CEDAR email: Remembering Prof. Gonzalo Hernandez

Robert Holzworth bobholz at ess.washington.edu
Fri Jul 18 15:40:30 MDT 2014

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Remembering Prof. Gonzalo Hernandez

We sadly report the unexpected passing of Professor Gonzalo Hernandez, a valued
colleague and dear friend to many.  Born in Costa Rica, it was not blood, but
rich coffee, that flowed through his veins. Gonzalo relished conversation,
especially over coffee, and he was hard-wired to pose a spontaneous lightly
humorous question to virtually anyone at any time. Gonzalo was unusually
approachable, patient, and unfailingly polite.

Gonzalo's deep passion was for highest quality spectroscopy. He applied this
passion to the practical problem of understanding upper atmospheric dynamics,
and in so doing, contributed a long line of discovery and analysis papers that
address mesosphere and thermosphere phenomena.  Gonzalo's training was in
chemistry and his doctoral work (1962, Univ of Rochester) entailed spectroscopy
in the vacuum ultraviolet, a notoriously difficult wavelength range for making
measurements. While earning his doctoral degree, he began working at Air Force
Cambridge Research Laboratories, and soon became caught up in the excitement of
the early Space Age.  By 1963, he had begun applying Fabry-Perot
interferometry to the airglow, and used these emissions for remotely sensing
upper atmospheric properties.  In 1968, he joined NOAA, serving as director of
the Fritz Peak Observatory from 1970--1985. At NOAA, probably after too many
nights of twiddling instrumentation by hand, he developed an electro-optical
feedback system to scan the Fabry-Perot interferometer with exquisite
precision. In 1988, Gonzalo joined the faculty at University of Washington.
Perhaps to escape Seattle winters, he sited spectrometers in Antarctica and
New Zealand, which entailed many annual trips to replace parts and tune the
spectrometers to peak performance. In honor of this service to science, one
of the Antarctic dry valleys was named for him.  Gonzalo was justly proud of
his spectrometers' decades-long parts per billion stability at field sites.
The stabilized spectrometer was determinedly and profitably applied to
retrieving long term mesosphere and thermosphere winds and temperature
measurements in the southern hemisphere. Such observations nourished the
modeling community's efforts, as well as testing theory.

We will miss his collegial spirit, his up to date knowledge of campus and
national politics, his straight-faced delivery of jokes, and the twinkle in his

(Submitted by Profs. M. McCarthy, R. Holzworth and R. Winglee, Earth and Space
Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, WA  on  7/18/2014 )


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