Personal Autobiography

Henry E. Fuelberg

Professional information about me is found in my Vita and List of Publications on my web page at http://fuelberg.met.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.


Early Years

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. 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!

Bluebonnet wild flowers near Navasota

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.

Neighborhood playmates--L-R: Marilyn Leathart, Madelyn Leathart, Martha Sue Webb, Solon Webb, and me (circa 1952).

father and me
Father and me (circa 1952)

Mother and me at her home in Navasota. She was 82 years old at the time, and died two years later. Where I am today is largely due to her expert parenting.

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.

wowie Gracie
Wowie (the dog) Fuelberg (circa 1953)Gracie (the cat) Fuelberg (2012)

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.

oliver becomes a weatherman
The inspiration for my career as a "weatherman"

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. However, when I was in high school, I was able to buy a radio with the long-wave marine band. I could pick up Galveston and sometimes New Orleans (on a good day) for current reports. A big limitation was that lightning caused tremendous static on the long wave band; so when I wanted observations the most, all I could get was static. Times really have changed.

wowie Gracie
Bobie Weather Bureau circa 1963Bobie Weather Bureau today

Navasota did not have a U.S.W.B. (now called NWS) cooperative observer back then—they still don’t. My passion in high school was to become that observer. I tried everything to get that un-paid job, even writing my congressman, but to no avail. Now, however, Navasota High School is at least part of a network of weather sites around the country that is used for educational purposes.

Now that the BWB has moved to Tallahassee, it has become more sophisticated. I still take observations each day when I get home from work (around 6-7 PM). And, electronic sensors transmit data to my home computer at 2 min intervals in real time. I have access to all sorts of data and forecasts via the web. So I can satisfy my desire for weather “fun”. I hope to have more weather fun in the future.

College Days

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, although that job really did not mesh well with my talents and limitations.

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.

My house in Tallahassee

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, we generally do not have the close working relationships that I experienced at SLU. My research program has grown to a modest size. During fall 2012, I have 2 Ph.D. candidates, 7 M.S. candidates, and 3 undergraduates who are working on honors theses. The picture that opens this web site shows them all. They all are hard working guys, and are doing some important research. They are the closest I have to a family in Tallahassee.

In the office--Room 362 Love Building, FSU
Working at night in my study at home

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.

In the cockpit of the NASA DC-8

The NASA projects have allowed me to travel all over the world—at no cost. The projects and their locations are TRACE-A: Brazil, South Africa, Namibia, Ascension Island, and Puerto Rico; PEM-Tropics A: Honolulu, Tahiti, Easter Island, Fiji, New Zealand, flying over Antarctica, and Fiji; SONEX: Ireland, the Azores Islands, and Bangor, Maine; PEM-Tropic B: Hilo Hawaii, Tahiti, Fiji, Easter Island, and Costa Rica; INTEX-A: most of the U.S.; INTEX B: Houston and Anchorage, AK; TRACE-P: Kona Hawaii, Guam, Hong Kong, Okinawa, and Tokyo; ARCTAS: Fairbanks AK, Palmdale CA, Cold Lake Alberta Canada, Thule Greenland, and Iqualut Canada. I will participate in the next field project, called SEAC4RS, in August and September 2013. The goal is to study the Asian Summer Monsoon, and how the monsoonal thunderstorms affect the atmosphere.

Fairbanks, AK during ARCTAS

Ride'em cowboy in Egypt

Iqaluit, Nunavat, Canada (on Baffin Island)

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.

Lecturing to seniors in Synoptic Meteorology

Lecturing to students in NASA's Student Airborne Research Program (SARP) at Edwards AFB, California

My collaborative research with the National Weather Service in Tallahassee, NOAA, the Air Force Technical Applications Center (AFTAC), and the U.S. Air Force’s 45th Weather Squadron at Cape Canaveral have been fun because the goal is operational meteorology. I like working on forecast related research problems, and these projects allow me to do just that. If I had my choice, I would be a half time NWS forecaster and a half time faculty member. Neither group would allow such an arrangement; so, unfortunately, it will never happen.

NWSFO Tallahassee is located in the same building as FSU Meteorology. That makes collaboration easy.

My current research focuses on lightning and its prediction, long range transport of air pollution, using lightning to forecast hurricane intensity, multi-sensor determination of precipitation, and assimilation of lightning data into numerical models.


Out of School Activities

I recently turned 64 and am going through a mid-life evaluation of my life. I 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 am a big railfan and can sit for hours watching trains go by. One of the best sites for doing that is Folkston, GA which is on the main line of CSX Railroad. On a good day, a train will pass through about every 30 minutes. If you are interested in train watching, their web site is http://www.folkston.com/trains/trains.htm.

I have computer software that allows me track the movements of trains across the nation, seeing much of the same information that dispatchers see. This is very interesting. I am also interested in air traffic control. The web site http://atcmonitor.com shows radar-derived movements and voice communication for aircraft landing and departing Atlanta. 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.

wowie Gracie
Platform to watch trains Approaching CSX freight

Hitting the jackpot--five locomotives

I have been a swimmer for about the past 30 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.

Swimming at the FSU Leach Center
fuelberg DC8 INTEX-A
Sanctuary of Grace
Lutheran Church

I want to devote more time to church activities so that I can be less self-centered and have a stronger faith, with less worry and anxiety. I have written two series of daily devotions for Portals of Prayer that were published by the Lutheran Church. The first series of daily devotions, for July 1994, had weather related themes from Biblical texts. The most recent series, published for March 1997, had Lenten themes. With a circulation of nearly one million copies, I can have a greater positive impact on the world through this writing than by anything I accomplish in meteorology. I am an active member of Grace Lutheran Church in Tallahassee where I am member of the Worship Committee and sing in the early service choir. I also am one of the lay ministers who assists the pastor by chanting the psalmody and part of the liturgy and distributing holy communion. I am the faculty advisor for the FSU chapter of Campus Crusade for Christ (now called CRU). Information about CRU is at http://newsite.fsucru.com/

Assisting Pastor Jim

I took organ lessons for three years a while back. The major problems were finding time to practice and the difficulty of learning complex brain to hands and feet procedures at my age. I have put the lessons on hold until I have more time to practice. I hope that time becomes available because I really would like to play with some proficiency.

At home at the organ

Finally, I like to travel for pleasure (not business). So far I have taken cruises to the Baltic, the Mediterranean, and Central America. I went to Switzerland and Germany for a month during Summer 2009. I was part of Swiss tour, but struck out on my own in Germany using the excellent train system for transportation. I focused on historical sites, especially those related to the Reformation. A possible future vacation choice is a long river cruise down the Danube and Rhine Rivers from Amsterdam to Bucharest. We will see what happens.

I was given access to the bridge of the MS Prinzendam during a cruise
The Matterhorn in Switzerland
wowie Gracie
Cologne Cathedral Flying buttresses at Cologne Cathedral

wowie Gracie
Ulm Cathedral—tallest in Europe Riding trains in Germany

With all of these activities, it is a matter of re-arranging my schedule and setting the proper priorities. I hope that the Lord gives me additional healthy years.