Arthur Y. Hou, NASA weather scientist, dies at 66


Arthur Y. Hou, the project scientist for NASA’s upcoming Global Precipitation Measurement mission, died Nov. 20, 2013. He was 66. (NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center)
December 12, 2013

Arthur Y. Hou, a specialist in climate science and space-based observation of clouds, who was the chief scientist for a NASA satellite project to measure precipitation around the world, died Nov. 20 at his home in Potomac, Md. He was 66.

The cause was pancreatic cancer, said his wife, Sandra Hou.

Since 2005, Dr. Hou had led a scientific team of more than 80 investigators from 14 countries working on the Global Precipitation Measurement mission at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. The project is an international effort designed to record snow and rainfall amounts throughout the world by satellite observation every three hours. The information about precipitation is expected to be used to monitor and predict hurricanes and other major weather events.

The satellite observatory that Dr. Hou had a primary role in building is scheduled to be launched from Japan in February.

“Arthur was an exemplary project scientist who kept the GPM flame alive during the various challenges as the project was being formulated and developed,” Nick White, director of the Sciences and Exploration Directorate at the Goddard Space Flight Center, said in a statement. “He forged international friendships with colleagues and partners around the world, while still finding time to mentor junior and mid-level scientists.”

Dr. Hou began his career at NASA in 1990. Before taking the lead scientific position on the GPM mission, he was deputy project scientist on the joint U.S.-Japan Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission.

Arthur Yuhan Hou was born March 17, 1947, in Shanghai. He moved to Taiwan as a child and grew up in the households of relatives. He attended school in France before graduating from high school in Dayton, Ohio.

He was a 1970 graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he received a master’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics in 1972. He received master’s and doctoral degrees in applied physics from Harvard University in 1978 and 1981, respectively. He held research positions at Harvard and with a private firm in Massachusetts before coming to NASA.

Dr. Hou was recently elected to become a fellow of the American Meteorological Society, effective next year. He received awards from NASA for his scientific work, including a Robert H. Goddard Exceptional Achievement Award in leadership.

Survivors include his wife of 23 years, Sandra Carlson Hou, and a daughter, Sara C. Hou, both of Potomac.

Matt Schudel has been an obituary writer at The Washington Post since 2004.
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