2010 Physical Sciences Review » Biographies » Alexander E. (Sandy) MacDonald

Alexander E. (Sandy) MacDonald

Alexander E. (Sandy) MacDonald

Alexander E. (Sandy) MacDonald

Note: This bio is from 2010. For a current version, please visit: www.esrl.noaa.gov/about/macdonald.html

Director of NOAA's Earth System Research Laboratory and
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Research Laboratories and Cooperative Institutes


Dr. MacDonald, a meteorologist, previously led NOAA's Forecast Systems Laboratory, which is now ESRL's Global Systems Division. He is widely published in the fields of atmospheric modeling, statistics, dynamics, and meteorological systems. Dr. MacDonald has received numerous awards, including three Presidential Rank Awards and a Gold Medal. He also holds the patent for Science on a Sphere®, a luminous, animated globe installed in museums around the world to educate the public about Earth and other planets. Dr. MacDonald is a former Air Force officer.


  • Ph.D. Meteorology, University of Utah
  • M.S. Meteorology, University of Utah

Research Interests

Dr. MacDonald has published in atmospheric modeling, statistics, dynamics, and meteorological systems. His interests are applications of science and technology to improve operational forecasting.

Selected Accomplishments

  • Received the Department of Commerce Gold Medal Award for his role in the development of the National Weather Service AWIPS (Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System) model.
  • Created Science on a Sphere®, a multimedia system to display animated images of satellite, geophysical, and astronomical data on a sphere.
  • Developed the concept of diagnosis of three-dimensional water vapor using a GPS (Global Positioning System).
  • Developed a unique mesoscale weather prediction model QNH (quasi-nonhydrostatic)
  • Worked with Vice President Al Gore to start the GLOBE program (for which he was awarded the Distinguished Presidential Rank Award)

Recent Publications

  • Lee, J. L. and A. E. MacDonald (2009), A Finite-Volume Icosahedral Shallow-Water Model on a Local Coordinate, Mon. Wea. Rev., 137, 1422-1437, 10.1175/2008MWR2639.1.
  • J. L. Lee, W. C. Lee, and A. E. MacDonald 2006: Estimating Vertical Velocity and Radial Flow From Doppler Radar Observations of Tropical Cyclones. Royal Meteorological Society.
  • Alexander E. MacDonald 2005: A Global Profiling System for Improved Weather and Climate Prediction. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.
  • Robert J. Serafin, Alexander E. MacDonald, and Robert L. Gall 2002: Transition of Weather Research to Operations: How the National Weather Service can implement, in a timely and continual manner, the rapid technological advances in the computing and software arena. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.
  • Alexander E. MacDonald, Yuanfu Xie and Randolph Ware 2001: Diagnosis of Three- Dimensional Water Vapor Using a GPS Network, Monthly Weather Review 2002(130).