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Harold Hal E. Klieforth

Harold “Hal” E. Klieforth

Chief Meteorologist, Sierra Wave Project

   Harold Klieforth, the Chief Meteorologist for the Sierra Wave Project of the early 1950s, passed away at St Mary's Hospital in Reno on July 15 at the age of 87. Hal held, with Larry Edgar, the multi-seat altitude records (since superseded): Absolute altitude: 13,489 meters (44,260 feet) on March 19, 1952 flying a Pratt Read PR-G1, N63174, Bishop, California; Gain of height: 10,493 meters (34,420 feet) on the same flight. For further details on the Sierra Wave Project see the book by Robert F. Whelan,Exploring the Monster.

   At the time of his passing, Klieforth was a Research Meteorologist and Climatologist, Emeritus, at the Desert Research Institute (DRI) & University of Nevada (UNR), Reno. He was born in San Francisco on July 6, 1927. He was educated at Tamalpais High School, Marin College and the University of California at Berkeley and Los Angeles. He served in the U.S. Army during 1945 and 1946. Klieforth was on the staff of the UCLA Meteorology Department from 1950 to 1956 during which time he also served with the Sierra Wave Project. He was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship at Imperial College, London from 1956 to 1957. He then joined the Air Force Cambridge Research Laboratory from 1958 to 1964, serving at Edwards Air Force base in charge of special aircraft (including the U-2) for atmospheric studies. He spent weekends at home in Bishop, CA with his family and enjoying his mountaineering and environmental studies. From 1965 to 1994 he was an Atmospheric Research Scientist with DRI and UNR. After his retirement in 1994 he continued with DRI as an active colleague and student mentor visiting DRI frequently throughout the years including as recently as last month.

   His most recent contact with our sport of soaring was at the Reno 2014 Convention where he reported on his research. In the years 1950 to 1956 the U.S. Air Force sponsored a pioneering study of airflow over mountains (Sierra Wave Project and follow-ons) which featured a partnership between the UCLA Meteorology Department, the Southern California Soaring Association and the Navy at China Lake, CA. TheSierra Wave Project explored the effect of the Sierra Nevada on Pacific storms and the many causes of aircraft accidents in mountainous terrain. That information is the basis for comparisons withchanges in regional weatherphenomena since then and has shown during the past several decades, that cloud forms and their behavior indicate major shifts in the global atmosphericcirculation.

   Hal was an enthusiastic mountaineer having been introduced to the mountains on camping trips with his father in the 1930s. Even in this last year of his life, he spent much of his free time rambling around the mountains of eastern California, filling notebooks with observations on the weather, flora and fauna. As well as exploring the Sierra Nevada, his interests in mountaineering and meteorology have taken him to the Ben Nevis in Scotland, the Argentinean Pampas as well as photographing the Aurora Borealis while over Iceland. Yet he frequently said, “The Sierras are still my real love.”

   Hal was awarded the Tuntland Trophy in 1954 for having made an important contribution to the science of soaring flight in a published article or paper during the preceding year for his work on the Sierra Wave Project. (The trophy honors Paul Tuntland, who worked with Dr. Gus Raspet in the Thunder Storm and Ridge Flow Projects. Tuntland lost his life in a sailplane accident in 1950.) Hal also received the SSA Certificate of Appreciation in 1966 for his contributions and services in the field of meteorology. He attended the Twelfth Landmark Dedication which honored the Sierra Wave Project and took place at Bishop Airport in California June 15, 2002. See the National Soaring Museum web site for details (www.soaringmuseum.org). See the SOARING archives on the SSA web page  (www.ssa.org) for further information on Harold Klieforth.                             There is now only one living full timeparticipantin the Sierra Wave Project -- Betsy Woodward (EinarEnevoldson participated during his Christmas break from UCLA).

   Harold Klieforth will be remembered for his generosity and accuracy in providing specific and general forecasts for soaring pilots for many years, a tradition continued by the late Doug Armstrong and, recently, by Walt Rogers. We owe many thanks to these three talented soaring forecasters.

Posted: 7/24/2014

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