Erickson Honored at CCSI Workshop

Oct 24, 2016

Dr. David J. Erickson III, a highly influential senior staff member in the Computational Earth Sciences Group and a Climate Change Science Institute (CCSI) member, passed away last November. In honor of his life and scientific influence the CCSI—located at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory— held an Earth System Modeling (ESM) workshop this year consisting of instructive lectures and memorial tributes from Erickson’s friends and colleagues.


David Erickson 

“I was pleased that some of Dave Erickson’s colleagues were able to travel from around the country to honor his memory, share their research (along with stories about working with Dave), and learn about the science we are doing at the CCSI,” said Forrest Hoffman, ORNL computational climate scientist.

Throughout his esteemed career, Erickson developed and improved various models and contributed to the scientific community with results gathered from simulations using these complex tools. Erickson’s research has led to substantial and effective applications, from sustainability and policy decisions to national security revelations.

Hoffman and Kate Evans, leader of the Computational Earth Sciences Group, organized the event and facilitated presentations and discussions in the same areas of Erickson’s greatest research efforts. These areas included studies in biogeochemistry, carbon dioxide monitoring within global and regional climate model frameworks, atmospheric chemistry and the impacts of aerosols, and biomass burning and soil moisture anomalies on climate.

“The Computational Earth Sciences Group and ESM themes in CCSI wanted a way to recognize his contributions, so we dedicated our second CCSI Earth System Modeling workshop to him, Evans said. “We were grateful for funds from the Computing and Computational Sciences  Directorate, where the Computational Earth Sciences Group is housed, that allowed us to make it a very special event. We also enjoyed talks and recollections from many of Dave’s collaborators.”

Preparing the next generation of scientists and encouraging innovation in the field were some of Erickson’s top priorities. Therefore, Hoffman and Evans


Attendees at the Erickson Memorial Workshop.

sought to continue his research and foster future efforts by creating this educational forum for participants to brainstorm and collaborate during individual presentations and a cumulative discussion at the end of the day-long event.

“It was our second annual workshop focused on the ESM theme of the Institute, and dedicating the event to Dave was very rewarding for our group,” Hoffman said. “It was a fun but exhausting day of science presentations, humorous remembrances, and discussion of future research opportunities.”

The event occurred off-site in Oak Ridge to attract a broad audience, and this tactic did indeed draw attendance from many members of the community. Erickson’s family joined the event as well to honor his authentic character, impressive career, and scientific contributions.

David’s Bio

Dr. David Erickson was a Senior Research Staff member in the Computational Earth Sciences Group of the Computer Science and Mathematics Division at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, in Oak Ridge, TN since 2000.  Since 2003 he was an Adjunct Professor in the Division of Earth and Ocean Sciences of the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University in Durham, NC.  He became a Joint Full Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville in 2011.

Dr. Erickson has developed, configured and evaluated numerous Earth System/Climate Models of increasing complexity over his career. He created climate model based tools for global scale biogeochemistry, CO2 modeling within climate model frameworks, air-sea physical and chemical fluxes, atmospheric chemistry and conducted a variety of simulations investigating the impacts of aerosols, UV radiation, biomass burning and soil moisture anomalies on climate. The use of regional and global climate models to evaluate human impacts on climate over a variety of time scales is an ongoing interest. He also evaluated climate related extreme event frequencies, with implications for sustainability assessment, policy decisions, national security and detailed energy/policy models.  He was a collaborator with NASA Goddard Space Flight Center on integrating atmospheric transport/climate models, assimilation models and satellite data.

Dr. Erickson received a B.S. in Chemistry from the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA in 1982. He obtained his Ph.D. in atmospheric chemistry/chemical oceanography, with Prof. Robert A. Duce, from the Graduate School of Oceanography, University of Rhode Island in Narragansett, RI in 1987, generating a thesis on a global model of atmospheric particle fluxes aimed at inclusion in climate models. He trained as a post-doc in climate modeling, marine and atmospheric chemistry and geophysical fluid dynamics at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego in La Jolla, CA from 1987-1990. Dr. Erickson was a Staff Scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, CO researching climate modeling, tracer transport, unique air-sea trace gas flux treatments and biogeochemical/carbon cycle simulations in climate models from 1990-1999.

He served on several international and national advisory bodies, including panels and committees of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS)/National Research Council (NRC), the United Nations Environment Programme Panel (UNEP) on the Environmental Effects of Ozone Depletion as well as advisory roles for DOE, NSF, NOAA, NASA and several international governments.  Dr. Erickson had more than 95 refereed publications.

By Elizabeth Rosenthal