Black History Month: Pioneers of Meteorology

We’re celebrating Black History Month every week this February in order to highlight the achievements and accomplishments of African American meteorologists who had a huge impact on the weather world. Read about their backgrounds, what they contributed to their field of study, and why they’ll live on as legends.

Dianne White Clatto

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Hometown: St. Louis, MO

Education: Clatto studied at the University of Missouri at Columbia.

Known for being TV’s first black weathercaster in America.

Achievements: Clatto was among the first black students to enroll at the University of Missouri at Columbia, the first black weathercaster in America (at KSD-TV in 1962), and was also the first African-American model for several St. Louis department stores. Clatto won many awards for her work over the years and was inducted into the St. Louis Black Journalism Hall of Fame and the Missouri Hall of Fame.

Dr. Charles Anderson

Hometown: St. Louis, MO

Education: Anderson received a bachelor’s degree from Lincoln University and a master’s degree in meteorology from the University of Chicago. Anderson also earned a master’s degree in chemistry from the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, New York and earned a Ph.D. in meteorology from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Known for being the first African American to earn a Ph.D. in meteorology.

Achievements: Anderson served as weather officer at several Army Air Force bases around the US until 1948. He worked at the Atmospheric Science Branch of Douglas Aircraft Company, served as Director of the Office of Federal Coordination in Meteorology in the Environmental Science Service Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce, and was a professor at many universities for a wide range of meteorological courses and served as an Associate Dean at University of Wisconsin, Madison. The American Meteorological Society has an accolade named after him: “The Charles E. Anderson Award is given to an individual in recognition of outstanding contributions to the promotion of diversity in the atmospheric and related sciences and broader communities through education and community service.”

June Bacon-Bercey

Photo Courtesy: Wikipedia

Hometown: Wichita, KS

Education: Bacon-Bercey earned her bachelor’s degree in meteorology from the University of Kansas and her master’s degree in meteorology from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Known for being the first woman, as well as the first African American, to be awarded the American Meteorological Society’s “seal of approval” for excellence in television weathercasting, as well as being the first black woman to earn a meteorology degree in the ’50’s.

Achievements: Bacon-Bercey helped establish a meteorology lab at Jackson State University in Mississippi, gives a scholarship each year through the American Geophysical Union, and continues to work closely with in California’s public schools. She was honored for these achievements and contributions at Howard University in 2000. She was also named a Minority Pioneer for Achievement in Atmospheric Sciences by NASA.

Dr. Warren Washington

Photo Courtesy: The Weather Channel

Hometown: Portland, OR

Education: Washington graduated from Oregon State University with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in meteorology, and received his PhD in meteorology from Pennsylvania State University.

Known for being one of the first to develop atmospheric computer models that help scientists understand climate change, and for being the second African-American to earn a doctorate in the atmospheric sciences.

Achievements: In 1963, Washington became a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, and eventually became a senior scientist in 1975. His awards include the Biological and Environmental Research Program Exceptional Service Award for Atmospheric Science from the U.S. Department of Energy in 1997, and the Dr. Charles Anderson Award from the American Meteorological Society “for pioneering efforts as a mentor and passionate support of individuals, educational programs, and outreach initiatives designed to foster a diverse population of atmospheric scientists” in 1999. Washington was also inducted into the Portrait Collection of African Americans in Science, Engineering, and Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences in 1997.

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  1. I remember when June Bacon-Burcey was doing the weather in Buffalo, New York, but don’t remember what station it was. Didn’t realize she was so accomplished over the years. Very impressed.

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