Oltmans Receives 2013 Yoram J. Kaufman Unselfish Cooperation in Research Award

Samuel J. Oltmans received the Yoram J. Kaufman Unselfish Cooperation in Research Award at the 2013 AGU Fall Meeting, held 9–13 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award recognizes “broad influence in atmospheric science through exceptional creativity, inspiration of younger scientists, mentoring, international collaborations, and unselfish cooperation in research.”


oltmans_samuel-jSamuel “Sam” Oltmans, an AGU Fellow since 2007, was head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Global Monitoring Division Ozone and Water Vapor group for more than 30 years. He is currently a senior research scientist at the Cooperative Institute for Research in the Environmental Sciences (CIRES) of the University of Colorado at Boulder.

To quote from one of his nomination letters, “Sam’s long-term record of surface ozone measurements is the single most important measurement series in atmospheric chemistry and that field’s equivalent of the Mauna Loa carbon dioxide time series. Sam and colleagues have been the ‘Johnny Appleseeds’ of ozonesondes, providing vertical profiles for measurement campaigns around the world…Sam’s network of Dobson Spectrophotometers has been crucial to the WMO/UNEP Ozone Assessments for more than 25 years.”

Sam’s achievements go way beyond the monitoring activity that alone would merit the Yoram Kaufman award. All of his data, some dating back to the 1960s, are shared openly with the scientific community. Although Sam’s publications number in the hundreds (most appeared in AGU journals), in dozens of other papers and international assessments, Sam’s data are used without credit. As one of his letters states, “Without [Sam’s] records the world’s atmospheric science would be immeasurably diminished.”

Sam has built up a unique international legacy in two ways. First is the technical skill mix that underlies his data record. “It is hard to explain,” one nominator states, “how much persistence and patience, qualities Sam has in abundance, are required…Sam’s mastery of research and calm discourse lead the community to agree on solutions for ever higher-quality data.”

The second part of his legacy is mentoring scientists, both in his NOAA lab and at stations around the world, to become experts and full partners in monitoring the health of the ozone layer. When stations experience technical problems, he uses always-tight funds to send someone from his lab to make repairs. Sam pioneered working with collaborators in China and jointly publishing in the Journal of Geophysical Research years before this was easy or fashionable.

In summary, the Yoram Kaufman Award for “international collaborations and unselfish cooperation in research” is presented to Sam Oltmans for being the preeminent leader of in situ monitoring of tropospheric and stratospheric ozone and water vapor while multiplying the impact of this work through unmatched national and international collaborations.

—ANNE THOMPSON, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.


I am humbled to receive the Yoram J. Kaufman Unselfish Cooperation in Research Award. To be included in the distinguished company of the previous award recipients is an honor that is deeply gratifying.

While the award notes the generosity, collaborations, and mentoring of the recipient, it has been my great privilege to have had these qualities exemplified in the many colleagues with whom I have had the delight of working over many years. During my many years with the NOAA laboratories in Boulder, the encouragement of those with whom I worked made it a pleasure to come to work each day. The vision of long-term measurements as an exciting and important area of atmospheric research was imparted to me by early and current leaders of our lab, including Lester Machta, Walt Komhyr, Dave Hofmann, and Jim Butler. Two colleagues and friends, Chip Levy and Anne Thompson, are the ones who broadened my horizons to participate in the kind of collaborations that have allowed me to continue to find atmospheric research a rich and rewarding experience.

I have [also] benefited greatly from the number of young researchers and students who have included me in their innovative and inspiring projects. The fact that a number of these younger colleagues are part of the international research community has enlivened all the aspects of my own research efforts. Two of the many of these international colleagues with whom I have maintained a lasting relationship are Hong­yu Liu and Holger Vömel, who continue to provide new and challenging ideas.

Those who nominated me for this award and provided letters of support were embarrassingly generous in their praise, and coming from such distinguished members of our community, these are highly valued by me. Finally, through this delightful journey, my wife, Kay, has been a loving and encouraging companion.

—SAMUEL J. OLTMANS, Cooperative Institute for Research in the Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado at Boulder, Boulder, Colo.