Hurricane forecasting pioneer William Gray dies at 86

By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters) - William Gray, a pioneer in hurricane forecasting at Colorado State University and a skeptic of the science behind human-made global warming models, died on Saturday, the school said in a statement.

Gray died peacefully at his home in Fort Collins, Colorado, surrounded by his family, the university said. He was 86.

In 1984, Gray and his team of researcher and graduate students at CSU began predicting the frequency and severity of hurricanes in the Atlantic Basin, which continues today.

His longtime assistant researcher, Phil Klotzbach, said Gray was among the first to link the El Nino phenomenon - the warming of waters in the Pacific Ocean - to the formation of hurricanes in the Atlantic-Carribbean basin.

“This was the first time that any group had issued seasonal forecasts for the Atlantic,” Klotzbach said. “He consistently issued these forecasts for over 30 years, a track record unparalleled for university predictions.”

A Detroit native, Gray grew up in Washington D.C. and graduated from George Washington University in 1952.

He was commissioned a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force in 1953, where he spent four years as a weather forecaster, mostly in England and the Azores. He remained active in the Air Force Reserves as a weather officer until 1974, when he retired as a lieutenant colonel.

After leaving active military service, Gray earned a master’s degree in meteorology and a PhD. in Geophysical Sciences from the University of Chicago.

He joined the faculty at CSU in its newly formed Department of Atmospheric Science in 1961 where he taught until his retirement in 2005, although he remained active in the school’s hurricane prediction team.

He stirred controversy in the scientific community late in his career by questioning the hypothesis of anthropogenic global warming.

"How can we trust climate forecasts 50 and 100 years into the future (that can’t be verified in our lifetime) when they are not able to make shorter seasonal or yearly forecasts that could be verified?’ he said in a 2005 statement before a U.S. Senate committee.

(Reporting by Keith Coffman in Denver; Editing by Dan Whitcomb and James Dalgleish)