A Path to the Atmosphere

American Meteorological Society's Oral History Project Archives
Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Listen and read the transcript at American Meteorological Society's Oral History Project Archives

When he was 15 years old, Daniel Gilford PhD '17, experienced life-changing hurricanes that passed through central Florida. The trajectory of the storms made a significant impact on his home state and literal home, but they also set him on his own career course.

Just a few years later I became a meteorologist.  I actually enrolled at Florida State University and got my bachelor’s degree after four years in meteorology.  I didn’t study hurricanes, per se, in that moment.  I studied climatology, I went on to Massachusetts Institute of Technology where I worked with Susan Solomon studying chemistry in the lower stratosphere.  

But then something about that storm sort of bugged me, and then one day I got the opportunity to talk with Professor Kerry Emanuel.  Kerry is now a great colleague of mine, and he got me interested in this idea of lower stratosphere being able to interact with tropical cyclones through their outflow temperatures.  He has this idea called potential intensity which calculates the speed limit of tropical cyclones.  The fact that the lower stratosphere could affect the intensity of these storms was really intriguing to me.  So just like that, almost 15 years later, there I was, studying tropical cyclones, bringing me back to the roots of what got me interested in the first place.

Now, Gilford, who has received support from AMS, uses his experience to "talk with people about the risks posed by weather and climate in their lives, and the wonderful power of these storms."

This AMS story was recorded 4/17/18 by Jinny Nathans, AMS archivist at the Hurricanes and Tropical Meteorology conference.