Henry E. Fuelberg
Professional information about me is found in my Vita and List of Publications on my web page at https://atmos.eoas.fsu.edu/fuelberg/
However, my life involves more than just grants and publications; so this narrative provides personal information. It has become sort of an autobiography.
I am a native of Navasota, Texas. Houston is located approximately 75 miles southeast of Navasota, and Texas A&M University in College Station is located about 20 miles to the northwest. Navasota was, and is, a quiet little community of about 5,500 people.
An aerial tour of Navasota today is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x285perVLJI
The area has beautiful wildflowers during spring. The state flower, the bluebonnet, often covers rural areas and provides a beautiful landscape. My Texas accent has not diminished much over the years, and I am glad. Once a Texan, always a Texan!
Navasota was a good place in which to grow up during the 50’s and 60’s. It had a small town atmosphere where everyone knew everyone else. Farming, ranching, and supporting activities were the livelihoods of most people.
My mother ran a beauty shop, and my father was the distributor of the Houston Post newspaper in Navasota. He had to get up at 2 AM every morning to deliver the papers. He died when I was fourteen, and my mother died in 1999 at the age of 84. I am an only child.
I have always enjoyed having pets. My first was a black and white collie named “Wowie”, an invented name. Wowie was very protective of me, once biting my aunt when she was tossing a ball to me, thinking she was going to hurt me. My current pet is a big black cat named “Gracie”. She runs to the door when I arrive home each night, and always wants to be in my lap. Gracie lives a strictly in-door monastic lifestyle, but she wants for nothing. She is a great companion. My previous pet was named “Child but cat)”, shortened to Child. He lived to be 19 years old.
I was a very nerdy kid—great in science and math, but very poor in any kind of sports. I always was picked last for teams at recess because I truly was the worst. Once picked, the problem was what position I should play where I would do the least amount of damage to the team. I developed a stammer when I was in the sixth grade, and it had a profound effect on my personality. Over the years I have learned to accept it and develop coping mechanisms; so it is no longer a big problem.
I became interested in meteorology when I was in the fifth grade. My teacher started a paper back book-of-the-month club, and one month, for some unknown reason, I ordered “Oliver Becomes a Weatherman”. I really got turned on by the weather and have stuck with it ever since.
I founded the Bobie Weather Bureau (BWB) while in grade school. (Bobie is my nick name, but no body around Tallahassee will call me that—even though I have asked some to do so.) The BWB had inexpensive (all I could afford), sometimes homemade weather instruments that I used to observe the weather.
The enclosed picture shows me standing beside my instrument shelter (an apple crate) and wind set in my back yard when I was in the eighth grade.
I took observations every day at 5 PM. Keep in mind that this was long before the days of the Weather Channel or NOAA Weather Radio. I had virtually no real-time weather information from outside Navasota.
I graduated from Navasota High School in 1966 as salutatorian of my class. That distinction was not as impressive as it might sound because there were only 62 students in my class. I received a four year scholarship to Texas A&M University and began during summer 1966. A&M had a pretty rough and tumble reputation back then, and I was scared I was not up to the task—either academically or personally. Although the Corps of Cadets was a dominant influence on campus, I was not a member. Since A&M was so close (20 miles), and since we had very little money, I commuted to Aggieland each day. I was always in car pools, and it worked out pretty well. My fears about TAMU were unfounded. I did well academically, making the Dean’s List every semester. I graduated with a B.S. in meteorology in May 1970 and immediately began graduate school. I knew in high school that I wanted to be a meteorology professor, and that required a Ph.D.
Texas A&M offered me a NDEA (National Defense Education Act) fellowship that paid a stipend plus all of my expenses for graduate school. NDEA fellowships were an outgrowth of Russia’s launch of Sputnik (the first satellite). The U.S. suddenly decided we did not have enough scientists, and NDEA was supposed to help train more of them. During my graduate career, I also was a teaching assistant and research assistant at various times. My major professor was Dr. James Scoggins. I received the M.S. in December 1971 and the Ph.D. in December 1976. I worked really hard in graduate school. Looking back on those times—I worked too hard. It was all work and no social life at all.
Living in St. Louis
My first real job was at Saint Louis University (SLU). I moved myself up there in a U-Haul during summer 1977 and lived in a high rise apartment directly across campus. Oh, was that a change for this country guy!! However, SLU was a great place for me to begin my academic career. SLU is a Jesuit (Catholic) school, and the atmosphere was quite pleasant. Our department was very small, only five faculty in meteorology, and not very many students either. Being small has its pros and cons. However, our small size meant we were a very close knit group, and, for the most part, we worked together closely for our common good. My research program began to spin up at SLU, sponsored mostly by NASA, but partly by NSF. I mainly studied the environments of severe local storms, using standard diagnostic analyses, but also using satellite-derived soundings and kinetic energy budgets. I had a great group of graduate students, and we did some good research.
My church activities in St. Louis were a very positive experience. I am a life long Lutheran, and had held a variety of church offices in Navasota, ranging from Sunday School teacher to congregational secretary. When I moved to St. Louis, I attended Messiah Lutheran Church, located on South Grand Blvd., right across from Tower Grove Park. One of the great aspects of Messiah was singing in the choir. I had played in the band while young (the trombone), but never had been in a choir before (we did not even have a choir in Navasota). I made good friends in the choir. Those people were great fun to be around, and we had a thoroughly enjoyable time. I also served as an elder in the congregation for a while.
