Dennis Shelby Walts

Dennis Shelby Walts died on May 9th, 2022, in Boulder, Colorado. He was 77 years old.  Dennis was born in Georgetown, Indiana, to Glenn and Irene Walts.  He graduated with honors from Georgetown High school, where he was a member of the basketball team. He continued playing basketball at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in physics, with honors. He was nominated to the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels by the governor of Kentucky for his basketball achievements at Centre. Dennis attended graduate school at Colorado State University, receiving a master’s degree in atmospheric science in 1968.

In 1969, he was selected by the National Science Foundation to participate in the United States Antarctic Research Program. He spent 13 months at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station conducting environmental research. While there, he gathered extensive data on atmospheric ozone, which helped lead to the discovery of the “ozone hole” over the Antarctic continent.

During his career with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Dennis was instrumental in improving and modernizing the National Weather Service, particularly with prediction of, and warning for, severe weather.  He was the senior engineer and a principal architect of the Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System (AWIPS). The AWIPS system dramatically changed the way tornadoes and severe storms are detected, and significantly improved lead times for public severe weather warnings.  He was awarded the Department of Commerce Gold Medal for these achievements.

He travelled extensively for both work and pleasure. He presented several scientific papers at conferences around the world, including in London, Helsinki, and Taipei.  In 1998, he was invited by the Chinese Government to present a series of lectures at the prestigious Beijing Scientific Institute.  While in Beijing, he was also treated to personal guided tours of the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, and the terra cotta soldier excavation in Xian.

In addition to his scientific papers, Dennis spent several years researching the seven members of the Walts family who served and died in the American Civil War. He compiled his findings into an extensive research document. A copy of this document is deposited at the Floyd County (Indiana) Historical Society.

Dennis was an avid amateur photographer, astronomer, woodworker, and, when younger, skier.  In recent years he spent his winters in Tucson for the clear skies in order to view and photograph the wonders of our night-sky universe.

He was very proud of, and is survived by, his two children, Brandon and Stacy. Brandon is a bioinformatician living in the United Kingdom.  Stacy is currently an engineer with a medical device company in St Paul.

4 thoughts on “Dennis Shelby Walts”

  1. Very sorry to hear of Denny’s passing. I enjoyed working with him at NOAA. He was a great leader and contributed greatly to the success of the National Weather Service’s forecast system that is still used today.

  2. I have always admired Denny for his devotion to his children, whom he raised primarily by himself. I was impressed with his compassion and altruism. I was a child when I met him, but I shall always remember his kindness, intelligence and gentleness. God rest his soul.

  3. The Class of 62 Georgetown High School was sorry to hear of Denny’s passing. He was a great classmate and contributed greatly to our nation.
    We loved to see his basketball team play during our high school year. He was a good neighbor, friend and student. We will miss seeing him at our school banquets.
    Our prayers go out for the children and family.

  4. Denny had , among other qualities, three that stood out; dignity, integrity, and intellect. We were roommates and basketball teammates at Centre College before he married. His meteorological achievements are no surprise.. God bless his family.

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