Dean Williams

Research at Livermore on climate simulation using high-performance computing has transformed how climate scientists organize, analyze, manipulate, visualize, and share climate data. Projects related to climate “big data” initiatives, including the Earth System Grid Federation (ESGF), the Ultrascale Visualization Climate Data Analysis Tools (UV-CDAT), and the International Climate Network Working Group, are among those that caused this transformation. Livermore scientist Dean Williams is the principal investigator of these three efforts.

ESGF is the tool virtually everyone in the climate community uses to organize the reams of observational and modeling data climate research requires. As an analysis and visualization application developer in the Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison in the late 1980s, Williams developed a concept for a software infrastructure that would facilitate the movement and archiving of large-scale data to empower the study of climate change. Energy and climate security is one of Livermore’s mission focus areas. To meet goals within this area, Livermore leverages its science, technology, and engineering strengths to understand energy–climate impacts, risks, and possible mitigation strategies.

Williams’ climate career began with “one little visualization project”—a math-intensive cloud simulation he completed during his master’s program in computer science at California State University at Chico. After earning his degree, he was slated to take a job with Livermore’s space-based missile defense program until Livermore atmospheric scientists saw his cloud work and urged him to join the National Atmospheric Release Advisory Center instead. He has worked in the climate and earth systems modeling realm ever since.

“What I love is that we’re doing something that’s beneficial not only to my family and yours, but to my grandkids and yours, too. We only have one planet, so we can’t just experiment with it. Simulation is the tool we use to understand climate behavior,” says Williams.

Williams has a applied mathematics and statistics and an M.S. in computer science from California State University, Chico. The ESGF and UV-CDAT teams Dean leads has been recognized with “Outstanding Partnership” awards from the Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer in 2013, 2014, and 2015. ESGF supported the fourth Intergovernmental Program and Climate Change, work which was later honored with a 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. Williams was named a Distinguished Member of the Technical Staff in 2015.