The city of St. Louis, Messiah congregation, and SLU always will hold many fond memories for me.
Life at Florida State University
I decided that I needed to get back to a smaller town in the South and to a larger university. I also had learned to despise the snow and cold of St. Louis. I applied for a position at Florida State University, and moved to Tallahassee during summer 1985. I lived in an apartment for about 18 months, but then bought a house about 5 miles northeast of campus. That distance is considered relatively close in. I really enjoy having my own house after being in an apartment for so long. I like to putter around the house and maintain my flower beds and shrubs. The house is much larger than I need, but I enjoy it a lot. One of my favorite rooms is my study that has several large windows facing the backyard that I keep in a quasi-natural state. I can work peacefully in the study, watching the squirrels and other abundant wildlife outside.
The Meteorology Department at FSU is quite different from that at SLU. It actually is the Department of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Science, but I refuse to acknowledge that the merger has occurred. We have great facilities and some great students and faculty, but it is a very different environment from SLU. My research program grew to a modest size, and at one time I mentored 2 Ph.D. candidates, 7 M.S. candidates, and 3 undergraduates who were working on honors theses. Now at the age of 71, I am slowing down a bit. I presently have 2 Ph.D. candidates, 5 M.S. candidates, and 2 Honors in the Major undergraduates The picture that opens this web site shows most of them. They all are hard workers, and are doing some important research. They are the closest I have to a family in Tallahassee. The entire merged department will move into our new building during November 2019. My office and lab will be on the top (sixth) floor.
My research took an interesting turn about 12 years ago. I was asked to participate in NASA’s Global Tropospheric Experiment, which studies atmospheric chemistry over various parts of the world. Specifically, I have served as Mission Meteorologist on eight of these field projects. I am stationed with the NASA DC-8 “flying laboratory” which is fully instrumented to measure trace gases associated with ozone. The instruments generally are one-of-a-kind models built by the scientists on board who maintain them. My job is to provide meteorological consultation prior to and after the field phase, to provide forecasts for the individual flights, and to conduct meteorological research related to atmospheric chemistry afterwards.
Flying on the DC-8 is quite an adventure. I get to sit in the jump seat right behind the pilot. The view is great; however, the real objective is for me to announce to the other participants via headset the various weather phenomena we are encountering. Each flight usually is 8-10 hours long. Actually, the flights are a time for me to relax somewhat because my hardest work occurs on days between flights—when I analyze various sources of meteorological data and prognoses (from FSU and from the local weather agencies), prepare forecasts, and give briefings. I have seen some interesting things from the air and from the ground.
I do a lot of research, but teaching has always been my first love. I usually rotate through four courses. Synoptic meteorology lecture/lab (MET 4500C) is the first demanding synoptic course for our undergraduates. I employ current weather in the three labs per week. That keeps me on my toes, but is a good excuse to keep up closely with the current weather. I also teach our graduate course in mesometeorology (MET 5551C). From time to time I also teach an introductory course for non-science majors (MET 1010) and our first course for meteorology majors (MET 2700).
I have given guest lectures at a number of locations, including the COMAP course for NWS SOOs and NASA’s Student Airborne Research Program for aspiring young airborne scientists.
Of all that I have done in my life, my proudest accomplishment is receiving the Teaching Excellence Award of the American Meteorological Society in 2010. I also have received various teaching and advising awards at FSU. Once again…..teaching is my greatest love, whether in the classroom or one-on-one mentoring of graduate students.
My current research focuses on lightning at NASA Kennedy Space Center, trying to better predict when lightning will begin and when it will end.
Out of School Activities
I recently turned 71 and would like to take life a bit easier, but that has turned out to be a challenge. I want to continue doing research, but at a more relaxed pace, with fewer projects at one time. I want to have more time to keep up with the current weather and to incorporate that in my courses. I also am a big railfan and can sit for hours watching trains go by. One of the best nearby locations for doing that is Folkston, GA which is on the main line of CSX Railroad along the East Coast. On a good day, a train will pass through about every 30 minutes. If at home, a good web site for viewing trains is La Plata, MO which is on the BNSF southern transcontinental route (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vtlGXDn3x4Q). They have a lot of ‘hot’ intermodal traffic plus the Amtrak’s Southwest Chief passes through twice daily. I am also interested in air traffic control. The web site https://flightaware.com/live/ shows aircraft movements and locations, while live voice communication between aircraft and ATC is at ( https://www.liveatc.net/ ). Watching and listening to the controllers handle the huge volume of traffic in an almost choreographed manner is fascinating, especially when there are thunderstorms in the area. I also enjoy working in my yard.
I have been a swimmer for about the past 35 years. Before that I was runner but started to have too many injuries. Now, each day at about 11:00 AM I swim laps on campus for approximately thirty-five minutes. I call this my “attitude adjustment hour” because after each swim I feel better both physically and mentally.
Finally, I like to travel for pleasure (not business). I have taken cruises to the Baltic, the Mediterranean, and Central America, plus a river boat cruise along the Rhine and Danube Rivers from Istanbul to Amsterdam. Finally, I had land tours of China, Australia, Switzerland and Germany for a month during Summer 2009. I especially like historical and nature sites. The link shows places that I have been through NASA field projects and personal tours. Click HERE to see the places visited.
I hope that the Lord gives me additional healthy years.