Stan Changnon, world-class Illinois State Water Survey scientist passed away May 1. From his obituary is a brief summary of his remarkable career. Much of what we understand about the climate of Illinois and the Midwest, and how it impacts society, is because of his work. I will highlight some of his scientific contributions in coming weeks.
Furthermore, the stories are coming in from fellow scientists whose careers were touched by his guidance and wisdom. For me personally, I’ve known him my entire professional career and just talked to him last week. I already miss him.
Stan earned his B.S. degree in geography in 1951 and a M.S. degree in geography in 1956 from the University of Illinois, where he later served as Adjunct Professor of Geography and Atmospheric Sciences. He began his professional career as a student at the Illinois State Water Survey in 1951 and retired as Chief of the Water Survey in 1985.
Following his retirement, he was awarded the title of Chief Emeritus and returned to his research as a principal scientist at the Water Survey until 2011. Changnon Climatologist, a scientific consulting firm, was established in 1985. His latest research project, an investigation of Record-Setting Damaging Weather Extremes in 2011, was completed on April 29, 2012.
Stan conceived the national network of regional climate centers and established a center at the Illinois State Water Survey in 1983. Among his many contributions to the atmospheric sciences was his groundbreaking work on how major cities such as Chicago and St. Louis impact the regional weather. His areas of expertise in climate included: climate change, physical and societal impacts of climate, and weather and climate extremes. He served on many national advisory groups, including the Climate Research Committee of the National Academy of Sciences.
He has more than 400 peer-reviewed papers published in scientific journals, over 500 other reports, and has authored more than eight scientific books. His awards for scientific accomplishments include those from the American Meteorological Society, American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Geophysical Union, and the American Water Resources Association. His most recent and prestigious honor was becoming an Honorary Member of the American Meteorological Society in January 2011. Only 102 Honorary Members have been awarded since 1919.
His full obituary can be found at