Bob Simpson passes away at 102

Bob Simpson and Cecil Gentry at the Research Operations Base, West Palm Beach, April 1956
Bob Simpson and Cecil Gentry at the Research Operations Base, West Palm Beach, April 1956

It is with a heavy heart that we note the death of HRD’s founding director, Dr. Robert H. Simpson at the age of 102. Born and raised in Corpus Christi, Texas, Bob Simpson survived the 1919 hurricane that struck his hometown when he was just 6 years old.

After receiving a Master’s degree in Physics from Emory University, Bob taught music in several Texas high schools before obtaining a position as weather observer with the Brownsville Weather Bureau office in 1940.  After a stint at the remote weather station on Swan Island in the Caribbean Sea, he came to the attention of Dr. Francis Reichelderfer, Chief of the the Weather Bureau, who assigned him to the New Orleans office as a hurricane forecaster.  He then moved to the Miami office to understudy Grady Norton and was then assigned as a tropical weather instructor at the US Air Force’s meteorology school at Howard Air Force Base in Panama.  Using one of the school’s instructional C-47 aircraft, he flew into a tropical storm south of Hispanola in 1945.

Following the war he was assigned as Reichelderfer’s assistant in Washington, DC.  During the summers, he would use his annual leave to fly a series of “piggyback” missions on Air Force Hurricane Hunter flights into Atlantic storms.  In 1948, he was assigned to Honolulu to oversee the peacetime transition of Pacific weather assets to Weather Bureau control.  During this time he helped establish a short-live summit observatory atop Mauna Loa (he also helped establish a later, permanent observatory on the slope) and also flew a piggyback mission into Typhoon Marge in 1950.

Upon returning to duties in Washington, DC in 1952, Simpson again resumed summertime piggyback missions, culminating in a flight into Hurricane Edna in 1954 with Edward R. Murrow on board.  The 1954 hurricane season drastically affected the northeastern United States which prompted Congress to increase funding for the Weather Bureau to conduct research on hurricanes.  Reichelderfer appointed Simpson to direct the National Hurricane Research Project, which he did for the next three years.  Operating out of Morrison Field in West Palm Beach using instrumented Air Force planes, the Project gathered unique in situ observations inside Atlantic hurricanes.  Once the Project was assured a continuation after 1959, Simpson left to finish his doctoral degree at the University of Chicago.

Bob and Joanne Simpson in retirement
Bob and Joanne Simpson in retirement

Simpson became the Weather Bureau’s Deputy Director for Research (Severe Storms) in 1962 where he helped establish the National Severe Storms Project (later the National Severe Storms Laboratory.)  He was also the founding director of Project STORMFURY during this time.  In 1965, he married Joanne Malkus and moved over to the operational side of the Weather Bureau to avoid a conflict of interest since Joanne was director of the Environmental Meteorology Laboratory.  The couple moved to Miami in 1967 where Bob became Deputy Director of the National Hurricane Center in anticipation of the retirement of his friend, Gordon Dunn.  Bob Simpson was NHC director from 1968 to 1974 where he oversaw the transition of the Center into the computer age and the increased use of satellite data.  His skillful use of reconnaissance and satellite information helped avoid a tremendous disaster with the landfall of Hurricane Camille in 1969.  Along with his long-time friend Herb Saffir, he established the Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale that came into operational use in 1972.

After retiring from Federal Service in 1974, Bob and Joanne established Simpson Weather Associates (SWA) in 1979, which provided expertise in weather modification experiments to world governments.  Both he and Joanne were very active in mentoring meteorology students throughout their lifetimes.  Bob became director emeritus of SWA in 2000.  Joanne passed away in 2010.  His autobiography “Hurricane Pioneer” is scheduled for publication by the AMS next year.

