2010 Physical Sciences Review » Biographies » William D. Neff

William D. Neff

William D. Neff

William D. Neff

Director, Physical Sciences Division


I started my career as a commissioned officer with the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey in 1968, prior to the formation of NOAA. I joined NOAA’s Wave Propagation Laboratory (WPL) in 1970 as a physicist developing remote sensors and applying them to boundary layer science. During the 1970s I was supported by the NSF to carry out the first acoustic remote sensing measurements of the stable boundary layer at the South Pole. The analyses of these data provided the material for my PhD dissertation. In the 1980s, I worked primarily in the areas of remote sensing, complex terrain meteorology and air quality. In 1991 I took over as Chief of WPL’s Atmospheric Studies Program. During the 1990s my program was renamed the Meteorological Applications and Assessment Division and the laboratory’s name changed to the Environmental Technology Laboratory (ETL). In 2001, I assumed direction of ETL. In 2005, with the creation of ESRL, I became Director of the Physical Sciences Division which incorporated most of ETL, all of the former Climate Diagnostics Center, and the Tropical Dynamics Group of the former Aeronomy Laboratory. Over the last four years I have focused on the integration of PSD with a focus on linking weather and climate research and services.


  • Ph.D. AstroGeophysics, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, 1980
    • Thesis: An Observational and Numerical Study of the Atmospheric Boundary Layer Overlying the East Antarctic Ice Sheet.
  • M.S. Physics, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, 1968
  • B.A. Physics and Mathematics, Lewis and Clark College, Portland, Oregon, 1967

Research Interests

My current research interests focus on high latitude climate change, particularly over Antarctica, and boundary layer exchange processes over snow and ice. Recently I have been engaged with scientists at Summit Station Greenland looking at boundary layer processes that control surface chemical exchange. The motivation for the work in Antarctica and Greenland is to better understand deposition and post-depositional losses of nitrate important to the interpretation of paleoclimate information in ice cores.


  • 2008: AMS, Walter Orr Roberts Lecturer in Interdisciplinary Sciences
  • 1998: Department of Commerce Silver Metal to the Meteorological Applications and Assessment Division
  • 1998: NOAA Distinguished Authorship Award
  • 1993: Federal Laboratory Consortium Award for Excellence in Technology Transfer
  • 1991: NOAA Distinguished Authorship Award
  • 1989: PLAN Boulder County Annual Environmentalist Award

Recent Publications

  • Slusher, D. L., W. D. Neff, S. Kim, L. G. Huey, Y. Wang, T. Zeng, D. J. Tanner, D. R. Blake, A. Beyersdorf, B. Lefer, J. H. Crawford, F. L. Eisele, R. L. Mauldin, E. Kosciuch, M. P. Buhr, H. W. Wallace, and D. D. Davis, 2010, “Atmospheric Chemistry Results from the ANTCI 2005 Antarctic Plateau Airborne Study”, J. Geophys. Res., doi:10.1029/2009JD012605, in press.
  • Neff, W., J. Perlwitz, and M. Hoerling, 2008, Observational evidence for asymmetric changes in tropospheric heights over Antarctica on decadal time scales, Geophysical Research Letters, 35(18).
  • Anderson, P. S., and W. D. Neff, 2008, “Boundary layer physics over snow and ice”, Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 8(13), 3563-3582.
  • Perlwitz, J., S. Pawson, R. L. Fogt, J. E. Nielsen, and W. D. Neff, 2008, “Impact of stratospheric ozone hole recovery on Antarctic climate”, Geophysical Research Letters, 35(8).
  • Neff, W., Helmig, D., Grachev, A., Davis, D., 2008, “A Study of Boundary Layer Behavior Associated with High Surface NO Concentrations at the South Pole Using a MiniSodar, Tethered Balloon, and Sonic Anemometer,” Atmos. Env., 42, 2762-2779.