Colorado State University Professor Receives Honors from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and International Radiation Commission

Note to Editors: A photo of Professor Graeme Stephens is available with the news release at

Graeme Stephens, a University Distinguished Professor and director of the Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere at Colorado State University, has been awarded two top honors for his exceptional scientific leadership of NASA’s CloudSat mission, which was launched in 2006.

Earlier this fall, the International Association of Meteorology and Atmospheric Sciences presented Stephens with the International Radiation Commission Gold Medal – an honor it presents only once every four years – during the Radiation Symposium in Iguacu, Brazil. The Gold Medal honors a scientist who has made contributions of lasting significance to the field of radiation research.

Stephens also received the Exceptional Public Service Medal from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory for his scientific leadership of the CloudSat project and for his measurements to benefit atmospheric research. The medal is presented to distinguished, non-government individuals and teams who have made outstanding contributions to NASA missions.

CloudSat, designed by Stephens in collaboration with NASA’s JPL, is the first satellite to use advanced radar to see the vertical structure and properties of clouds. The satellite provides measurements of cloud thickness, height, water and ice content, and a wide range of precipitation data linked to cloud development. The mission is expected to improve weather forecasting and advance understanding of climate processes.

The vertical imagery technology of CloudSat is significantly adding to scientists’ understanding of the effects that clouds have on the thermal energy being emitted from Earth to space and the amount of sunlight that passes through the atmosphere. CloudSat’s radar can penetrate thick cloud systems, thus providing information that increases accuracy of severe storm, hurricane and flood warnings.

The CloudSat mission has collected more than two year’s worth of data. As of the end of September 2008, 2.5 million CloudSat data products have been distributed to scientists in 48 countries, resulting in more than 75 peer-reviewed publications.

Stephens has been director of CIRA since August 2008. Established in 1980, CIRA is a center for international cooperation to increase effectiveness of atmospheric research between CSU and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.