1944  Subtropical rain showers from stable cloud forms. Bull Amer. Meteor. Soc. 25,367.
1946  On the movement of tropical cyclones. Trans. Amer. Geophys. Union 27,641-55.
1947  A note on the movement and structure of the Florida hurricane of October 1946. Mon. Wea.Rev. 75, 53-58.
1947  Some aspects of the intertropical convergence near central and south America. Bull Amer. Meteor. Soc. 28,335.
1948  On the slope of low-pressure axes as a criterion for deepening in the  tropics. Bull.Amer.Meteor.Soc. 29, 9-15.
1951  Exploring the eye of typhoon Marge. Bull. Amer. Meteo. Soc., 33, 286 98.
1952  Evolution of the Kona storm, a subtropical cyclone. J. Meteor. 9 24, 35.

1953  Comments on the Impulsive generation of certain changes in the tropospheric circulation.  J. Meteor., 5, 404-405.

1954  Hurricanes. Scientific American, June, 32-7. On the structure of tropical cyclones as studied by aircraft reconnaissance.
1954  Proc. UNESCO Symp. on Typhoons, Tokyo, 129-50. Structure of an immature hurricane. Bull.Amer.Meteor.Soc. 35, 335-50.
1955  Further studies of hurricanes by aircraft reconnaissance. Bull. A mer. Meteor. Soc. 36, 459-68 (with L.G. Starrett).
1955  A survey of the hurricane problem. Trans. N. Y Academy 0/Sciences 17,346-52 (with J. Namias and G. Dunn).
1956  Operation of the National Hurricane Research Project. Weatherwise 9,  111-20 (with A.W. Johnson and R.C. Gentry).
1957  Asymmetries in the hurricane. Proc. 9th Pacific Science Congress, Bangkok, 13, 213-17.
1957  Hurricane cloud forms surveyed by reconnaissance aircraft. Proc. 9th Pacific Science Congress, Bangkok, 13,218-19.
1957  Hurricanes. Smithsonian Rept.for 1956, 301-28 (with R.C. Gentry).
1957  The West Indies rawindsonde network: A laboratory for problems in analysis and prediction of tropical weather. Proc. 9th Pacific Science Congress, Bangkok, 13, 182-89.
1963  An experiment in hurricane modifications: Preliminary results. Amer.Soc. Advancement o Science, 3591,498.
1963  An experiment in hurricane modifications: Preliminary results. Science 142 (with J. S. Malkus).
1963  Liquid water in squall lines and hurricanes at air temperatures lower than -40 C. Mon. Wea. Rev., 91,687-93. Wexler Memorial Volume

1963  Comments on “Condensed Water in the Free Atmosphere in Air Colder than −40C.”  J.  Appl. Meteor., 5, 684-685.

1964  Experiments in hurricane modification. Scientific Amer. 211, 27-37 (with J.S. Malkus).
1964  Modification experiments on tropical cumulus clouds. Science 145, 541-48 (with J.S. Malkus).
1964  Note on the potentialities of cumulonimbus and hurricane seeding experiments. J Appl. Meteor., 3, 470-475 (with J.S. Malkus).
1965  Experimental cumulus dynamics. Rev. ofGeophysics 3, 387-431 (with J.Simpson, D.A. Andrews, and M.A. Eaton).
1965  Project STORMFURY: An experiment in hurricane weather modification. Geojisica International S, 63-70.
1966  STORMFURY cumulus experiments: Preliminary results 1965. J Appl. Meteo., 5, 521-25 (with J. Simpson, J.R. Stinson, and J.W. Kidd).
1966  Why experiment on tropical hurricanes. Trans. NY Academy of Sciences 28, 1045-62 (with J. Simpson).
1967  STORMFURY cumulus seeding experiment, 1965: Statistical analysis and main results. J Atmos. Science 24, 508-21 (with J. Simpson and G.W. Brier).
1968  Atlantic tropical disturbances, 1967. Mon. Wea. Rev., 96, 251-60 (with N. Frank, D. Shideler, and H.M. Johnson).
1969  Understanding ocean weather. Oceanology International Nov/Dec, 42-5.

