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Home » Staff Profiles
Rainer Bleck
325 Broadway
Boulder, CO 80305-3328


Rainer Bleck
After writing a (borderline mediocre) Ph.D. thesis on the use of isentropic trajectories to diagnose vertical motion in the extratropical atmosphere, Rainer’s career started off on a high note when he used knowledge of “tropopause folds” to repeatedly position the NCAR propeller aircraft (a humble Queen Air) in stratospheric air for chemical measurements. Subsequently, he developed a strong interest in developing computer models of planetary circulation systems, his major focus being the use of a material (Lagrangian) vertical coordinate whose use, in principle, reduces 3-D fluid motion to 2-D motion. Early applications included an investigation of the role of potential vorticity in Alpine lee cyclogenesis. He received NCAR’s “paper of the year” award and a team award at that time.

A faculty position at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science at the University of Miami prompted him to engage in ocean modeling, emphasizing the use of sea water potential density as vertical model coordinate. For many years this work, which also involved colleagues and students, was supported by the National Science Foundation and the Office of Naval Research. Rainer’s signature achievement during that phase arguably was the design of a hybrid vertical coordinate combining the advantages of Lagrangian and Eulerian representations of geophysical fluid flow. These efforts culminated on the ocean side in the global HYCOM model (presently the main platform for real-time ocean prediction at the Naval Research Lab), and on the atmospheric side in the regional RUC and the global FIM model. The latter models were developed during visiting (later part-time) appointments at UC Boulder and NOAA where once again he was surrounded by competent colleagues.

While working at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, Rainer oversaw the coupling of HYCOM to the GISS climate model, the main task being the design of a conservative interpolation device (”flux coupler”) for air-sea fluxes. This model combination became one of GISS’s contributions to the international Climate Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5 and CMIP6).

Research Interests
  • Computer Modeling of oceanic and atmospheric circulation systems, with emphasis on quasi-
  • Lagrangian vertical grids

  • Freie Universität Berlin, M.S. (Meteorology)
  • Pennsylvania State University, Ph.D. (Meteorology)

  • Nat’l Center for Atmosph. Research, Research Scientist 7/1967-8/1975
  • University of Miami, RSMAS 
    • Assoc. Professor 8/1975-6/1979
    • Professor 7/1979-12/1998
    • Division Chairman 1990-1995
  • Los Alamos National Laboratory, Technical Staff Member 1/1999-6/2005
  • Columbia University/GISS, Sr. Research Scientist 8/2005-6/2018
  • University of Colorado/NOAA-GSL, Sr. Res. Assoc. (part-time) 7/2005 -present
  • Visiting appointments (in chronological order): Oregon State University; University of Bonn;
  • University of Cologne; Institut für Meereskunde, Kiel; Southampton Oceanography Centre (UK).

Professional Activities
  • Convener, Annual Workshop on Layered Ocean Modeling (ca. 1989-1999)
  • Chair, Advisory Committee, Southampton Oceanography Centre (late 1990’s)
  • Member, AGU

Graduate Courses Taught
  • Geophysical Fluid Dynamics I and II 
  • Synoptic-Scale Meteorology
  • Intro. Atmospheric Science 
  • Computer Modeling in Fluid Dynamics
  • Numerical Weather Prediction 
  • Atmospheric Dynamics (Undergrad.)

~90 refereed publications and 5714 citations (source: Web of Science, Jan.2021)

Most-cited papers (in descending order, first-authored only):

Bleck, R. (2002). An oceanic general circulation model framed in hybrid isopycnic-Cartesian coordinates. Ocean Mod., 4(1), 55-88.

---, Rooth, C., Hu, D. M., Smith, L. T. (1992). Salinity-driven thermocline transients in a wind and thermohaline-forced isopycnic coordinate model of the North Atlantic. J. Phys. Ocean., 22(12), 1486-1505.

---, Smith, L. T. (1990). A wind-driven isopycnic coordinate model of the North and Equatorial Atlantic. 1. Model development and supporting experiments. J. Geophys. Res., 95(C3), 3273 3285.

---, Boudra, D. (1986). Wind-driven spin-up in eddy-resolving ocean models formulated in isopycnic and isobaric coordinates. J. Geophys. Res., 91(C6), 7611-7621.

---, Boudra, D. B. (1981). Initial testing of a numerical ocean circulation model using a hybrid (quasi-isopycnic) vertical coordinate. J. Phys. Ocean., 11(6), 755-770.

--- (1970). A fast, approximate method for integrating the stochastic coalescence equation. J. Geophys. Res., 75(27), 5165-5171.

---, Hanson, H. P., Hu, D. M., Kraus, E. B. (1989). Mixed-layer-thermocline interaction in a 3-dimensional isopycnic coordinate model. J. Phys. Ocean., 19(10), 1417-1439.

---, Benjamin, S. G. (1993). Regional weather prediction with a model combining terrain-following and isentropic coordinates. 1. Model description. Mon. Wea. Rev., 121(6), 1770-1785. 

--- (1974). Short-range prediction in isentropic coordinates with filtered and unfiltered numerical models. Mon. Wea. Rev., 102(12), 813-829.

--- (1975). An economical approach to the use of wind data in optimum interpolation of geopotential and Montgomery potential fields. Mon. Wea. Rev., 103(9), 807-816.

---, Onken, R., Woods, J. D. (1988). A two-dimensional model of mesoscale frontogenesis in the ocean. Quart. J. Roy. Meteor. Soc., 114(480), 347-371.

--- (1977). Numerical simulation of lee cyclogenesis in the Gulf of Genoa. Mon. Wea. Rev., 105(4), 428-445.

---, Dean, S., Okeefe, M., Sawdey, A. (1995). A comparison of data-parallel and message-passing versions of the Miami isopycnic coordinate model (MICOM). Parall. Comput., 21(10), 1695-1720.

--- (1978). Use of hybrid vertical coordinates in numerical weather prediction models. Mon. Wea. Rev., 106(9), 1233-1244.

---, Benjamin, S., Lee, J., MacDonald, A. E. (2010). On the Use of an Adaptive, Hybrid-Isentropic Vertical Coordinate in Global Atmospheric Modeling. Mon. Wea. Rev., 138(6), 2188-2210.

---, Bao, J. W., Benjamin, S. G., Brown, J. M., Fiorino, M., Henderson, T. B., Lee, J.-L, MacDonald, A. E, Madden,P., Middlecoff, J., Rosinski, J., Smirnova, T. G., Sun, S., Wang, N. (2015). A vertically flow-following icosahedral grid model for medium-range and seasonal prediction. Part I: Model description. Mon. Wea. Rev., 143(6), 2386-2403

---, Brummer, R., Shapiro, M. A. (1984). Enhancement of remotely-sensed temperature fields by wind observations from a VHF radar network. Mon. Wea. Rev., 112(9), 1795-1803.

--- (1984). An isentropic coordinate model suitable for lee cyclogenesis simulation. Riv. Meteor. Aeronaut., 44, 189-194.