a tribute to the outstanding research environment at Colorado State University, especially in the Department of Atmospheric Science," said Vonder Haar. "This exceptional atmosphere promotes success, and I have excelled in large part due to the incredible efforts of teams of talented scientists and engineers combined with extensive support for research from the College of Engineering and university administration."

Vonder Haar, an aerospace engineer and atmospheric scientist, has been conducting research on the Earth’s heat and energy transfer processes for more than 30 years. A pioneer in the use of satellite meteorology, Vonder Haar has been using space-borne data to analyze and describe the world’s climate processes since the earliest satellite missions of the 1970s. In the past 20 years alone, Vonder Haar has been the principal investigator on more than $150 million in grants at Colorado State, many from the Department of Defense and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"For three decades Dr. Vonder Haar has epitomized teaching and research excellence at Colorado State University," said Anthony Frank, vice president for research and information technology. "The success and renowned international reputation of both CIRA and the atmospheric science department are due in large part to his vision and leadership."

Vonder Haar joined Colorado State’s Department of Atmospheric Science faculty in 1970 following a post-doctoral appointment at the Space Science and Engineering Center at the University of Wisconsin. Beginning as an assistant professor at Colorado State, he was quickly promoted to associate professor in 1972 and to head of the department in 1974, where he served for 10 years.

In 1980, Vonder Haar spearheaded the formation of CIRA, a center for international cooperation in research and training, covering virtually all physical, economic and societal aspects of weather and climate. CIRA was established to increase the effectiveness of atmospheric research in areas of mutual interest between Colorado

State and NOAA and has since developed into an international leader in several areas of climate research, including applications of meteorological satellite imagery, air quality, visibility, forecasting, agricultural meteorology, cloud physics and atmospheric model evaluation. More information about CIRA is available on the Web at

"Dr. Vonder Haar was elected to NAE membership, one of the top honors in our field, based on his many outstanding teaching and research achievements and for his ability to organize and motivate outstanding collaborative teams of scientists and engineers," said Neal Gallagher, dean of the College of Engineering. "He is a leader who consistently creates opportunities for individuals and teams to excel."

Vonder Haar also is director of the Center for Geosciences, a Department of Defense sponsored research center that focuses on the study of weather patterns and how they affect military operations including investigations of fog, cloud layering, cloud drift winds and dynamics of cloud persistence as detected from satellites. The center is supporting the nation’s military efforts by providing environmental research to Army, Navy and Air Force scientists.

"Dr. Vonder Haar is very deserving of NAE membership and continues to serve the nation well in providing expertise and leadership in satellite remote sensing," said Steven Rutledge, head of the atmospheric science department.

Vonder Haar earned his bachelor’s degree in engineering and science from the Parks College of Aeronautical Technology of St. Louis University in 1963 and his master’s and doctoral degrees in meteorology from the University of Wisconsin in 1964 and 1968. He is an accomplished scholar and researcher who has been honored by several professional societies. Vonder Haar has authored more than 120 peer-reviewed journal articles and presented over 400 additional research talks and papers throughout the world. He is co-author of the textbook "Satellite Meteorology, An Introduction," which received the Choice Critics Award in 1995.

Among his many accolades, Vonder Haar is a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society and additionally received the organization’s prestigious Second Half Century Award for leadership. He is recipient of the Abell Research and Graduate

Education Award, was chairman of the World Climate Research Programme and was appointed to the National Advisory Committee for the Desert Research Institute.

Vonder Haar serves on four NASA Science Teams, served as vice president of the International Radiation Commission, is a member of the Outstanding Educators of America and has been honored with numerous awards of excellence in teaching and research.

Vonder Haar’s research interests focus on the global energy budget, remote sensing from satellites, local area forecasting and geoscience. His research includes work on Earth’s radiation budget and fundamental relationships with the climate system and incorporated some of the first results of direct solar irradiance measurements from satellites and the exchange of energy between Earth and space. His studies on the interaction of clouds, water vapor and radiation and the general circulation formed a basis for national and international plans leading to the Global Energy and Water Experiment and other programs related to global change.

To become a member of NAE, an individual must be nominated by several peers and then elected into the Academy. Vonder Haar’s lead nominator was Jack E. Cermak, Colorado State Distinguished Emeritus Professor of Civil Engineering. Civil engineering professor Larry Roesner, who joined Colorado State in 1999, is the only other professor at the university who has been elected to NAE.

Founded in 1964, the National Academy of Engineering operates under the same congressional act of incorporation that established the National Academy of Sciences, signed in 1863 by President Lincoln. Under this charter, the NAE is directed "whenever called upon by any department or agency of the government, to investigate, examine, experiment, and report upon any subject of science or art." In addition to its role as adviser to the federal government, the NAE also conducts independent studies to examine important topics in engineering and technology. The NAE has more than 2,000 peer-elected members and foreign associates, senior professionals in business, academia, and government who are among the world’s most accomplished engineers.

The National Academies includes the NAE, the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council.