Dévényi, meteorologist, friend, and colleague, passed
away suddenly of a heart attack, Thanksgiving Day, 26 November 2009.
He was born in Keszthely, Hungary, on 4 June 1948 of Dezső (he was named after his father) and Anna Dévényi. In his
youth he and his brother, László, were accomplished
soccer players, but Dezső’s soccer career ended
with an ankle injury in college. Dezső attended Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest. For his graduate work, he developed a new version
of optimum interpolation, a statistical/mathematical tool for assimilating
weather data into prediction models, based on the simplex method. In 1973, he received an MSc
degree in meteorology and mathematics/physics teacher [sic] and was soon
employed by the Hungarian Meteorological Service as a Junior Research
Scientist. For a year, beginning in
March 1975, he studied with Lev S. Gandin, considered by many to be the father of statistical methods
of meteorological data assimilation, at the Main Geophysical Observatory in St. Petersburg (then called Leningrad).
Upon his return to Budapest, Dezső had a long and distinguished career with the
Hungarian Met Service. He served as its
Scientific Secretary from 1979 to 1984 and then, from 1985 through 1991, filled
a number of supervisory positions. In
chronological order, he was Chief of the Hydrology Branch, the Numerical
Forecasting Branch, the Long-Range Forecasting Division, and the Weather
Forecasting Division. During this time,
he never lost his appetite for meteorological data assimilation and its
application to numerical weather prediction.
In fact, he made groundbreaking contributions toward improving the Met
Service’s operational capability. In
1988 he published a book with Ottó Gulyás, Mathematical
Statistical Methods in Meteorology (in Hungarian). It may not be widely known, but in March 1991
Dezső, along with R. Bubnova
from Czechoslovakia and V. Ivanovici from Romania
visited Météo France to help initiate a project later
known as ALADIN, which became a cornerstone of regional numerical weather
prediction in Central Europe.
In 1991 Dezső
received his doctoral degree in geosciences from Eötvös Loránd University. His thesis title was “The Application of
Satellite Data in the Objective Analysis of Meteorological Fields.” In 1996, after additional examinations, the
University awarded him a Doctor Habilitationis Degree
in earth sciences, essentially qualifying him to be a teaching professor.
Perhaps because he wanted to
spend more time on data assimilation research, Dezső
accepted an appointment as National Research Council Visiting Scientist at
NOAA’s Forecast Systems Laboratory (FSL) in Boulder, Colorado, USA. At FSL from October 1991 until April 1993, Dezső assisted with the early development of the Rapid
Update Cycle (RUC), a system still operational at the National Centers for
Environmental Prediction, that generates hourly
analyses of U.S.
weather data and initializes short-term mesoscale
forecasts every hour.
Upon his return to the Hungarian
Met Service, Dezső again headed the Weather
Forecasting Division until January 1994, when he became Vice President of the
The allure of research again
beckoned in January 1995, when Dezső returned to
Boulder, Colorado. His employer was the Cooperative Institute
for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado,
but he worked again with many of the same colleagues at NOAA/FSL on the
assimilation of a variety of meteorological observations into the prediction
model for the RUC.
For awhile, it appeared that
academia might draw Dezső permanently back to Hungary. He left in July 1999 for an Associate
Professorship at Eötvös
Loránd University in Budapest
and taught there during the fall semester.
But he returned to Boulder
for good early in 2000 to continue work on a three-dimensional variational
analysis code, the data assimilation part of the RUC. In recent years, he worked to adapt code from
the Gridpoint Statistical Interpolation Analysis at the National Centers for
Environmental Prediction for use in the Rapid Refresh, a successor hourly
update cycle to the RUC.
joined the Hungarian Meteorological Society in 1971; he became a Board Member
in 1978. He joined the Mathematical
Society of Hungary in 1978 and the American Meteorological Society in 2008. He was an Editorial Board Member of Időjárás,
the quarterly journal of the Hungarian Meteorological Service since 1982. A member of the Committee on Meteorology of
the Hungarian Academy of Sciences since 1986, he
headed the Subcommittee on Observations and Data Assimilation, 1999-2002. He became
a member of the Committee on Atmospheric Dynamics in 2002 and of the Committee
on Climate in 2008.
was teacher and mentor to a generation of Hungarian meteorologists. His grasp of mathematics was beyond that of
most of his colleagues, but he was always willing to explain things in as much
depth as he thought they could handle, and he had an uncanny knack for finding quickly
the perfect reference for any scientific discussion. He was fond of books. His library was so large, nearly 5,000
volumes, that much of it had to remain in Hungary
when he came to the U.S. He visited Barnes and Noble weekly. The story is told that he was sent out to buy
a new pair of jeans, but came back instead with a new book….three times. He was a voracious reader; he reserved early
mornings for technical reading and think work, and evenings for recreational
reading, especially science fiction.
He maintained close ties with his
Hungarian colleagues and meteorologists elsewhere in Europe. He was an excellent source on the latest
developments in data assimilation and numerical weather predication throughout
In the late 1970s, Dezső sometimes visited a pharmacy where his uncle’s
wife worked. At one point, she was
planning a birthday party for her husband and invited Dezső
along with another employee of the pharmacy, Mary. Dezső was one
year ahead of Mary in high school, but they had never been well
acquainted―until the birthday party.
That is how Dezső met the love of his
life. Working in Budapest, Dezső
was soon traveling on weekends to Hévíz, where Mary
lived, 200 km away. They were engaged at
Christmas 1978 and married the following March. Their daughter, Patricia, was born during
their first year of marriage. On their
25th wedding anniversary, Dezső gave Mary
a Westie puppy, Zseni, to
keep her company during the day while he worked at the lab. Before long, Dezső
was as eager to walk the puppy as Mary.
was fluent in Hungarian, English and Russian and could get along in German as
well. He maintained a lively interest in
world affairs, history, and the arts.
He was, above all, a gentle man with a friendly and unflappable
disposition. His dry sense of humor was
much appreciated. When asked “How are
you doing,” he would reply more often than not, “Not too bad, yet.” He would probably answer the question now “Very well, thank you,” but we who are
left behind sorely miss him.
was preceded in death by his brother, László, in
1993. He is survived by his wife, Mary Dévényi, daughter Patricia Dévényi,
and a rambunctious but beloved dog, Zseni.
Thomas W. Schlatter and Stanley
G. Benjamin, with contributions from Mary and Patricia Dévényi,
Gábor Radnóti and András Horányi