A: Verner Suomi was born on December 6, 1915 and became a professor at UW-Madison. He is known as the “father of satellite meteorology” because of his historical role in defining that field of research.
In the late 1950s, he and Robert Parent, a professor of electrical engineering at UW, developed an instrument to measure the Earth’s thermal balance from a satellite. It was the first successful satellite operation to measure the Earth.
In 1963, he designed the Spin-Scan cloud camera, a milestone in satellite instruments that flew through the 1960s and provided high-quality images of the earth’s surface and atmosphere. These instruments laid the foundation for describing the weather for the world’s operational weather satellites. He proposed an instrument for measuring atmospheric temperature and water vapor distribution from a geostationary satellite; these were measurements that became available in the 1980s.
Professor Finland also led the development of McIDAS computer software, which is designed to analyze and interpret large data sets generated by satellite observations. This software, first developed in the early 1970s and maintained for more than 40 years, remains the primary tool for analyzing satellite weather observations at forecast centers and universities around the world.
The country was not his only area of interest. Professor Finland was a member of the Venus / Mercury 1973 Imaging Science Team, NASA’s Mariner / Jupiter / Saturn Imaging Science Team, and the Pioneer Venus Science Steering Group.
During his scientific career, Professor Finland received many honors. NASA recently named the satellite after him – Finland National Polar-orbiting Partnership Satellite. Professor Finland’s scientific achievements defined the field of young satellite meteorology. His leadership in the development of satellite weather observations and analyzes led to improvements in weather forecasts that benefited Wisconsin, the nation, and the world — the Wisconsin Idea in action.
Steve Ackerman and Jonathan Martin, professors in the Department of Atmospheric and Marine Sciences at UW-Madison, will be guests on WHA Radio (970 AM) at 11:45 a.m. on the last Monday of each month. Send them your questions to [email protected] or [email protected]
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