Oral history of British science
Slingo, Julia (Part 4 of 6)
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The British Library, London and Meteorological Office, Exeter
Slingo, Julia, 1950- (speaker, female)
Merchant, Paul (speaker, male)
Part 4: [1:27:36] [Session three: 20th April 2012] Comments on awareness of popular/political concerns over global cooling and ‘nuclear winters’, 1970s. [1:35:00] Comments on change in work after move from Tropical Modelling Group (‘GATE Group’) to Climate Modelling Group, 1976, including new focus on construction of GCM. Comments on relative crudeness of GCM (limited to 5 levels), in relation to GATE CCM (11 levels). Mentions own role in developing radiation code for GCM; role of husband in development of MO’s 11 level GCM [11LGCM], 1980s. [5:04] Story of maternity leave, beginning 1980, including successful decision to seek part-time consultancy work, European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasts [ECMWF], Reading, UK. Comments on childcare arrangements, including role of husband; contemporary novelty of working mothers; female friends’ view of own decision to work part-time. [10:50] Comments on enjoyment of/challenges of full-time childcare; content of discussion with husband concerning development of MO GCM in own absence. [13:43] Comments on backgrounds/interests of mothers met through mother-baby groups, Wokingham, Berkshire; reasons for applying to ECMWF rather than MO for part-time work, including MO rules concerning employment of married couples. [17:10] Comments on decision to have children. [18:14] Description of own work at ECMWF, involving improvement of radiation scheme in ECMWF’s weather forecasting model, including introduction of interactive clouds (‘cloud parameterisation scheme’); rapid development of GCMs and other climate/weather forecasting models in 1980s; aims/status of ECMWF. [21:31] Comments on nature/extent of continuation of work at home; relations/distinction between MO and ECMWF; limited relations with colleagues at ECMWF; use of ECMWF Cray computer; use of ECMWF weather forecasting model to detect problems in GCMs; importance of understanding parts of model, in relation to the whole. [31:58] Brief description of interaction with ECMWF Cray computer. [33:54] Comments on ECMWF employment of more female scientists than MO, 1980s; scientific discussions with husband. [35:42] Mentions strong distinction between work of ECMWF and MO work on CC, latter involving JM. [36:44] Story of move in 1986 to US allowing husband to take up visiting scientist post at National Center for Atmospheric Research [NCAR], Boulder, Colorado, working with [Veerabhadran] Ramanathan. Mentions birth of second daughter, 1985; contemporary Director of NCAR, Warren Washington [WW]. Story of remote use of NCAR computer, from basement in home in Boulder. Mentions work with husband on ‘cloud forcing’ [CF] in climate models. [41:15] Description of CF experiments on GCM; division of work between self and husband, including writing of joint papers. [45:27] Description of method of (by altering model code)/effect of removing clouds from a GCM. Mentions relations between this work and later studies of role of greenhouse gases in CC. [48:29] Comments on relations between family life and part-time work, NCAR; character of daughter Anna as a young child; family leisure time involving walking, skiing, sightseeing. [50:44] Comments on coincidence of own and husband’s expertise in meteorology/atmospheric physics. [51:57] Comments on JM’s concern to recruit mathematicians/physicists into MO, against general perception of meteorology as unscientific; distinction between scientists and non-scientists among MO staff. [57:29] Story of brief return to UK, with part-time post in ‘MetO 11’ [M11], concerned with developing weather forecasting models. [1:03:16] Story of return to Boulder, US, 1988. Description of own part-time work in NCAR with Kevin Trenberth/Roland Madden in ‘Climate Analysis Section’ [CAS] on tropical climate modelling, especially of the Madden–Julian oscillation [MJO]. Mentions El Nino. Story of decision to change to more flexible working arrangements, supported by WW. Description of character of daughter Anna, as a young child, in contrast to Mary. Mentions swimming with children. Comments on status of husband’s career in relation to own. Mentions husband’s relations with children/combination of career and family life. [1:12:52] Description/discussion of husband’s work on representation of cloud micro-physics in GCMs. Mentions husband’s previous work in cloud physics, involving observations from aircraft. [1:16:00] Comments on work in NCAR concerned with CC, including CO2 experiments on GCMs, led by WW and work on politics of CC, led by Stephen Schnieder; contrast between structure/culture of NCAR and MO, including dominance of individual ambitious characters, NCAR; reasons for competitiveness of US climate science. [1:21:57] Comments on own PhD, completed in US. Detailed comments on decision to return to UK, 1990. [1:26:00] Comments on friends made in US. Story of invitation to husband from John Houghton [JH] to lead clouds and climate group in newly established (1990) Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research [HC], MO.
Interview with meteorologist, Julia Slingo