Ellsworth Dutton's sudden death on 11 October 2012 was a blow not only to family and friends, but also to the greater atmospheric sciences community. He was widely regarded for his careful study of the surface radiation budget of the Earth. In 1992 Ells took the position as Project Manager of the World Climate Research Program's Baseline Surface Radiation Network (BSRN) and has been its only manager. The BSRN is widely regarded as the premier surface radiation budget network for the world and Ells's group at NOAA operates 11 of its 50 member stations. These high quality data are used for satellite and model validation and are also used to accurately track subtle changes and long-term trends in the surface radiation budget.
Ells's Ph.D. thesis was on climate forcing associated with the last two major volcanic eruptions, El Chichon and Mt. Pinatubo. He compared observations and calculations of the radiative forcing of aerosols that formed in the stratosphere after those eruptions. He was also quite proud of his role as custodian of the Mauna Loa Observatory 'apparent' transmission record that began in the late 1950's and was last updated by Ells for the BAMS State of the Climate report in 2011. One of the last topics he was working on was the periodic dimming and brightening of the surface solar radiation. He and others primarily used BSRN station records to examine the brightening that has occurred over the last 20 years using this carefully calibrated and well-maintained measurement set.
Ells grew up in rural Iowa and graduated from high school with 23 others. He received his B.S. in aerospace engineering in 1971 from Iowa State University. The following year he decided that his true passion was meteorology and returned to Iowa State to begin a Masters degree program. He later transferred to Florida State University where he obtained his M.S. in 1975. He was subsequently hired by a private firm in Boulder, Colorado, as a field team leader to evaluate the effects of meteorology on the air sampling they were doing to find anomalous sources of radon (uranium prospecting).
In 1978 he was hired by the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) at the University of Colorado to run the fledgling fluorocarbon-monitoring program. In 1980 he was hired by NOAA to take charge of the radiation program at their four baseline sites at the South Pole; Barrow, Alaska; American Samoa; and Mauna Loa. Since obtaining his Ph.D. in 1995 from the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at the Colorado State University he has served as the Chief of the Radiation Group within the Climate Monitoring and Diagnostics Laboratory, which is now the Global Monitoring Division of the Earth System Research Laboratory.
Ells is survived by his wife Vicki Schroeder and his many friends and colleagues in Boulder and around the world.