Sad to learn Jerry Mahlman, great @NOAA climate scientist, communicator and human being, died 11/28 after long Alzheimer’s struggle. 

He said this to me in 2000 about the challenge of acting on greenhouse-driven global warming:

The evidence is subtle and complex, and probably will be so for a long time to come, said Jerry D. Mahlman, who is retiring as director of the federal Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton, N.J. ”This is going to be incremental forever,” he said.

Somehow, many experts say, if the threat is to be countered, societies will have to figure out a way to act in the face of gray uncertainty, to deal aggressively with a problem that lacks the attributes of a crisis. That is no easy task.

Dr. Mahlman has pretty much given up on that hope, saying that many countries, including the United States, have essentially decided that the focus is going to be on painless, low-cost fixes like growing trees to sop up the most common greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, and on adapting to coming warming instead of countering it.

”We just don’t want to face up to it,” he said, adding that people do not want to change their lifestyle or the economy ”for the sake of avoiding future costs.”


Renowned climate scientist, Dr. Jerry D. Mahlman, previously a resident of Longmont, CO, and recently of Sunrise Assisted Living in Buffalo Grove, IL, died peacefully on November 28, 2012. Jerry was born on February 21, 1940 in Crawford, NE. He received his undergraduate degree from Chadron State College in 1962 and his Ph.D. in atmospheric science from Colorado State University in 1967. He was married in 1962 to Janet Hilgenberg of Hot Springs, SD. Dr. Mahlman spent most of his career modeling how Earth’s atmosphere responds to the steady buildup of greenhouse gases. From 1970 to 2000 he worked at the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory of NOAA in Princeton, NJ, serving as Director from 1984-2000, and was a Professor in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at Princeton University. His expertise was understanding the behavior of the stratosphere and troposphere, and over many years he occupied a central role in interpreting the global warming problem to both policymakers and the public all over the world. Among his many awards he received the U.S. Department of Commerce Gold Medal, the prestigious Carl-Gustaf Rossby Research Medal from the American Meteorological Society and the Presidential Distinguished Rank Award- the highest honor awarded to a federal employee. After retiring from GFDL, he was a senior researcher at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, CO. Jerry is preceded in death by his beloved wife, Janet, his parents Earl and Ruth Mahlman and his brother Charles Ned (Lee) Mahlman. Surviving are his son Gary Mahlman of Longmont CO, his daughter Julie (Garrin) Kapecki and his grandsons Alex Kapecki and Collin Kapecki of Lincolnshire, IL, his brothers Kent (Jean) Mahlman of Wickenburg, AZ, Don (Connie) Mahlman of Fairbury, NE, and Rex (Marcia) Mahlman of Branson, MO. A memorial service will be held on Saturday, December 8, 2012 at 11:00am at the Wenban Funeral Home in Lake Forest, IL. There will be a visitation at Wenban preceding the service from 9:00 to 11:00am. Contributions may be made to the Alzheimer’s Association Greater Illinois Chapter 8430 W. Bryn Mawr Ave, Suite 88 Chicago IL 60631. Info: Wenban Funeral Home, Lake Forest, IL (847)234-0022