2007-03-15 14:22:59 UTC
QUINN EASTMAN - Staff Writer
CARDIFF -- Robert Bacastow did pioneering research on the rising level
of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and ocean, but he never seemed
to take his work with him, his fellow scientists said.
Originally trained as a physicist, Bacastow contributed his
quantitative skills to a research group at the Scripps Institution of
Oceanography that was the first to document carbon dioxide's role as a
motor of climate change, his colleague, Stephen Piper, said.
"It was a fundamental role that he played," Piper said. "He was the
guy with the necessary background who came through when we first
started 'box' modeling of the ocean."
When not working at Scripps, Bacastow could be found atop a motorcycle
or behind a badminton racket. He entered the Baja 500 motorcycle race
as a young man and was one of the founding members of a badminton club
in Balboa Park, his wife, Wanda, said.
"I still have his motorcycle in the garage," she said.
Bacastow met his future wife in the early 1970s at a restaurant in San
Diego where she served him breakfast every day, she said.
"After awhile, he asked me out," she said.
They were married in 1976 at their home in Cardiff, which eventually
became a place of welcome for children around the neighborhood. Mrs.
Bacastow had two children from a previous marriage and the couple had
a son and daughter of their own.
"Every child who walked into our house was like a member of the
family," she said.
She had several dogs and cats and ran a riding school. He wasn't much
interested in horses, but never complained about the multitude of
animals, she said.
Bacastow died Thursday, March 8, at age 76 after a battle with thyroid
His wife said they had spent the last two years traveling around the
Bacastow was born June 4, 1930, in Kearny, N.J. He attended the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology for undergraduate studies and
served in the Air Force in New Mexico from 1954 to 1956.
He earned a 1963 Ph.D. in physics at UC Berkeley, studying with 1959
Nobel Laureate Emilio Segre.
Bacastow was a physics professor at UC Riverside until 1969, when he
switched to studying the atmosphere and ocean as funding for
high-energy physics was becoming more scarce. In 1971, he joined the
Carbon Dioxide Research Group at Scripps led by the late Charles
In 1976, Bacastow published an influential research paper in the
journal Nature showing how the El Nino weather pattern, which
periodically brings rainy winters to California, affects fluctuations
in carbon dioxide.
"His insight really explained the short-term variation," Piper said.
In the 1980s and early 1990s, he worked with scientists at Scripps and
the Max Planck Institute in Hamburg on carbon sequestration, the idea
that carbon dioxide can be taken out of the air and deposited deep in
the ocean or underground.
Carbon sequestration later became more than just an idea as oil and
natural gas platforms in the North Sea began doing it in recent years.
Bacastow retired in 1991, but joined Science Applications
International Corp. and continued working part time at Scripps until 1999.
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