Some thoughts honoring the memory of

Joseph G. Galway


Chuck Doswell

This tribute is accurate to the best of my current knowledge. Anyone wishing to offer corrections or clarifications should contact me at

Joe at his retirement in 1984.

Joseph G. (Joe) Galway passed away in Kansas City, Missouri on June 29, 1998. He was born in Cambridge, MA on December 3, 1922. For some aspects of his forecasting life, see Lewis (1996) for a more detailed biographical sketch than I can provide here. He was a forecaster with the Severe Local Storms Forecasting Unit (SELS) for 27 years ... from 1952 to 1965 and again from 1972 to 1984. The break in his forecasting service came when he served for several years as the "Principal Assistant" (or PA ... what would now be called a "Deputy Director") of the National Severe Storms Forecast Center (NSSFC). He was on duty during the infamous 08 June 1966 tornado in Topeka, KS, however (Galway 1966), and issued the successful tornado watch for that event.

In addition to his severe storm forecasting duties, Joe was a severe storms researcher who contributed many useful ideas and tools to the operational SELS forecaster, arguably the most famous of which is the Lifted Index (Galway 1956). It is of some interest that this famous article appeared in the "Correspondence" section of the AMS Bulletin because of some stupid bureaucratics who were preventing its publication. Joe was so determined to see his ideas published that he sent his paper in as correspondence rather than an article, thereby sidestepping the coneheads trying to block its appearance in the literature. He also did ground-breaking work with tornado outbreak climatology (Galway 1977; Galway and Pearson 1981).

As if all of this (and I have by no means exhausted the list of his scientific publications) wasn't enough, Joe was a dedicated historian of severe storms forecasting and research. His historical works, formally published only after his retirement, set a high standard by which all such works will be judged in the future. His biography of J.P. Finley (Galway 1985) is superb in its scholarly content, in the value of its personal insight, and its readability. To me, it's obvious that Joe recognized a kindred spirit in the determined Finley, who fought numerous battles with ignorant "superiors" because he cared deeply about what he was doing. The next two papers (Galway 1989; Galway 1992) are superb summaries of the history that only someone like Joe, who was there virtually from the beginning, could write. The last of these was completed as his health was declining ... I'm terribly grateful he finished it and saw it published ... it's a masterpiece.

Personally, I first met Joe in the summer of 1967, when he had assumed the duties of PA. I had been a student trainee in Madison, WI during the previous two summers. The magic of the names in SELS was not lost on me. When those watches came clattering over the "RAWARC" teletype (Lord, has it been that long?), sending the office into a flurry of activity, each one had a name on it: Galway, Wood, Magor, Crumrine, Sanders ... . Those names had mysterious, God-like qualities to a would-be meteorologist. I was seized by hero worship immediately.

The last year I was at UW (1967), Dave Barber (then a graduate student), encouraged me to apply for a student trainee job at SELS after I graduated. By some profound miracle, I was accepted and gratefully traveled to Kansas City for the first time, arriving in a tornado watch, appropriately enough. I met Joe and he turned out to be warm and helpful and not at all intimidating, in spite of my being awestruck at meeting him. I had two and a half summers at NSSFC as a student trainee. I thought I'd died and gone to heaven, and Joe's presence was a big factor in my joy over being there.

Subsequent events, too numerous to detail, only reinforced my respect for Joe. Time passed, and after various misadventures, circumstances brought me back to SELS, this time with the ink still wet on my Ph.D. Joe had been "demoted" back to the forecast desk ... nothing like a demotion in reality, but almost certainly an inappropriate wounding to his pride. Nevertheless, to my delight, I was now in a position to work forecast shifts throughout the year with Joe. Working with him on shift wasn't always pure joy. He could be intense and demanding, and had his own ideas about what were appropriate things to do at certain times. There were times when it got downright unpleasant, for a time; Joe was not a saint and had some vices that he began occasionally to bring to work with him. It's an important measure of the man that these difficulties he eventually overcame, like most other obstacles in his life, by the time he retired.

It was my privilege to be able to provide some small measure of assistance as he began to publish more often ... the bureaucracy by which the SELS forecasters found their publications being suppressed had lasted into the mid-1970s. When the Techniques Development Unit arrived in 1976, we became the de facto publication judges of the SELS papers, and we did everything we could to push their ideas into publication, rather than trying to suppress them. It's a transformation to which I'm pleased to say I contributed. Joe's papers were a joy to read, even in their first draft form. If I made any contributions to them, they were trivial ... he was a role model in that way, as well as his forecasting.

I made a special point to travel to Joe's retirement party in 1984. I took the opportunity to thank him for all he had meant to me ... I'm happy I said those things then, so there could be no doubt that he knew them. I don't have to feel bad about not having said them to him, after his passing. I know I'm not alone in saying that Joe was a significant influence on me and my career. He has been an inspiration to many of us and his contributions will survive for many years to come. He's a hero unlike most of our youthful heroes ... he lived up to my expectations, and more! He's already missed.


Galway, J.G., 1956: The lifted index as a predictor of latent instability. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 37, 528-529.

______, 1966: The Topeka tornado of 8 June 1966. Weatherwise, 19, 144-149.

______, 1977: Some climatological aspects of tornado outbreaks. Mon. Wea. Rev., 105, 477-484.

______, 1985: J.P. Finley: The first severe storms forecaster. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 66, 1389-1395.

______, 1989: The evolution of severe thunderstorm criteria with the weather service. Wea. Forecasting, 4, 585-592.

______, 1992: Early severe thunderstorm forecasting and research by the United States Weather Bureau. Wea. Forecasting, 7, 564-587.

______, and A. Pearson, 1981: Winter tornado outbreaks. Mon. Wea. Rev., 109, 1072-1080.

Lewis, J.M., 1996: Joseph G. Galway. Wea. Forecasting, 11, 263-268.