At the tufa towers at Mono Lake Not so


Born and Raised....

Relaxing at home

I am a native San Franciscan, living the younger part of my life in the Cow Hollow section of San Francisco. My mother, Anne, still lives in this house. My sister (Arlene) and brother-in-law (Larry Margetich) reside in Marin County, and a nephew (Bruce Margetich) and niece (Laurene) with husband (Jim Schlosser) and my grand-niece (Anna) also live in the Bay Area. The other family member of note is Matilda, shown with me at left.

I can trace my love of nature to two things...hearing the rain pounding on the shed roof of my bedroom when I was a child and the childhood trips to various National Parks we took as a family. When I was in high school, my parents bought me a Lionel Weather Station. I assembled it and kept meticulous records for their house. When I went out on my own, the weather stations got more elaborate, but I am still keeping records at my home in Oakland.

More on the kind of stuff that interests me besides meteorology can be found on my interests page.

Off to Cal....

I went to grammar school at St. Vincent de Paul in San Francisco, high school at Sacred Heart High, and all my degrees are from UC Berkeley. In college, I started out as a Physics major. While I lacked the maturity to be thrown in with all those brainy precocious kids at CAL, I have to say that the teaching staff at the time was awful and took no interest at all in the students. By my sophomore year I had changed my major to Geology and seemed to find a niche, but had a rough go recovering from my freshmen woes in Physics. I have no compunction mentioning that I was on academic probation after the Physics debacle because it should serve as a lesson to other students that have some problems in their initial years. I eventually learned new study techniques, turned my grades around, graduated with an MA and PhD from UC Berkeley, and have become a very successful professor and researcher at San Francisco State University (more on all of this shortly).

After graduating with a Bachelor's degree in Geology from UC Berkeley, I was faced with the knowledge that although geology was exciting, my first love was still weather and climate. So I applied and was accepted to the PhD program in Geography (Climatology) at UC, achieving both an MA and PhD by 1979. Along the way, I had intermittent stops (including a year long one) at San Jose State's Meteorology program to pick up the meteorology that CAL did not offer. I should point out that several faculty members at both institutions ended up having a profound influence on my intellectual development---Mario Giovinetto (my PhD adviser at CAL) and James J. Parsons in the Geography program at CAL and Peter Lester at San Jose State. All three were on my PhD thesis committee and I finally dragged through to completion of my dissertation "A meteorological analysis of the variability of precipitation in the Great Plains, USA."

Yikes, dressed like a professor

While I was in the PhD program at CAL, I served as Weather Observer for the Department of Geography for several years and actually got a few publications in refereed journals out. I also became a part-time lecturer both at CAL and at UC Davis and realized that teaching was both a strength and an interest. In 1979 I applied for and received a tenure-track position in meteorology with the Geology Department (in which meteorology was a concentration) at San Francisco State University (the department shortly changed its name to Geosciences to be inclusive of meteorology and oceanography).

My appointment to SFSU was a major turning point in my life.

Running my head off....

Diablo Relay 1993

In the 1970s, I also developed an interest in physical fitness, particularly, running, and became an avid and somewhat successful competitive distance runner. In 1983, along with Thom Trimble, my storm chase partner, I started a very successful running club still known as East Bay Striders. I am still an officer in this club and still a persistant runner (~60 miles per week) and now have thrown in gym work for balance.

Most members of the club participate in the Pacific Association of the USA Track and Field's (PAUSATF) Road and Cross Country Grand Prix. These are a series of races, generally one or two per month, of different lengths. I particularly like the Cross Country series because of the beautiful courses and varied lengths.

Anyway, these things keep me in great shape and provide a much needed physical diversion from the university and research pursuits. It is not really possible to feel great stress when in the midst of a long run. And, in fact, in many instances, at some subconscious level, problem solving goes on during these long intervals of rhythmic athletic pursuit.

Interesting to note that storm chase partner Thom Trimble is also an avid runner, as is occasional chase partner Ron Smith. Other storm chasers seen hoofing it at 8AM CDT on the roads in the Plains are Ed Calienese and Steve Sponsler.

Blossoming at SFSU....

Once past the first few years of new course development at San Francisco State, I began to shape the curriculum and to develop my own research (more on that in a separate section). When I was hired, I was given the task to upgrade the meteorology programs to some sort of national stature (at least, so that the degrees and courses we offered would be competitive to some extent with other similar programs). This really took shape by the early 1980s with the help of colleague Catherine Felton. But in the mid to late 1980s a series of excellent students (Scott Braun and Kathy Pagan, to name two) and new colleagues David Dempsey and Oswaldo Garcia came on the scene. Scott and I coauthored a contribution on a tornadic supercell in the Sacramento Valley, which, at the time, was somewhat controversial because up to that time no one had really thought of supercell thunderstorms as part of the meteorology of the state. Kathy Pagan, with Oswaldo Garcia as her Thesis Chair, eventually became the first recipient of our MS in Applied Geosciences and a great friend.

