Michael Van Woert
received a BS degree in Physics from the University of California,
Davis and a Ph.D. from Scripps Institution of Oceanography
at the University of California, San Diego. His dissertation
work focused on the application of emerging satellite technology
to the study of oceanic fronts north of the Hawaiian Islands.
The work attracted keen interest from fisheries biologist
working both in the open-ocean and coastal regions.
After graduating from college, he spent 10 years working in
industry. At this time, he had the opportunity to make the
"rough" 5-day cruise across the great "Southern Ocean" to
Palmer Station, Antarctica. There he worked to establish a
NOAA polar orbiting direct-read-out satellite receiving system
and it was then that he first got the "Polar Bug". Recalling
the establishment of the Palmer Station system he noted, "the
winds were so strong during the assembly of the satellite
radome that one person had to hold the panel in place while
three other people held the person in place. Two other people
inside the dome then bolted the panel in place. It was definitely
a dicey situation, but indicative of the working conditions
in Antarctica. In the end the job did get done."
Two years later he made his first trip to McMurdo station
where he established a Defense Meteorological Satellite Program
direct-read-out satellite receiving system. McMurdo is the
largest and busiest research station in Antarctica and distinctly
"polar" compared to conditions at Palmer station. It was the
combination of the important scientific issues that confront
Antarctica along with the rich historical significance of
the region that forged his real passion to return to the "Frozen
Continent". These satellite-receiving systems continue to
provide real-time satellite data in support of aviation weather
forecasts and scientific research. Data from this program
are available through the Arctic and Antarctic Research Center
in San Diego, California.
In January 1993 he assumed duties as the program scientist
for the NASA TOPEX/POSEIDON altimeter mission and program
manager for the Physical Oceanography Program at NASA Headquarters.
The only snow and ice he encountered during the two years
at NASA was above average winter snowfall on the streets of
Washington, DC. So, in 1994 he again gravitated toward the
polar-regions taking a job as the manager of the Arctic Research
Program at the Office of Naval Research (ONR).
At ONR he managed the Science Submarine Cruise (SCICEX) program
for the Navy and in collaboration with the National Science
Foundation managed the "Surface HEat Budget of the Arctic"
(SHEBA) program. It was there also that he got involved in
the Research on Ocean Atmosphere Variability and Ecosystem
Response in the Ross Sea program. The program focused on understanding
the biological response to the strong winds that blow off
the Antarctic continent.
As part of that project, research cruises to the Ross Sea,
Antarctica were conducted during December 1996, December 1997,
and October/November 1998. Many of the Antarctic photos shown
here were collected during these three research cruises.
Currently Dr. Van Woert is employed by the NOAA/NESDIS
Office of Research and Applications where he serves at
the Chief Scientist for the United States National Ice Center.