1969  Atlantic disturbances of 1968. Mon. Wea.Rev 97, 140-55.

1970 The Atlantic hurricane season of 1969. Mon. Wea. Rev., 98, 293-306 (with A.L. Sugg and National Hurricane Center Staff).

1971  Mean-layer analyses for tracking and prediction of disturbances in the tropics. Proc. Amer. Meteor. Soc. Symp. on Trop. Meteor., Honolulu, June, 17. 1971

1971  The Atlantic hurricane season of 1970. Mon. Wea. Rev. 99, 269-77 (with J.M. Pelissier).

1972  The tropical analysis program of the National Hurricane Center. Weatherwise 24,164-73 (with C.w. Wise).
1972  The Atlantic hurricane season of 1971. Mon. Wea. Rev. 100, 265-75 (with J.R. Hope).

1973  The Atlantic hurricane season of 1972. Mon. Wea. Rev. 101, 323-33  (with PJ. Hebert).

1973 Evacuations, horizontal versus vertical. Nation’s Cities, May, 44-6.

1974  Hurricane prediction: Progress and problem areas. Science 181, 899-907.
1974  Pilot plan for ‘canes. Museum, June, 46-52.
1974  Hurricane prediction skill: Progress and prospects. Proc. International Tropical Meteor. Meeting. Nairobi, 145-50.
1975  The complex killer. Oceanus 17,22-4.
1975  On the design and evaluation of tropical cyclone seeding experiments. Proc. WMO Tech. Conf., Manila, 121-32.
1975  GARP topics: The GATE dropwindsonde program. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 984 (with P.K. Govind and R. Holle). (4th ed.) McGraw-Hill: New York, 589A-90 (with J. Simpson).
1975  Implications from the GATE dropwindsonde program regarding Ascale circulations. GATE Rept. No. 14, Tech. Vol. I, WMO, 1-11 (with J. Simpson).
1975  Natural hazards. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc. (Book review) 56, 478.
1975  On the structure and organization of clouds in the GATE area. GATE Rept No. 14, Tech. Vol. II, WMO, 160-167 (with J. Simpson).
1976  Hurricane development and movement. Appl. Mech. Rev., 601-09  (with R.A. Pielke).
1977  Tropical cyclone warning systems and their impact on industrial decision making. Proc. Symp. Impact of Tropical Cyclones on Oil and Mineral Development in NW Australia, Canberra, 429-54.
1978  Hurricane prediction. In Geophysical Prediction, National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C., Chap. 12.
1978  On the computation of equivalent potential temperature. Mon. Wea. Rev., 106, 124-130.
1979  Tymod: Typhoon Moderation. Tech. vol. prepared for the Philippine Government, 128 pp. (with A. Miller, J. Simpson, and B. Fagan).
1979  Impact of tropical cyclone winds. Proc. International Con! on Tropical Cyclones, Perth, Australia.
1980  Vertical evacuation: A viable alternative? Proc. International Hurricane Conf, New Orleans.
1980  Rodgers, Golden and Halpern: Final report to City of Sanibel on planning for hurricane emergencies. (Collaborated with)
1981  Changes in the Monsoon circulation of the South China Sea imposed by the moderate surge of 10-12 December 1978. Proc. International Conf. on Early Results of FGGE and Large-Scale Aspects of Its Monsoon Experiments.
1981  Structure and dynamical milieu of monsoon eddies in the South China Sea and the related penetrative convection: The case of 16-17 December
1978  Proc. International Conf. on Early Results of FGGE and Large-Scale Aspects of Its Monsoon Experiments, Tallahassee (with C. Warner, BJ. Morrison, and J. Simpson).
1981  The Hurricane and Its Impact, 398 pp. LSU Press: Baton Rouge (Principal, with H. Riehl).
1982  A hurricane hazard analysis for Longboat Key, Florida. Simpson Weather Associates, Inc., Washington, D.C., 54 pp.
1984  A risk analysis and preparedness decision system for use by coastal communities. Proceedings of 15th Conference on Hurricanes and Tropical Meteorology, January 9-13, 1984, Miami, Florida. pp. J22-124.
1985  Timing of Hurricane Emergency Actions (senior author with B. Hayden and M. Garstang). Environmental Management, Vol. 9, No.1 , pp 61-70.
1989  Hurricane. For new edition of Encyclopedia of Science and Technology; McGraw-Hill, New York, (Principal,with G. Holland and J. Simpson). 1992 Cumulus Mergers in the Martime Continent region. Meteorology and Atmospheric Physics (with J. Simpson et al)