But both she and Scott exemplified the fact that the meteorology program at SFSU had come of age...these students could have completed degrees successfully anywhere...including the top PhD-granting institutions in meteorology in the US. (In fact, Scott received his PhD in meteorology from Washington.

The presence of Dave and Oz in the Department gave us a working group. Both the curriculum and the degree offerings have blossomed because of this. But I also value these colleagues as friends as well.

Dave and I also were the first in the Department to get heavily involved intoWorld Wide Web. I am the developer of the Geosciences Website and Dave independently developed the California Regional Weather Server. Together we have gotten Center for the Enhancement of Teaching Awards for these activities.

Ontop of Squaw Peak

Several other significant friendships and professional associations developed at this time. Jan Null was then a Lead Forecaster with the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Redwood City and we became good friends and collaborators on a number of projects. This led to associations with John Quadros and other NWS forecasters over the years. Jan eventually became Adjunct Professor of Meteorology at SFSU and is a contributor to our program.

I still am totally committed to teaching. This is something we do a lot of at San Francisco State University. The courses I have taught range from introductory meteorology, to upper division non-majors "wow" courses in California weather, hurricanes and tornadoes, to the majors core courses at the upper division level and graduate level. These are too numerous to outline here, but take a look at my teaching vitae for some great class websites to give you the flavor of what I have been doing pedagogically.

Hopefully, my teaching presentation is a bit more energetic and engaging than that suggested by the graphic to the right.

I became Chair of the Department in 1990. I actually enjoyed this service to the Department, but at the end of my 8 year tenure as Chair (becoming the Chair with the longest service in the Department's history), I was ready for a break. Pretty much simultaneous with my Chairmanship, I also served as Co-Editor of Weather and Forecasting and a member of the AMS's Committee on Severe Local Storms. I also was chair of several sessions of the 18th and 20th Conferences on Severe Local Storms. Finally, I had the great honor of being elected as a Fellow of the California Academy of Sciences in 1995. More on my professional work will be found on my research page.

Boring lecturer

Storm chasing stimulates a career....

The other important event in the early 1980s that helped shape my career was what seemed, initially, to be an innocent request from my friend Thom Trimble. He was on his way to a conference in Norman, Oklahoma in May1984 and wanted a primer on tornadic thunderstorms, hoping that he would see one. I gave him a couple of pages on what was known about supercells at the time. And wouldn't you know that tornado watches and warnings were issued when he was there...and he went out and chased and photographed a wallcloud near Norman. When he came back, he suggested that we go together the next year, something I had always wanted to do.

Roswell, NM supercell tornado, May 25, 1999

Furnas County Nebraska
May 22, 2005

The next year we chased only for five days, and were under the delusion that all we had to do was setup camp in Norman and wait. Little did we know that in some years we had to drive well over 6000 miles in 18 days just to put ourselves in favorable locations to see supercells. But in 1985 we were fortunate enough to see a tremendous supercell and the development of a Mesoscale Convective Complex. We both were sold. And, he and I (except for a couple of years Thom dropped out due to fatherhood) have been chasing together every year since 1985.

From this collaboration, I have brought back much video and photographic documentation to my students. Two of my students, Gary Lipari and Ted Schlaepfer, are working on their MS theses on topics related to California tornadoes (more on this on my research page). Some of the pictures from my storm chases appear on the website Chasing Storms. Also, from this activity has sprung a wealth of professional/personal contacts across the Plains and has led to a research branching for me that has ultimately been the most rewarding of my life.

Along the way, I met one of the true seminal thinkers on tornadoes, Chuck Doswell, who has become both a mentor and a friend...this despite his obnoxious persistance in rooting for Oklahoma University's ethically-flawed football program... :-). I have chased with Chuck and his wife Vickie Doswell for parts of the spring storm seasons of 2000 and 2001.

Other new colleagues and friends from institutions ranging from the National Severe Storms Lab, Storm Prediction Center and areas from Colorado to Florida include Greg Stumpf (now a collaborator), Bob Johns (SOO at SPC), Warren Blier (SOO at NWS WFO Monterey), Brad Colman (SOO at WFO Seattle), Matt Gilmore, Steve Sponsler, Mike Foster, Al Moller, Steve Johnson, Erik Rasmussen, John Cortinas, Harold Brooks, Al Pietrycha, Paul Markowski, Brian Curran, Bob Henson, and Ed Calienese, to name a few.

Many of these individuals I have met at Conferences or during stints as Visiting Scientist at NSSL, and/or the NWS Redwood City/Monterey. Some, like Chuck, Brian, Ed,, Al M. and Mike I have had the priviledge of chasing with. Others I collaborated with in the STEPS project and other endeavors.

Mobile Mesonet Armada, May 21, 1999

With the Mobile Mesonets
May 21, 1999

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