Richard Johnson Named Chair of Atmospheric Science in Colorado State’s College of Engineering

Richard Johnson, longtime professor of atmospheric science at Colorado State University, has been named chair of the Department of Atmospheric Science, a Program of Scholarly Excellence in the university’s College of Engineering.

Johnson joined the Colorado State faculty as assistant professor in 1980 after completing two years on the faculty at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. He was named a full professor in 1986.

"Our atmospheric science department has achieved great distinction and set a standard for excellence that serves as a model for programs throughout the university," said Sandra Woods, dean of the College of Engineering. "Dick has been a wonderful asset to his department and he will be a great leader as the department grows and continues to distinguish itself.

"I’d also like to thank Steve Rutledge for his service as department head over the past several years."

Johnson’s research focuses on tropical and midlatitude weather phenomena and their effects on climate, with cutting-edge research on topics such as convective weather systems, monsoon convection, extreme precipitation events, and various aspects of tropical dynamics and convection, particularly in the equatorial western Pacific, Asian monsoon and North American monsoon regions.

He has authored numerous books, book chapters and journal articles. His many awards and honors include Department of Atmospheric Science Professor of the Year Award, National Science Foundation Special Creativity Award, American Meteorological Society Fellow and Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere Fellow. He has twice received the Dean’s Council Award from the College of Engineering and is the recipient of a Joint Service Commendation Medal from the U.S. Fleet Weather Central/Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Guam.

Colorado State’s Atmospheric Science department is known internationally for such achievements as the April 28, 2006, launch of CloudSat, the world’s first cloud-profiling radar in orbit 438 miles above Earth. Led by Professor Graeme Stephens and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the $217 million cloud radar is telling scientists about the water and ice content of clouds. CloudSat is one of only three principal investigator-led Earth science missions launched or about to be launched by NASA and is one of the very few Earth missions that has included such university leadership.

Stephens and Tom Vonder Haar, director of Colorado State’s Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere, which is associated with the Atmospheric Science department, are University Distinguished Professors – a title reserved for the most outstanding faculty members. Vonder Haar is a member of the elite National Academy of Engineering, one of the four branches of the National Academies that advise the U.S. government in science, technology and medicine.

Additionally, the department is home to a $19 million Science and Technology Center to build climate models that will more accurately depict cloud processes and improve climate and weather forecasting for scientists around the world. Professor David Randall serves as principal investigator and director of the center, which includes partners at the University of California at San Diego and the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder.

In 2005, Time magazine named another Colorado State atmospheric scientist, David Thompson, one of the leading innovators in the science community. Thompson’s current work emphasizes improving understanding of global climate variability using observational data. Earlier this spring, the university honored Thompson with the coveted Monfort Award, which carries a $75,000 award for teaching and research.