Blackadar continues to contribute to meteorology department through scholarship

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Department of Meteorology and Atmospheric Science is highlighting the career of former department head Alfred K. Blackadar and his continuing contributions to learning through the Al and Betty Blackadar Graduate Scholarship in Meteorology.

“The Blackadar Graduate Scholarship is a wonderful gift to the department, as it was created to recognize exceptional graduate students at any point in their graduate studies,” said David Stensrud, department head and professor of meteorology. “Our students are very aware of the honor and obligation that comes with receiving a scholarship named after a pioneer in our field.” 

Blackadar served as department head from 1967 to 1981 and was professor emeritus prior to his passing in January 2015.

The boundary layer, or lowest level of the Earth’s atmosphere, was Blackadar’s area of expertise. His low-level jet stream theory, which is credited for the prevention of jet plane landing accidents at night, is still referenced today, more than 60 years since it was first developed. Additionally, his planetary boundary layer scheme has long been used to help with regulating air quality.

Educated in astronomy at Princeton, Blackadar’s knowledge proved useful during World War II, where he served in Keflavik, Iceland, briefing military transport pilots as a member of the U.S. Army Air Corps. There, he helped provide weather observations, forecasts and briefings for bomber ferrying flights to Europe and for military transport operations.

Blackadar later taught meteorology at New York University while earning his doctorate. In 1954, he became a visiting professor in meteorology at Penn State before joining the faculty in 1957. He was one of three Penn State professors to head the American Meteorological Society.

As a department head, Blackadar encouraged senior faculty members to teach entry-level courses, a decision he credited with helping the department become one of the nation’s best.

“I always felt that this was a very important factor in the success of our graduates. We were able to produce some very talented people,” Blackadar said in 2010.

One former student who was persuaded by Blackadar to attend was Jon Nese, now associate head of the undergraduate program in meteorology and atmospheric science and associate teaching professor of meteorology.

“This department, this University, and the national and international atmospheric communities owe a huge debt of gratitude to Blackadar,” Nese said after Blackadar’s passing. “His influence will live forever in the science he refined, the faculty he mentored, and the students he taught.”

High school classmates, Alfred and Beatrice Blackadar received much scholarship help in their own education. Beatrice, known as Betty, would not have been able to attend college without complete scholarship aid from Wilson College.

Throughout his career, Alfred Blackadar was often saddened by the number of excellent students who were unable to afford the cost of a graduate degree. So he and his wife arranged a substantial gift to deserving students at Penn State.

Blackadar and his wife established the scholarship to recognize and provide financial assistance to meteorology and atmospheric science graduate students who have achieved superior academic records or who manifest promise of outstanding academic success.

“After my husband’s death, an outpouring of gifts were sent to Penn State by former students, colleague and friends,” Betty Blackadar said. “It is a sincere hope that the fund will continue to grow and provide the means by which promising students will have the opportunity for greater service in their careers.”

Contributions made to the fund, which can be made here, will be matched by the University’s Trustee Matching Scholarship.

Gifts from Penn State’s alumni and friends have been essential to the success of the University’s historic land-grant mission to serve the public good. To fulfill that mission for a new era of rapid change and global connections, the University has begun A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence, a fast-paced campaign focused on the three key imperatives of a public university. Private support will keep the door to higher education open and enable students to graduate on time and on track to success; create transformative experiences on Penn State campuses and around the globe that tap the full potential of Penn Staters to make a difference; and impact the world through discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. To learn more, visit

Albert Blackadar Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

Last Updated October 23, 2017