1998 Stepping stones in the evolution of a national hurricane policy.  Wea. Forecast., 13, 617-620.

2007  Tropical cyclone destructive potential by integrated kinetic energy.  Bull. Amer. Met. Soc., 88, 1799-1800.  (with H. Saffir)

1955  The hurricane fang and its importance to the middle Atlantic and New England states. Paper presented to Woods Hold Oceanographic Inst. Assoc., New York City.
1955 The Weather Bureau sizes up the hurricane problem. Bell Telephone Magazine 34,145-152.
1956  Objectives and Basic Design of the National Hurricane Research Project. National Hurricane Res. Proj. Rept. 1, Dept. of Commerce, Washington (with N.E. LaSeur, R.C. Gentry, L.F. Hubert, and C.L. Jordan).
Some aspects of tropical cyclone structure. Paper No.8. Tropical Cyclone Symp. Brisbane, Australia.
1957  Hurricanes. Paper presented to Royal Canadian Inst., Toronto.
Midtropospheric ventilation as a constraint on hurricane development and maintenance. 1st Tech. Con! on Hurricanes, Miami Beach (with H. Riehl).
1957  Details of Circulation in the High-Energy Core of Hurricane Carrie.  National Hurricane Res. Proj. Rept. 24, Dept. of Commerce, Washington (with National Hurricane Res. Proj. Staff).
1962  Cloud-Seeding Experiment in Hurricane Esther, 1961. National Hurricane Res. Proj. Rept. 60, Dept. of Commerce, Washington (with R. Ahrens and R.D. Decker).
1962  On the Dynamics of Disturbed Circulation in the Lower Mesosphere.  National Hurricane Res. Proj. Rept. 57.Dept. of Commerce, Washington.
1963  Measurement of heat and momentum flux at the air/sea interface. Paper presented at the 3rd U.S.-Asian Military Weather Symp., John Hay Airbase, Philippine Islands, Feb.
1963  The unique development of the severe Atlantic coastal storm of March, 1962. Paper presented to the 211th National Meeting of the Amer. Meteor. Soc., Jan. (with J. Simpson).
1965  Hurricane modification: Progress and prospects, 1965. Paper presented at

