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Warren Knapp

Obituary of Warren W Knapp

Warren W. Knapp Warren W. Knapp, who died suddenly on October 3, 2020, at Cayuga Medical Center in Ithaca, was proudest of the thirty plus years he taught meteorology at Cornell University. He loved working with students and colleagues in his bright plant-filled office on the top floor of Bradfield Hall. He was a scientist, a craftsman and a family man, a loving husband, a caring father and a thoughtful grandfather. Warren Willard Knapp was born in Fort Dodge, Iowa, in 1938, and grew up in Decorah, Iowa, and LaCrosse, Wisconsin. His parents were Willard B. Knapp and Shirlee Mather Knapp. He graduated from LaCrosse Central High School, Class of 1956, and began his college studies in electrical engineering at LaCrosse State College. In 1958, a fateful year, he transferred to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, switched his major to meteorology, and met Jeanette Dudley, his wife of 59 years, who survives. Warren brought his engineering skills to the study of weather and climate, working on ever more sophisticated ways of measuring and recording day to day and year to year fluctuations in temperature, radiation, precipitation and pollution. Before there was hard data to document global warning, he was concerned about acid rain killing life in Adirondack lakes and the brown cloud hovering over Denver. He earned his bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His PhD thesis was based on his work at the Antarctic Research Center in Melbourne, Australia. That year abroad, 1965-66, deepened his interest in photography and gave him a lifelong appreciation for other places and cultures. In January 1969, Warren came to Cornell as an assistant professor of Atmospheric Sciences in the Department of Agronomy. Throughout his career at Cornell, he taught countless students the core mathematical principles of atmospheric thermodynamics, hydrostatics, and dynamics. His popular Atmospheric Physics class taught students the physics behind such atmospheric phenomenon as rainbows, halos and mirages. Students benefited both from his carefully prepared lectures and the time he spent outside the classroom helping them understand the science of meteorology. He was also a mentor to younger faculty, encouraging them to develop a balance between their teaching and research. In 1988, Warren became the director of the Northeast Regional Climate Center (NRCC) at Cornell and oversaw its growth and operation until his retirement in 2001. Under his directorship, the NRCC transitioned its ready access to climate information from paper data sheets to Internet availability. His professional papers focused on applications of climate information in agriculture and long-term statistics of precipitation and snowfall. He oversaw Cornell's Acid Rain monitoring program and modernized the Game Farm Road weather station from manual to electronic observations. His Cornell Atmospheric Science colleagues looked forward to his annual winter solstice party. On the longest night of the year, he continued his graduate school tradition of gathering a large cheerful group to offer a toast to the sun with a warm cup of Glugg. This ritual never failed to bring the sun back to the Northern Hemisphere. Warren's interest in meteorology grew from his love of airplanes and flight. From grade school on, he designed, built and flew ever more beautiful and complex model planes. In retirement, Warren and Jeanette enjoyed road trips across the U.S., the route carefully planned to include visits with their daughters and friends plus air shows, promising restaurants, and annual meetings of the American Wine Society. They were enthusiastic members of both local AWS chapters. He enjoyed the Ithaca Radio Control Society and the Wednesday "old guys" coffee group as well as convivial dinners with family and friends. Warren's quiet demeanor, yet charming manner delighted all. He is deeply missed. Warren is survived by his wife, Jeanette, and their three daughters, Laura Knapp of Washington, D.C., Sara Nicolls of Naples, Florida, and Solebury, Pennsylvania, and Cecily Spencer and her husband Nathan of Gloucester, Massachusetts, and their children, Calvin, Hope and Jason Spencer. Other survivors include his sister, Carolyn Hemming and her husband Gordon, and his sister-in-law, Pat Kishline and her husband Carl, plus several nieces and nephews and their children. If you like, remember Warren with a gift to the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Cornell, the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, or the Academy of Model Aeronautics.
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