Be There: GATE 50th Anniversary Celebration

GATE observing network. (From Zhang et al., 2022.)

Fifty years ago this summer, the most ambitious tropical field experiment ever attempted began along the coast of West Africa. Amidst the backdrop of the Cold War, GATE—the Global Atmospheric Research Program’s (GARP) Atlantic Tropical Experiment—successfully involved more than 5,000 scientists, technicians, and supporting staff from 72 countries in a campaign over the Atlantic Ocean to investigate the structure of the tropical atmosphere with emphases on tropical convective organization and the mutual interaction between convection and the larger scale flow. This enormous achievement will be celebrated Thursday, 1 February, at the 104th AMS Annual Meeting in Baltimore with a Town Hall Meeting, a luncheon, and three scientific sessions.

CELEBRATION EVENTSLocation: Holiday Ballrooms 1-3 (Second Floor, Hilton Baltimore Inner Harbor)Times
Town HallThe GATE Experience and Beyond7-8 a.m.
SessionGATE 50th Anniversary Celebration I8:30-10 a.m.
Luncheon*GATE 50th Anniversary Luncheon12:15 – 1:30 p.m.
SessionGATE 50th Anniversary Celebration II1:45 – 3 p.m.
SessionGATE 50th Anniversary Celebration III4:30 – 6 p.m.
*The Luncheon is a ticketed event. Tickets are $65 and can be purchased through the Annual Meeting registration

The celebration includes GATE veterans who will share their experiences in planning and executing the field program, as well as speakers reflecting on how their careers were influenced by GATE and how other tropical field experiments followed GATE’s footprints to advance the science of tropical atmospheric convection and air-sea interaction. Visions for and planning of future tropical field experiments will also be discussed.

To learn more, we reached out to co-chairs Andrea M. Jenney of Oregon State University, Chidong Zhang of NOAA’s PMEL, and Terrence R. Nathan of UC Davis who provided the following responses.

What was the impetus for organizing this Town Hall Meeting and these sessions (aside from the 50th anniversary)?

To provide a platform for the Gaters (GATE veterans—only a few of them are still with us and they are in their 70s–90s) to tell the community how this historic field campaign was planned and executed, how it shaped the careers of the students and postdocs who participated, many of whom became leaders of our field, and how its impressive legacy continues to influence research today.

Who are the celebration events designed to attract and why?

Everyone, from the Gaters to current early career scientists who may have benefited from GATE but don’t know much about it.

What about the GATE observations make them an unmatched legacy in the atmospheric sciences?

It revolutionized our view of tropical deep convection from isolated hot towers to organized mesoscale systems.
The data have been used since to guide global model parameterization of atmospheric deep convection. It mobilized the international community to work together toward a common goal on an unprecedented and unsurpassed scale.

What has GATE taught us about conducting field research?

Political conflicts do not have to hinder scientists from working together. GATE took place during the Cold War, which left a substantial mark on it (GATE had to be relocated from the Pacific to the Atlantic). Nevertheless, scientists from both the East (including the USSR) and West came together, collaborated, and jointly conducted the field campaign.

Big science needs national and international collaborations and coordinations. No single funding agency or single country could support GATE on its scale. GATE has since remained as the grandest tropical field campaign in the atmospheric sciences ever.

Doing excellent science requires passions and fortitude. As the Gaters will attest to during this event, they went through tremendous hardships during GATE but they loved what they did and they met unanticipated difficulties with humor.

What will AMS 104th attendees gain from the town hall and sessions?

Some untold history of GATE. Many stories and personal reflections from the Gaters. How GATE inspired scientists of new generations. How the research community has continued the GATE legacy and is planning to visit the original GATE site in the Pacific that had to be abandoned because of geopolitics at that time.

About the AMS 104th Annual Meeting

The American Meteorological Society’s Annual Meeting brings together thousands of weather, water, and climate scientists, professionals, and students from across the United States and the world. Taking place 28 January to 1 February, 2024, the AMS 104th Annual Meeting is exploring the latest scientific and professional advances in areas from renewable energy to space weather, weather and climate extremes, environmental health, and more. In addition, cross-cutting interdisciplinary sessions explore the theme of Living in a Changing Environment, especially the role of the weather, water, and climate enterprise in helping improve society’s response to climate and environmental change. The Annual Meeting is being held at the Baltimore Convention Center, with online/hybrid participation options. Learn more at