1967  Search for more adequate tools to describe circulation in tropical and equatorial latitudes. Paper presented to Naval Post-Graduate School, Monterey, Aug.
1968  Role of the air/sea interface in the growth of hurricanes. Paper presented at the WMO Symp. on Investigations and Resources of the Caribbean Sea, Curacao, BWI, Nov.
1969  Curbing hurricanes–The chances. (Interview) Us. News and World Rept., Sept. 1, 34-6.
Disturbances in the tropical and equatorial Atlantic. ESSA Tech. Memo. WBTM-SR47, Dept. of Commerce, Washington.
1969  A reassessment of the hurricane risk. Paper presented to National Red Cross Conf., Atlanta, May.
Synoptic analysis models for the tropics. Paper presented to Meteor. Tech.Exchange Conf., Colorado Springs, July.
1969  Your risk in hurricanes. Paper presented to Corpus Christi Rotary Club, May. 1970 The decision process in hurricane forecasting. NOAA Tech. Memo. NWS-SR53, Dept. of Commerce, Washington.
1969  Don Franklin on–Weather. (Interview) Florida Afloat, Apr. 14-5.
1969  The hurricane as a machine of destruction. Paper presented at the Hurricane Foresight meeting, New Orleans, Apr.
1969  Hurricane peak: Mid-September. (Interview) Us. News and World Rept., Aug. 10, 16.A reassessment of the hurricane prediction problem. ESSA Tech. Memo. WBTM-SR50, Dept. of Commerce, Washington.
1969  The Satellite Applications Section of the National Hurricane Center. ESSA Tech. Memo. WBTM-SR51, Dept. of Commerce, Washington (with D.C. Gaby).
1969  Tropical storms: Hurricanes. Nebraska Educational Television Council for Higher Education, Lincoln, Mar.
1971  Atlantic hurricane frequencies along the U.S. coastline. NOAA Tech. Memo NWS-SR58, Dept. of Commerce, Washington (with M.B. Lawrence).
1971  The decision process in hurricane forecasting. NOAA Tech. Memo. NWSSR53, Dept. of Commerce, Washington.
1971  The hurricane: Perennial but increasing threat to our coast. Paper presented to Council of State Governments, Atlanta.
1971  Hurricane, yes or no. (Interview) NOAA Magazine 1, 12-21.
1971  Review of “Forecaster’s Guide to Tropical Meteorology” (G.D. Atkinson, 225 pp.) Trans. Amer. Geophys. Union 52, 708-09.
1972  The hurricane risk and its potential impact. J Miami Academy of Sciences, May, 1-12.
Hurricane vulnerability. Paper presented to Rotary Club of Miami (Jul.) and New Orleans Press Assoc. meeting (Oct.)
1973  Evacuation of coastal residents during hurricanes. Rept. of Miami Fed. Exec. Board’s Hurricane Shelters Committee (R.H. Simpson, Chairman) to U.S. Office of Management and Budget, Washington, May. If hurricanes hit. (Interview) US News and World Rept., Aug. 14,32-5. A decision procedure of application in predicting the landfall of hurricanes.
1973  NOAA Tech. Memo. NWS-SR71 , Dept. of Commerce, Washington (with B.R. Jarvinen).

1973  The neutercane: Small hybrid cyclone. Paper presented at Amer. Meteor.
1975  Assessing the impact of hurricanes on coastal structures. Paper presented at Amer. Meteor. Soc. Coastal Eng. Conf., Houston, Oct.
1975  The GATE dropwindsonde program. Proc. 9th Can! Hurricanes and Trap. Meteor., Key Biscayne, May (with P.K. Govind).
1976  A circulation analysis system for GATE area tropical disturbances. Proc. 10th Can! on Hurricanes and Tropical Meteor., Charlottesville, VA. (with J. Cunningham, M. Zimner, and E. Hill).
1976  Coastal hazard potentials. Coastal Meteor. Conf., Virginia Beach, Sept. (with J. Freeman).
1976  Transitions in African disturbances over the eastern Atlantic Ocean. Proc. 10th Corif. on Hurricanes and Tropical Meteor., Charlottesville, VA.
1977  Synoptic-scale disturbances in the eastern Atlantic Ocean. Proc. 11th Conf. on Hurricanes and Tropical Meteor. Miami Beach.
1979  Monitoring of the ocean-atmosphere environment to detect, understand, and predict hazardous weather and seas. Paper prepared for Computer Sciences Corporation, Bay St. Louis, MS (with W. Frank).
1979  Physical nature and disaster potential of the hurricane. Lecture delivered at Pennsylvania State University.
Will coastal residents reach safe shelter in time? Proc. 13th Corif. on Hurricanes and Tropical Meteor., Orlando.
1980  Book review of Disasters and the Mass Media. AMS Bulletin.
1980  Implementation phase of the National Hurricane Research Project; 19551956. Proc. 14th Can! on Hurricanes and Tropical Meteor., Miami.
1980  The quality of progress in predicting extreme events. Potomac Geophysical Soc. Meeting.