Department of Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering in the College of Engineering at the University of Michigan


AOSS alumnus earns highest honor from AGU

Posted: August 27, 2013

AOSS alumnus earns highest honor from AGU

Alumnus Raymond Roble has earned the William Bowie Medal, the American Geophysical Union’s highest honor, for his pioneering research into Earth’s upper atmosphere.

The Bowie Medal is awarded not more than once annually to an individual for “outstanding contributions to fundamental geophysics and for unselfish cooperation in research.”

Roble is a senior scientist emeritus in the National Center for Atmospheric Research’s High Altitude Observatory, where his career spans over 40 years. He received his PhD from AOSS.

Roble says working with Emeritus Professors Andrew Nagy and Paul Hays on his thesis is one of his favorite memories from U-M.

“It was great fun to work with these two outstanding professors to receive my PhD,” Roble says.

Roble has been a leader in the development of computer models that simulate the interrelationships among the outer atmospheric regions known as the thermosphere, ionosphere, and mesosphere. In fact, for his thesis he built a Fabry- Perot interferometer to measure the airglow in the upper atmosphere. He spent “long Ann Arbor nights gathering data and analyzing and modeling the data during the day.”

The models he developed have been used to analyze data gathered from many NSF observing programs and NASA satellites, and they have been adapted to study the upper atmospheres of other planets, including Venus, Mars, and Jupiter.

Roble led the first analyses of the potential effects of human-produced greenhouse gases on the upper atmosphere, which were later confirmed by observations of the effects of atmospheric drag on satellite orbits. He and Paul Hays also produced the first three-dimensional model of the earth's global electrical circuit, which revealed the electrical interactions between the upper and lower atmosphere driven by thunderstorms as well as currents generated by auroral processes.

Roble credits his broad undergraduate and graduate education for his successful career. He studied math, physics, engineering, economics, law, philosophy and more. “My advice for students in AOSS is to get as broad of an education as possible because with climate change there is a need to study interactive processes over many disciplines,” Roble says.

The award will be formally bestowed at the 2013 AGU Fall Meeting in December, held in San Francisco.

Latest Headlines