Penn State

Fuqing Zhang remembered for lasting contributions to meteorology, Penn State

Fuqing Zhang, distinguished professor of meteorology in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, died last week at 49-years-old.
Fuqing Zhang, distinguished professor of meteorology in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, died last week at 49-years-old. Photo provided

A memorial service will be held Wednesday for a Penn State professor who will be remembered for his energy and enthusiasm in the classroom and his contributions to the worldwide weather community.

After being diagnosed with cancer, Fuqing Zhang, distinguished professor of meteorology in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, died last week at 49-years-old. The memorial service will be held at 5 p.m. Wednesday at the Koch Funeral Home, 2401 S. Atherton St.

The department posted on Facebook Saturday with a statement from Zhang’s daughter, Lily.

“My dad deeply loved his job and considered Penn State his home,” she wrote. “He cared for his students and visitors like family and always spoke highly of his colleagues. Even when he was close to death, dad kept fighting, not for himself but for science.”

The Air Force Reserve's 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron based at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Miss., flies C-130Js into hurricanes to provide precise weather forecasting information.

Zhang attended China’s Nanjing University where he earned a bachelor of science in 1991 and master of science degree in 1994, both in meteorology. He earned his doctorate in atmospheric sciences in 2000 from North Carolina State University, according to a Penn State press release.

After joining Penn State’s faculty in 2008, Zhang had a joint appointment in the department of statistics. He was the founding director of Penn State’s Center for Advanced Data Assimilation and Predictability Techniques.

Having given more than 300 talks throughout his career, Zhang’s research has been featured in Nature, Science, Reuters and The Washington Post. He presented congressional briefings that explained science’s impact on weather prediction and the economy, according to his bio.

Fuqing Zhang was a distinguished professor of meteorology in Penn State’s College of Earth and Mineral Sciences. Penn State Photo provided

“Fuqing’s pioneering data assimilation and predictability research has vastly improved our ability to accurately predict hurricanes and other severe weather phenomena,” David Stensrud, head of the Department of Meteorology and Atmospheric Sciences at Penn State said in a press release.

In a statement, Jonathan Porter, AccuWeather vice president of business services and general manager of Enterprise Solutions, called Zhang “one of the world’s leaders on innovative methods of integrating environmental observations into numerical forecast models,” noting his work to improve tropical cyclone forecast models.

“In traveling around the world on business within the world weather community, I would routinely be asked, ‘Do you know Fuqing Zhang?’ He’s very well-known from a global perspective and his loss is going to be very significant to the worldwide weather community,” Porter said.

AccuWeather Founder and CEO Joel Myers offered condolences to Zhang’s family.

“He was a genuine friend of AccuWeather and was a help to us in a number of ways, and we were always very appreciative of his contributions to the Department of Meteorology, to AccuWeather and to meteorology in general,” Myers said in the statement.

Zhang received numerous awards for his professional work, including the American Meteorological Society’s 2009 Clarence Leroy Meisinger Award and 2015 Banner I. Miller Award, according to Penn State. He also was named a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union and the American Meteorology Society.

“He said he wanted his life and illness to be able to serve future generations,” wrote Zhang’s daughter. “Dad took immense pride in being a scientist and he was one until the end. I hope that his dedication can serve as an inspiration to all of us and that the Department of Meteorology and Atmospheric Science continues his academic legacy.”

Penn State meteorology students David Munyan and Colton Milcarek both filmed a snow squall blowing through Penn State University in Pennsylvania on Tuesday, March 13. Their footage was taken at the Walker building in Penn State as the snow shower