Raymond Roble

2013 William Bowie Medal Winner

Raymond G. Roble was awarded the 2013 William Bowie Medal at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held on 11 December 2013 in San Francisco, Calif. The medal is for “outstanding contributions to fundamental geophysics and for unselfish cooperation in research.”



 The accomplishments of Dr. Raymond G. Roble in the area of upper atmospheric physics, chemistry, and dynamics have revolutionized the field and have produced significant impacts on other areas, including planetary atmospheres and atmospheric electricity. Ray embodies the imperative of unselfish cooperation in research.

Innovative research. Ray Roble received a Ph.D. in 1969 from the University of Michigan. A year later, he was appointed scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and became a senior scientist in 1984. During his entire scientific career, Ray has conducted innovative research that spans a broad range of related disciplines. Three areas are particularly noteworthy for their groundbreaking impact. The first of these is the revelation of how changing atmospheric composition, particularly the increase in CO2, will cause the upper atmosphere to cool and contract. In a second, very different area, Ray’s work broke new ground in the modeling of the global atmospheric electric circuit. This work revealed the electrical coupling between the lower and upper atmosphere, as driven by thunderstorm activity and as modulated by ionospheric sources of electric fields. Ray, however, is best known in space physics and aeronomy for his third extraordinarily successful achievement, the development of a comprehensive model encompassing all processes important to the upper atmosphere: dynamics, photochemistry, radiation, and electrodynamics, as synthesized into the Thermosphere-Ionosphere­Mesosphere­Electrodynamics General Circulation Model (TIME-GCM). This model and its predecessors are utilized by hundreds of researchers in the field, including numerous students, to help interpret observations, explore interactive processes, and predict the behavior of the upper atmosphere under hypothetical past and future conditions.

Unselfish cooperation in research. The influence of Ray on the field is promulgated not only by his intellect and individual achievements but also by his remarkable generosity. In addition to the long list of studies he conducted personally, he freely gave his modeling tools to others, truly supporting the spirit of AGU. This multiplied his efforts and impact on the field, leading to an incredible volume of interpretive studies of the upper atmosphere and ionosphere in which he provided not only the tools and technical leadership but also the generosity of spirit to make such collaborations a success. Ray gives generously of his time to others as well and always extends himself to young researchers in the field. Ray’s mentorship of postdoctoral fellows is particularly notable. For more than 30 years a steady stream of postdocs were drawn to NCAR to work with Ray. His notable impact on the early career development of generations of ionosphere-thermosphere scientists also extends to graduate students that he coadvised with their university professors. Ray’s intellectual curiosity and determined pursuit of difficult problems inspire the emerging leaders in the upper atmosphere community.

 —GUY BRASSEUR, Climate Service Center–Germany, Hamburg, Germany, and National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colo.



It is a great honor to receive the 2013 Bowie Medal knowing that it comes from such a prestigious and renowned geophysical society and from AGU colleagues whom I have interacted with for the past 45 years.

I owe my early education and geophysical motivation to the University of Michigan, especially my thesis coadvisors, Professors Paul Hays and Andrew Nagy. It was a great privilege to work with these two outstanding professors; we have remained collaborators and friends ever since.

For my postdoc, I came to the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in 1969 for the specific purpose of learning the techniques of meteorologists and to develop a general circulation model (GCM) of the upper atmosphere and ionosphere. I came to work with Bob Dickinson, who did earlier modeling of the thermospheres of Earth and Venus. I joined with Bob and a mathematical physicist, Cicely Ridley, and we began the long process of developing a new and different GCM for the upper atmosphere. This model became the Thermosphere-Ionosphere-Mesosphere-Electrodynamics-GCM (TIME-GCM), which simulates many upper atmosphere processes and is useful for space weather studies.

I soon realized that this was a major task that I could not do by myself, so I collaborated with many scientists, mathematicians, computer programmers, postdocs, and students, who participated in the development of the model by providing physical and chemical component codes and advice on numerical techniques. I also received advice from experimenters, who guided the model analysis codes and found unique ways to process model output for easy comparison with observational data. The model was available to anyone to use, and, if desired, I would perform the simulation and structure the output for easy comparison with experimental data. The model was used to explore the impact of carbon dioxide and methane doublings on the upper atmosphere structure and dynamics in response to possible global climate change.

To extend the electrodynamics of the model, Paul Hays and I developed a model of global atmospheric electricity to study not only the effects of thunderstorms on the global circuit but also how these currents interact with upper atmosphere currents associated with the aurora and wind-driven dynamo.

The model also has been adapted by Steve Bougher and Andy Nagy to simulate the chemical and dynamical properties of the planets Venus and Mars and compare simulations with planetary satellite data. The model also was useful for a whole range of sensitivity studies.

Some of the people involved in the development of the model include, at NCAR, Bob Dickinson, Cicely Ridley, Art Richmond, Ben Foster, Barbara Emery, Hanli Liu, Maura Hagan, Stan Solomon, Gang Lu, postdocs, and students; from universities, Paul Hays, Andy Nagy, Tim Killeen, Fred Rees, Guy Brasseur, Susan Solomon, and many others; and in data analysis, Gordon Shepherd, Gonzalo Hernandez, Charles Barth, Henry Rishbeth, Marty Mlynczak, and many collaborators from National Science Foundation, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NASA, and U.S. Department of Defense ground-based and satellite programs.

Most importantly, I want to thank my wife, Mary, and my family for their support.

—RAYMOND G. ROBLE, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Corporation for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colo.