UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Long after his retirement as a scientist, Paul Mark Tag would continue thinking about the concept of weather modification. The notion that humans could influence weather, either accidentally or on purpose, was the focus of part of his career with the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, and it would also form the basis for his first novel, penned in retirement. He was first exposed to this idea during his days as a Penn State student in the 1960s and 1970s.
Getting out and seeing what the world was like
Tag developed an affinity for science and weather in high school. At the recommendation of his guidance counselor, he began looking into meteorology as a career. He applied to Penn State and was accepted into Penn State’s meteorology program.
Coming to Penn State after being raised in a rural part of Pennsylvania was an eye-opening experience, Tag said.
“Growing up in a small town in Somerset County, I didn’t know much about the world,” he said. “Coming to Penn State and seeing people of different nationalities and backgrounds really opened my eyes to what the world was really like. It was much bigger than I had realized.”
Shortly after receiving his bachelor of science in meteorology from Penn State in 1966, Tag was accepted into Penn State’s meteorology master’s degree program. Studying under faculty adviser Larry Davis, Tag focused his research on cloud physics, the processes that shape the formation of clouds. He also got exposure to one way that humans inadvertently modify weather: cities trapping heat. For his graduate-level research, he measured the surface temperatures of two cities. While working with the National Center for Atmospheric Research as a summer trainee, Tag instrumented an aircraft to measure the surface temperatures of Denver, Colorado. After returning to Penn State, he used a Penn State aircraft to do the same for Buffalo, New York.
“To this day, that research project is one of my most memorable scientific experiences,” he said. “By measuring temperatures with an infrared radiometer, I was able to demonstrate that cities are, in fact, warmer than the surrounding countryside. I then created a numerical prediction model that isolated the reasons for the differences.”