Thom, A S

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It is with profound shock and regret that we reflect on the tragic death in his 37th year of Dr A. S. Thorn, physicist, micro-meteorologist and environmental scientist. An honours physics graduate of the University of Glasgow in 1964, Thorn took his doctorate in meteorology at Edinburgh in 1967 and thereafter was appointed lecturer in the Department. In a short lifetime, there followed an impressive list of publications and the award of the Richardson and the Buchan prizes by the Royal Meteorological Society.

Dr Thom's book Essentials of Meteorology written jointly with Dr D. H. Mcintosh, published in 1969, has been reprinted in a number of languages: at the time of his death, Drs Mcintosh and Thom were collaborating actively in revising the book for a second edition. Dr Thorn's publications were internationally recognized in fields as diverse as fluid dynamics, micro-meteorology, hydrology, climatic change and mountain weather. His chapter contributed to Monteith's book Vegetation in the Atmosphere, Vol. I, is a scholarly and succinct review of present knowledge. As an invited lecturer, Thorn's presentations were polished and convincing. Those who attended the Royal Society of Edinburgh/ Royal Meteorological Society Symposium on Mountain Weather, in Edinburgh in 1978, were as impressed at Thom's skill in bringing a new perspective to the wealth of existing information on the subject as were those who heard him speak on 'Regional evapotranspiration: old ideas, new thoughts' at the European Geophysical Symposium in Vienna in 1979.

Dr Thom was a stimulating and innovative colleague. As consultant meteorologist to the Institute of Hydrology, he joined in frequent group discussions on the evaporative process and the transfer of momentum from atmosphere to plants. A brilliant theoretician, Thom analysed the field observations made in and over Thetford forest. Using his physical insight, he produced a new hypothesis to explain the exchange processes and conceived a wind tunnel experiment to test his hypothesis. This resulted in a long and productive collaboration with Dr M. R. Raupach, some of the results of which have yet to be published.

In addition to his contribution to an understanding of microscale exchange processes, Dr Thom's collaborative work with Dr Oliver at Wallingford resulted in an improved appreciation and understanding of regional evaporation. Thorn's interest in hydrology led to his appointment as an Associate Editor of the IAHS Bulletin. He was also on the editorial board of Boundary Layer Meteorology and was currently a member of Council of the Royal Meteorological Society. Thom participated enthusiastically and successfully in sporting activities such as tennis, squash and skiing. He shared his father's and grandfather's interest in surveying and analysing neolithic stone circles; these studies led to a number of joint publications with them in the Journal of the History of Astronomy.

J S G McCulloch, Wallingford

Hydrological Achievements[edit]

Contributions to the estimation of evapotranspiration and the understanding of the turbulent lower boundary layer

Reference Material[edit]

J. S. G. McCulloch (1980) ALEXANDER (ALASDAIR) STRANG THOM, Hydrological Sciences Bulletin, 25:4, 461-462, DOI: 10.1080/02626668009491954

Major Publications[edit]

D H McIntosh; A S Thom, 1969, Essentials of meteorology, Wykeham Publications: London.

Thom, A.S., 1971. Momentum absorption by vegetation. Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, 97(414), pp.414-428.

Thom, A.1., 1972. Momentum, mass and heat exchange of vegetation. Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, 98(415), pp.124-134.

Stewart, J.B. and Thom, A.S., 1973. Energy budgets in pine forest. Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, 99(419), pp.154-170.

Thom, A.S., 1975. Momentum, mass and heat exchange of plant communities. Vegetation and the Atmosphere, 1, pp.57-109.

Thom, A.S. and Oliver, H.R., 1977. On Penman's equation for estimating regional evaporation. Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, 103(436), pp.345-357.

Raupach, M.R., Thom, A.S. and Edwards, I., 1980. A wind-tunnel study of turbulent flow close to regularly arrayed rough surfaces. Boundary-Layer Meteorology, 18(4), pp.373-397.

Raupach, M.R. and Thom, A.S., 1981. Turbulence in and above plant canopies. Annual Review of Fluid Mechanics, 13(1), pp.97-129.