Obituary for Prof. YE Duzheng

Prof. YE Duzheng, one of the founders of modern meteorology in China, passed away on 16 October 2013. He was born in Tianjin, in the north of China, in 1916, the same year China began keeping a climate record. In over seven decades of meteorological investigation, research and training, Prof. Ye made major contributions to the study of atmospheric circulation and climate and global change and provided an invaluable service to geosciences not only in China but also in Asia and at global level.

In 1935–1940, Prof. Ye studied at Tsinghua University in Beijing. In 1940–1943, he did his graduate studies (MSc) at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou. During 1943–1944, he was research assistant at the Meteorological Institute of Academia Sinica in Chongqing. In 1945–1948, he studied at the University of Chicago, and obtained his PhD in meteorology under Carl-Gustaf Rossby. From 1947–1950, he was researcher at the University of Chicago.

Among his first scientific achievements was the publication in 1949 of a paper based on his doctoral dissertation on the theory of energy dispersion, using four atmospheric models to explain energy propagation through dispersive waves. In the mid-1950s, with the development of China’s network of aerological stations, Prof. Ye investigated the general circulation of the atmosphere over eastern Asia and established the role of the Tibetan Plateau as a source of heat in summer and of cold in winter. Prof. Ye and his team at the Institute of Atmospheric Physics then studied the general circulation over the whole northern hemisphere, showing that abrupt changes in the upper circulation were due to the onset of the south-western monsoon in India and related phenomena in China and in India. Under the guidance of Prof. Ye many young students and researchers developed their brilliant careers in meteorology. He was an advocate of international cooperation in meteorological sciences and helped to develop the concept of “global change” through a holistic approach to the study of the atmosphere, integrating knowledge on its interaction with the hydrosphere, the geosphere and the biosphere.

Prof. Ye has played a major role at the national and international level, supporting strongly the idea of sustainable development and calling attention on the urgency of mitigating and adapting to climate and global change in an active way through “orderly human activities”. After his return to China in 1950, he was instrumental in the establishment of the Institute of Atmospheric Physics of the Chinese Academy of Science (IAP/CAS), of which he was division director and professor, then director since 1966 and later honorary director until his death. In 1978–1986, he was president of the Chinese Meteorological Society, which he restored after it had been suspended during the Cultural Revolution. In 1981–1984, he was vice-president of the Chinese Academy of Science, of which he was then advisor until his death. In 1982–1988, he was chairman of the Chinese National Committee for the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) and member of WCRP Joint Scientific Committee. During 1983–1987 he was member of the Executive Committee of the International Association of Meteorology and Atmospheric Physics (IAMAP). In 1987–1991, he was chairman of the Chinese National Committee for the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics (IUGG) and member of the IUGG Bureau until 1995. He initiated China’s studies on the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP) and assisted in setting up the Regional Centre for Temperate East Asia of START (global change SysTem for Analysis, Research and Training). During 1987–1993, he was chairman of the Chinese National Committee for the (IGBP) and member of IGBP Scientific Committee (1987–1990).

For his achievements, Prof. Ye was honoured with several prestigious recognitions and awards. He was elected as Foreign Member of the Finnish Academy of Sciences and Letters in 1981, Honorary Member of the Royal Meteorological Society of UK in 1982 and Honorary Member of the American Meteorological Society in 1990. In 1987, Prof. Ye received a National Natural Sciences Award First Prize for his contribution to understanding the general atmospheric circulation of East Asia. In the same year, he also received a National Natural Sciences Award Second Prize for his work involving pressure and velocity fields. In 1995, he received the first Ho Leung Ho Lee Prize for Scientific and Technological Achievement as well as the Tan Kah Kee Prize for Earth Science. In 2003 Prof. Ye was awarded the forty-eighth International Meteorological Organization (IMO) Prize, as the first Chinese scientist winner ever. In 2005 he received the highest scientific prize in China, the National Supreme Scientific and Technological Award.

An interview with Prof. Ye was published in the WMO Bulletin 52(1) in January 2003. 

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