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University of Wisconsin–Madison

Francis Bretherton - 1935-2021

July 1, 2021

Dear AOS Community,

The University of Wisconsin – Madison Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences regrets to inform the passing of Professor Emeritus Francis Bretherton in St. Louis on 27 June 2021 at the age of 85. Francis Bretherton was born in England in 1935 and educated at Cambridge University where he received his Ph.D. in fluid dynamics in 1962. Professor Bretherton was a professor in the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences from 1988 until his retirement in 2001 and served as director of the UW-Madison Space Sciences and Engineering Center (SSEC) from 1988-1999. As SSEC Director, Dr. Bretherton expanded global change studies and management of climate data at the center.

Professor Bretherton’s contributions to geophysical fluid dynamics were numerous and foundational: an applied mathematician by training, he was a ground-breaking pioneer in wave-mean-flow interactions and atmospheric frontogenesis, and also contributed to satellite remote-sensing methodology. He chaired NASA’s Earth System Science Committee, that highlighted the complexity of not only the earth system, but the interactions between its various components, the planet’s systems and its components parts. The ESSC committee developed an integrated interdisciplinary research program that would contribute ultimately to a scientific understanding of the entire Earth system on a global scale through the use of (at the time) emerging space-based remote sensing technologies and quantitative global climate models.

Prior to his arrival at UW-Madison, Bretherton taught mathematics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1961 to 1962 before returning to Cambridge to teach meteorology and applied mathematics from 1962 to 1969. In 1969, he was appointed professor of meteorology and oceanography at John Hopkins University. Francis Bretherton served as University Corporation for Atmospheric Research president starting in 1973 and concurrently served as director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research from 1974 to 1980. He relinquished both positions in 1980 to return to research until heading to UW-Madison in 1988. Professor Bretherton was also a member of the United States Committee for Global Atmospheric Research Program and the National Academy of Science's Committee on Atmospheric Science.

His contributions to the atmospheric sciences earned him some of the highest honors in the field: He was a recipient of the American Meteorological Society (AMS) Clarence Leroy Meisinger Award in 1972; the AMS Jule Charney award in 1983 for "his innovative and significant contributions to our understanding of the dynamics of the atmosphere and oceans encompassing a wide variety of scales, processes and phenomena"; and the AMS Cleveland Abbe Award for his distinguished service to the atmospheric sciences.