Jay S. Fein

2009 Edward A. Flinn III Award Winner

Jay S. Fein received the Edward A. Flinn III Award at the Joint Assembly, held 26 May 2009 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The award honors “individuals who personify the Union’s motto ‘unselfish cooperation in research’ through their facilitating, coordinating, and implementing activities.”


I am honored to present Jay S. Fein, recipient of the 2009 AGU Edward A. Flinn III Award. I have known Jay for over 25 years and have often witnessed his deep commitment to leading and serving the atmospheric sciences community. This commitment goes well beyond what his program management job at the National Science Foundation calls for; Jay is visionary and insightful and has on many occasions supported high-risk innovative research that has proven to be watershed science. He has an uncanny ability to balance risk taking, leadership, and partnering with national and international agencies and community members on projects in a way that does not compromise his federal oversight responsibilities, and always in a humble and gracious manner.

Long ago Jay recognized the importance of pursuing parallel climate and weather paths in complex field campaigns in order to fundamentally understand the climate system. He has provided sage advice, and served as a brilliant mediator when necessary, in such major international field programs as the Monsoon Experiment (MONEX; 1979), Tropical Ocean–Global Atmosphere/Coupled Ocean-Atmosphere Response Experiment (TOGA/COARE; 1992–1993), Indian Ocean Experiment (INDOEX; 1998), The Observing-System Research and Predictability Experiment (THORPEX) Pacific-Asian Regional Campaign (T-PARC; 2008), and many others.

Jay saw the need for comprehensive global models early on. When Francis Bretherton, Dave Schimel, and I were organizing the community Climate System Modeling Project (CSMP) in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Jay encouraged, supported, and helped define the CSMP vision. CSMP evolved into the Community Climate System Model (CCSM) effort, which now includes over 300 scientists from the National Center for Atmospheric Research and many universities and labs working to develop a fully coupled model of Earth’s climate system. Jay was instrumental in rallying the community behind CCSM and in obtaining computer resources for the model, which has been critical to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessments.

Jay has also played a vital leadership role in pioneering satellite observing technology. He supported the high-risk but highly successful Global Positioning System/Meteorology (GPS/MET) program (1995–1997), which provided the first soundings of Earth’s atmosphere using the radio occultation technique. It took courage and foresight for Jay to embrace GPS/MET in the early 1990s, because at that time the radio occultation technique was virtually unknown to most atmospheric scientists. Jay then helped lead the Taiwan-U.S. Constellation Observing System for Meteorology, Ionosphere and Climate (COSMIC) mission. COSMIC extended GPS/MET by launching six microsatellites in 2006 that provide between 1500 and 2000 soundings of the global atmosphere each day in near real time. The benefit of these soundings for numerical weather prediction has been demonstrated by leading weather centers around the world. COSMIC was an extremely complex program to organize, from the political as well as the scientific and technological side, requiring negotiations and coordination among five U.S. agencies and Taiwan. It never would have happened without Jay’s profound commitment and support.

In addition to his extraordinary scientific and organizational skills, Jay Fein is a true gentleman. He has had a major impact on science overall and on my career and that of many others. I am proud to call him my friend.

—RICHARD A. ANTHES, University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado


I am deeply honored to be the 2009 recipient of AGU’s Edward A. Flinn III Award, and I thank AGU, its Award Nominations Committee, and, in particular, my nominators, Rick Anthes, Jack Fellows, and Roger Wakimoto.

Whatever successes have come my way, however, have less to do with me than with the brilliant and creative research scientists and institutional leaders I have had the pleasure to work with over the past several decades. I have been fortunate to be able to work in a science I love and with the best group of colleagues one could hope for. I have also been fortunate to witness the birth and maturation of “Earth system sciences,” the goal of which was enunciated in a presentation on 26 June 1986, by Francis Bretherton:

  • To obtain a scientific understanding of the entire Earth system on a global scale by describing how its component parts and their interactions have evolved, how they function, and how they may be expected to continue to evolve on all timescales.

He further pointed out that the impact of human activities poses an additional challenge:

  • To develop the capability to predict those changes that will occur in the next decade to century, both naturally and in response to human activities.

The worldwide communities of geoscientists, working with colleagues in many areas of science and applications, have made extraordinary advances in meeting these challenges posed over 2 decades ago. This is a remarkable testimony to the visionary brilliance of Bretherton and his peers, including past recipients of this award as well as my nominators. That I have been fortunate enough to be a part of this extraordinary group and this period of advancement has been delightful to me and also very gratifying.

—JAY S. FEIN, The Dallas Morning News, Tex.