Professor Reginald Newell dies at 71; studied climate system, air pollution

MIT Professor Reginald E. Newell of Arlington, Mass., a meteorologist whose research concentrated on global air pollution and on the energy, momentum and mass balances of the climate system, died Sunday, Dec. 29, at Massachusetts General Hospital of a massive stroke.

Professor Newell, 71, earned his B.Sc. in 1954 from the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom, where he was born and raised. Upon graduation, he came to MIT as a research assistant in meteorology and received the S.M. (1956) and Sc.D. (1960).

He was an assistant professor in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS) from 1961 to 1966 and an associate professor from 1966 to 1969, when he became a full professor. Professor Newell taught courses on the physics of the upper atmosphere, on past and present climate, and on global air pollution.

In 1970, he turned his attention to climate problems and worked on factors controlling mass climatic fluctuations for the previous 40 years, as well as on the physics of the ice ages. He also began work on the effects of changing carbon dioxide concentrations on atmospheric heating rates and on the global circulation of carbon monoxide. When it became clear that climatic fluctuations were closely related to sea surface temperature (SST), he began studies of global SST patterns.

In 1969, he warned a Massachusetts legislative committee that Boston would develop serious smog problems similar to Los Angeles if automobile traffic were not curtailed. Three years later, he suggested that a harbor tunnel be constructed for rail traffic from Logan Airport to New York on trains that traveled at 100-120 miles per hour.

During the 1980s and 1990s, he participated in NASA Stratosphere-Troposphere Exchange Program experiments over Australia, investigating how the circulation in that region interacts with the ocean and carries air from the troposphere to the stratosphere. Professor Newell acted as a mission meteorologist for the NASA DC-8 Pacific Exploratory Missions to the west Pacific in 1991 and 1994 and flew again with NASA to the tropical Pacific in 1996. He was involved in another joint international aircraft experiment in 1997.

Professor Newell was a member of the Measure of Air Pollution by Satellites (MAPS) team that measured carbon monoxide from space. He also participated in two 1994 space shuttle experiments that showed the relationship between column carbon monoxide measured in the shuttle and surface layer convergence patterns.

Professor Newell served as president of the International Association for Meteorology and Atmospheric Physics (IAMAP) International Commission on Climate from 1977 to 1983 and was a member of the IAMAP Commissions on Meteorology of the Upper Atmosphere and Atmospheric Chemistry and Global Pollution from 1971 to 1983. His honors include the 1985 Alexander Von Humboldt Award and the Japan International Science and Technology Agency Fellowship in 1990.

He is survived by his wife of 48 years, Maireen W. (Lees); two daughters, Madeleine Newell of Arlington and Elizabeth Parker of Lexington; two sons, Oliver of Billerica and Nicholas of Reading; and two grandchildren.

Visiting hours will be Sunday, Jan. 5, from 3 to 6 p.m. at the Saville and Grannan Funeral Home, 418 Massachusetts Ave., Arlington. The funeral will be on Monday, Jan. 6, at 1 p.m. in the Bigelow Chapel at Mt. Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge.

A memorial service is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 23, at 5:30 p.m. in the MIT Chapel. Following the service, EAPS will host a reception in the Ida M. Green Lounge, Room 54-923.

Topics: Obituaries

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