Walter Petersen has been selected to receive the Outstanding Alum award this year from the Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering at Colorado State University. Petersen received his MS (1992) and PhD (1997) from the department, studying with Steven Rutledge. His dissertation was entitled Multi-Scale Process Studies in the Tropics: Results from Lightning Observations. After continuing as a Research Associate in our program until 2002, he accepted a position as Senior Research Scientist in the National Space Science and Technology Center at the University of Alabama-Huntsville where he served as the Science Director for the UAH ARMOR dual-polarimetric Doppler radar facility, in addition to other leadership roles. He moved to a position as Physical Scientist at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in 2008, before transitioning to the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Wallops flight facility in 2011 as a Supervisory Research Physical Scientist and the Branch Chief. Petersen returned to the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville in 2015, where he is currently the Division Chief of the Science Research and Projects Division and leads approximately 200 scientists, engineers and technical specialists.
Petersen’s research spans many topics in the fields of cloud physics, mesoscale meteorology and radar meteorology, including seminal contributions in remote sensing of tropical convection, the relationship between lightning and updraft strength, and how cloud-to-ground lightning relates to convective rainfall. Among his many leadership roles, He has been a principal leader of the calibration and validation activity of the NASA Global Precipitation Mission (GPM), providing an essential and sustained contribution to a major program of NASA’s Earth Science Directorate. For example, he led the NASA-JAXA GPM Ground Validation Program from 2011-2019, and helped organize eight field programs associated with this activity. Petersen has at least 105 peer reviewed journal publications as author or coauthor, which have received over 11,000 citations. He is well known for his dedicated service to the atmospheric science community, including as chair of the AMS Committee on Atmospheric Electricity. He was elected as AMS Fellow in 2020, and he has received numerous other awards, including the NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal in 2018. He was nominated for the ATS Outstanding Alum award by Graeme Stephens and Steve Rutledge.
Congratulations to Walt Petersen on this richly deserved recognition!