ARL Personnel Interviewed by AGU for Historical Science Podcast

October 2018

Stein, Heffter, and Lipuma sitting across from each other at a conference table with microphones

Ariel Stein (center) and Nick Heffter (left) during the interview with Ms. Lipuma (right). Credit: NOAA

Acting Director, Dr. Ariel Stein, and retired research meteorologist Jerome “Nick” Heffter provided an in-depth, behind-the-scenes, look at the lab’s influential history during an interview on October 9. Conducted by Ms. Lauren Lipuma from the American Geophysical Union’s (AGU) public information office, the duo’s interview is part of a planned series of historical science podcasts commemorating the organization’s Centennial and celebrating Earth and space science accomplishments during that period. Specifically, the pair was asked to explain how the Cold War was a catalyst for understanding the atmosphere.

Dr. Stein provided an overview of the lab’s history beginning with secret efforts necessitating hand drawn back trajectories, in consultation with weather maps, to determine the source of nuclear debris found near Alaska, touched on the lab’s response to both Chernobyl and Fukushima, and summarized current research and activities supporting U.S. and international agencies tasked with determining the origin and projected path of nuclear materials.

Mr. Heffter shared a wealth of knowledge, calmly chronicling major world events during his nearly six decades of support to ARL and its predecessor organizations. Instinctively able to balance just the right level of detail with necessary explanations, Mr. Heffter’s recollections calmly guided listeners through some of the most frightening times in U.S. history; reinforcing the organization’s global criticality and the prowess of its staff. Heffter, who continues to support ARL as a part-time consultant working on model verification, shared the experience of being near the blast site for an underground weapons test, discussed atmospheric testing by the U.S., Russians, and Chinese, and explained the link between atmospheric radiation, weather, and human health resulting from the consumption of cow’s milk.

Scientists and non-scientists alike are bound to pay rapt attention to this enlightening discussion. AGU is expected to release the final podcast sometime between December 2018 and February 2019. Meanwhile, please visit for more information regarding ARL’s fascinating history.

UPDATE 12/19/18: This Third Pod from the Sun podcast, titled “Centennial E1 – How the Cold War advanced atmospheric science,” is now available at