Bruce R. Barkstrom (1944-2018)

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Bruce R. Barkstrom
Bruce R. Barkstrom (1944-2018)

Bruce Richard Barkstrom passed away on Sunday, July 1, 2018 in Ashville, NC after a long and courageous journey with pancreatic cancer. During his lengthy and successful career, Bruce had many scientific accomplishments; key among them were his many contributions to satellite-based observations of Earth's radiation budget (ERB).

Bruce earned a B.S. in Physics from the University of Illinois in Champaign, IL in 1966, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Astronomy from Northwestern University. His early interest in Atmospheric Science focused on radiative transfer theory, with an emphasis on multiple scattering of solar radiation by snow and ice. Following a position as Research Associate with the National Center for Atmospheric Research, he had a 5-year teaching assignment with George Washington University before joining the Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences Division at NASA Langley Research Center in 1979.

At NASA, Bruce served as the Earth Radiation Budget Experiment (ERBE) Experiment Scientist and Science Team Leader. He was directly responsible for the ERBE instrument design and calibration, as well as the ERBE data interpretation. He was also responsible for science project management of the ERBE team of 17 Principal and 40 Co-Investigators. Following ERBE, Bruce proposed a project that would place instruments to measure ERB on what would later become the Terra and Aqua satellites. He (along with co-Principal Investigator Bruce Wielicki) selected the name Clouds and the Earth's Radiant Energy System (CERES), after the Roman goddess of agriculture, home, family and stability. A gilded statue of the Ceres goddess stands atop the Chicago Board of Trade Building, close to Bruce's hometown in Rock Island County, IL. Currently, six CERES instruments are flying on four different satellites, providing the only available global climate data record of Earth's radiation budget from instruments designed specifically for measuring ERB. Data from the 18-year CERES record have been used in 1,600 peer-reviewed publications and cited over 52,000 times. The state of ERB observations today would not be the same without Bruce's commitment and leadership. Bruce also briefly led the Atmospheric Science Data Center at NASA Langley before retiring from NASA in 2006, and NOAA in 2008.

Bruce was an eclectic Renaissance-style scientist: he voraciously studied a wide range of science and engineering disciplines, including the mathematics of ecosystems, industrial production, software development, and radiative transfer. At heart he was an architect of complex systems: he loved studying and designing complex systems in tremendous detail whether they were a radiation budget instrument calibration system or a scientific data processing system. Throughout his life, Bruce also enjoyed and excelled at his other two passions, wood working and music.

Bruce is survived by his wife of 52 years, Alice, children, Gustaf Barkstrom and Anne Moore, and two grandsons. Bruce was a great friend and mentor to many of us and will be sorely missed.
-Norman G. Loeb, Bruce A. Wielicki, David F. Young.