Irish meteorologist of international repute

 

Anthony Hollingsworth:Anthony Hollingsworth, an Irish meteorologist of international repute, has died aged 64. Born in 1943 in the Crumlin Road in Dublin, Tony, as he was universally known, attended James's Street Christian Brothers Schools, where he is remembered as one of its most gifted pupils.

Having obtained first place in Ireland in his Leaving Cert, Tony joined the Civil Service and was placed on a cadet scheme intended to allow promising students to acquire the necessary academic qualifications for appointment as professional meteorologists in what was then the Meteorological Service, now Met Éireann.

In this capacity Tony entered University College Cork in 1961, played an active and at times colourful part in the intellectual and social life of the college and graduated with 1st class honours in mathematics and mathematical physics in 1964.

After graduation, Tony continued to train to be a meteorologist and became one of the foremost of his generation. He trained first at the Meteorological Service's training facility at Rosslare Harbour, Co Wexford, and subsequently at Shannon airport, where in due course he became for a time an operational aviation weather forecaster.

In later years he was fond of reminding his eminent academic colleagues, who were skilled in the mathematical complexities of numerical weather prediction, that he was one of the few among them who had had actual hands-on experience in the art of weather forecasting.

While in Shannon, Tony commuted regularly to Cork during his free time to complete an MSc at UCC, and afterwards he was awarded a fellowship to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from which he emerged with a PhD in meteorology in 1970.

He returned to Europe to join the prestigious Atmospheric Modelling Group at the University of Reading before joining, in March 1975, the fledgling European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasts, also in Reading, where he was to spend the remainder of his career.

In the intervening years, that centre has become, not least through Tony's efforts, the world's leading institute in the preparation of weather predictions for two to 10 days ahead. The information is transmitted daily to each of the European Union's member states, including Ireland, and is used in the preparation of weather forecasts for the general public and other specialist users.

Tony occupied several senior posts at the centre down the years, contributing greatly to the development of virtually every aspect of the computer models used in numerical weather prediction. His activity culminated in his appointment as head of the research department in 1991 and deputy director of the centre in 1995. When he surrendered these appointments on his 60th birthday in 2003, he had become the centre's longest-serving staff member.

After his retirement, Tony continued to be based at the European Centre, being actively involved in the European Commission's Global Monitoring for Environment and Security project, an initiative aimed at maximising the use made of meteorological and other environmental data in critical decisions made within the European Union.

During his time at Reading, Tony played an important role on the wider international stage, fostering extensive collaboration between the centre and the European Meteorological Satellite Organisation, the European Space Agency, the World Meteorological Organisation, and national meteorological services around the world.

He was also active in the US National Academy of Sciences and the American Meteorological Society.

He was the author of a long litany of internationally recognised scientific papers, and was in due course awarded a DSc degree by the National University of Ireland for these research activities.

He was also the recipient of many honours, most notably in 1999 when he was conferred with the prestigious Jule G Charney Award of the American Meteorological Society for "penetrating research on four-dimensional data assimilation systems and numerical models".

At a personal level, Tony Hollingsworth was energetic and gregarious and had a wide circle of friends in the international meteorological community. He was a dedicated family man, devoted to his wife Breda (née Cunningham) whom he married before they left Ireland to allow him to pursue his studies in America, and he was endearingly proud of the many talents of his two children.

Throughout his life he maintained a deep interest in music, literature and traditional Irish culture; in his middle years he became a keen golfer, although it has been observed that his performance on the course was notable more for its infectious enthusiasm than for any natural talent comparable to that which he was able to bring to bear on so many other aspects of his life.

Tony Hollingsworth died suddenly in Galway on July 29th. He was buried in the old Franciscan Abbey cemetery in Claregalway, near which the family has had a holiday home for many years. He is survived by Breda, their son Cormac and their daughter Deirdre.

Dr Anthony J Hollingsworth: born July 6th, 1943; died July 29th, 2007