In Memoriam: Jim Shuttleworth

Dec. 20, 2020
Jim Shuttleworth headshot

Obituary from the Department of Hydrology & Atmospheric Sciences

It is with great sadness that we report the passing away of William James Shuttleworth, Emeritus Regents Professor of Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences (HAS) at the University of Arizona, who was affectionately called “Jim” by all those who knew him.  Jim passed away Sunday, December 20 at the age of 75. Jim was an incredibly warm, kind and compassionate person, and will be deeply missed.

Jim joined the Department of Hydrology & Water Resources in 1993, with a joint appointment in Atmospheric Sciences. Prior to that he had served as the head of the Hydrological Processes Division of the Institute of Hydrology in the UK. While at UArizona, with his deep interest in Terrestrial Hydrometeorology he actively pushed for the creation of the degree program in hydrometeorology, and then for the merger of the Hydrologic and Atmospheric Science programs, leading to the formation of HAS. He also served as the second director of the NSF Science and Technology Center for Sustainability of Semi-Arid Hydrology and Riparian Areas (SAHRA), from 2004 to 2008.

Jim’s research focused on how climate change is affected by land surfaces, and he was particularly interested in the effects of global climate change caused by deforestation in the Amazon basin and desert formation in Africa. He received many international recognitions, and notably was awarded the International Hydrology Prize in 2006. Just before retiring, Jim published Terrestrial Hydrometeorology, widely considered to be the definitive textbook on the subject.

The UA recognized Jim’s immense contributions in 2009, by awarding him title of Regents Professor. There is also a video made by UArizona about Jim at the time he received the award. 

In conclusion, we are reminded of the following advice given by Jim to young scientists in his acceptance of the International Hydrology Prize. He said: 

  • First, in one’s progress through life there are basically two ways to proceed: either to take safe, small steps or make risky leaps forward, recognizing that in the latter case one is bound to fail about half of the time. In my experience, the latter way ultimately leads to more rapid progress and is certainly more exciting! Do not be afraid of risks
  • Second, as a young scientist, respect the established peers in your field, and listen to what they say, but don't necessarily believe them! Always question
  • Finally, and perhaps most importantly, remember that it is very difficult to keep your own end of the boat afloat while trying to sink the person at the other end. Water is the life-blood of the earth system, and water is a commodity we necessarily all must share. In this respect, we are all in the same boat.

Jim is survived by his beloved wife, lifelong partner and friend Hazel, three of his four sons, Craig, Nicholas, Jonathan (Matthew predeceased him) and one daughter Amy, three daughters-in-law Emma, Catherine and Kasia, fifteen grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. And, of course, by the rest of us who count him among our dearest friends, and who will miss him very deeply. We offer our deep condolences to his loved ones, and wish him only the very best on his new journey into the great hereafter.

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