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Topic: Culture & Communities     Department: Letters

The rest of the story

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Letter - From the May 18, 2009 issue by Jay Packer

Terray Sylvester's Uncommon Westerner profile of the legendary Harold Klieforth alludes only obliquely to Dr. Klieforth's contributions to the meteorology of mountain lee waves, and the awe-inspiring Sierra wave in particular (HCN, 4/27/09). Dr. Klieforth's knowledge of the airflow over the Sierra Nevada is unequalled, both from a lifetime of research and from personal experience as principal meteorologist for the USAF/UCLA Sierra Wave Project in the 1950s. Alongside project scientist Dr. Joachim Kuettner and pilots Larry Edgar, John Robinson and Ray Parker, Klieforth explored the frontier above the range in unpressurized Pratt-Read sailplanes. In setting the still extant altitude record (44,255 feet) for a two-man glider on March 19, 1952, Klieforth and Edgar became the first men to soar through the tropopause and into the stratosphere on the powerful updraft generated by the mountains below. To describe Dr. Klieforth's extraordinary career without mentioning his work on the Sierra Wave Project is a little like describing Ansel Adams as a pianist active in the Sierra Club: It's true enough, but doesn't tell the whole story.

Jay Packer
Antonito, Colorado

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