School of Meteorology Mourns Passing of Fred Brock

School of Meteorology Mourns Passing of Fred Brock

The School of Meteorology is mourning the passing of Dr. Fred Brock, who passed away October 21, 2020.

According to his obituary from The Norman Transcript, Dr. Brock completed a Bachelor’s degree in Education, served in the Navy, completed Master’s degrees in Meteorology and Instrumentation Engineering, and finally a Ph.D. in Meteorology here at the University of Oklahoma. He worked at the National Center for Atmospheric Research before eventually returning to OU to teach, research, and lead.

Dr. Chris Fiebrich wrote a moving message for the family and community: “Dr. Fred Brock was a pioneer in meteorology and a friend and mentor to countless members of the meteorological community. In addition to being Faculty in the OU School of Meteorology, he was also the first manager of the Oklahoma Mesonet. In 2009, the Mesonet dedicated its calibration laboratory in the National Weather Center to Dr. Brock.
From the plaque outside the Dr. Fred Brock Standards Laboratory of the Oklahoma Mesonet at the National Weather Center:
Dr. Fred V. Brock provided his unique mix of both engineering and meteorological expertise to implement the Oklahoma Mesonet. His thoughtful planning included dozens of stakeholders to help formulate the technical requirements and design choices for the Mesonet system. In 1992, Dr. Brock established the Mesonet’s calibration laboratory. Under his leadership, the facility became a critical component in the data quality infrastructure of the Mesonet, several micronets, and numerous field experiments. Dr. Brock believed in the philosophy “trust, but verify,” and as a result, the Mesonet became the gold standard for mesoscale surface networks. The fundamentals of Dr. Brock’s calibration processes are still relied upon today.
The Oklahoma Mesonet measures a large variety of environmental conditions at over 100 locations statewide. The Mesonet’s thousands of sensors are tested and validated in the Brock Standards Laboratory both before and after their field deployment. The observations have enabled the production of millions of decision-making products for government agencies, public safety officials, agricultural producers, students of all ages, researchers, electric utilities, weather forecasters, and private citizens.

Dr. Brock designed, developed, and operated NCAR’s Portable Automated Mesonet; served as Professor of Meteorology at the University of Oklahoma from 1985 to 1997; was a founding member of the Mesonet Steering Committee and first manager of the Oklahoma Mesonet; and was lead author of numerous publications including Meteorological Measurement Systems (2001). In 2000, Dr. Brock was awarded the AMS Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Advance of Applied Meteorology. Dr. Brock’s lasting legacy will be the hundreds of young scientists who have used Mesonet data to enable numerous new scientific discoveries.”

Dr. Dave Parsons:  “At NCAR…he was a force and a technical expert in the design and implementation of the PAM (Portable Automated Mesoscale) NSF-OFAP facility…The PAM system was available to and widely utilized by the NSF-supported research community. A quick search of the AMS journals suggest shows the impact with ~135 articles that utilize the PAM data sets[…] So Fred has had a major impact on our state and our research with the OK Mesonet, but also greatly impacted the broader university and NCAR research community over a wide range of topics on an international scale! The list of impacts goes on as the OK Mesonet formed the foundation of NY Mesonet. He cared so deeply about how to make an accurate observation.”

Dr. Howie Bluestein, current faculty member in the School of Meteorology, called Dr. Brock “the pioneer for the technological development of the Oklahoma Mesonet and should be recognized for all subsequent related activities…Fred was very quiet and mild mannered, but his influence on what we do today is most significant. He was a true scientific gentleman.”

Dr. Renee McPherson, University Director of the South Central Climate Science Adaptation Center: “Fred was intellectually gifted but never used that to trod over others and their opinions. In fact, he took time to listen to young scientists and engineers and mentor them in thinking about quality products and services. From our early Mesonet phrase of “research-quality data in real time,” Fred was most known for the research-quality data portion, and he was THE leader in this area. But Fred also led the implementation of the real-time nature of the Mesonet. He supervised […] of the computing infrastructure team and he brought on Doug Rhue of NSSL to help with the communications intricacies with the State Regents telecomm system and the OK Law Enforcement Telecomm System.

Fred designed all of the initial calibration procedures for the instrumentation, building the full instrumentation lab on the 15th floor of the Sarkeys Energy Center. In those days, money was tighter than today, and Fred was familiar with how to build calibration systems with things you could buy at the hardware store….But the tests that we ran the instruments through and the data logger programs that Fred and his team wrote became part of what Campbell Scientific Inc modeled for their work. It was one of our first partnerships with the private sector, but Fred didn’t want anything for himself in that venture, just better work for the atmospheric sciences community.

Another characteristic of Fred that I’ll always remember was his laugh. When Fred laughed, it was loud and full. He would have made a great Santa Claus with that laugh. His quiet kindness and humility were qualities rare in academic faculty. He extolled the virtues of others and never spoke of his own successes. He also focused on people and not numbers. Rather than comparing impact factors or numbers of publications, he cared more about what people accomplished that would help other people. In that way, his contribution to the Oklahoma Mesonet will be a lasting legacy of Fred Brock, as it’s provided such important data to so many decision makers across Oklahoma.”

Dr. Fred Carr, professor emeritus, said “Fred had unique talents, and did his own programming for the Mesonet dataloggers.  He put the Q in quality assurance, and was the reason the Oklahoma Mesonet is called the “gold standard”  (2009 NAS report) of surface weather networks.  He taught the quintessential atmospheric measurements course which resulted in a book by him and Scott Richardson.
I note that his obituary is as understated as he was.   Modest to a fault, he was a wonderful and generous faculty member, and I don’t recall him ever complaining about anything…Rest in peace, Fred.  Your contributions to the School and profession are the only quantities you never sought to measure.”

Dr. Brock will be sorely missed by everyone here at the School of Meteorology.