Joseph M. Caprio, professor emeritus of agricultural meteorology and Montana state climatologist, 87, passed away Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2011, in Bozeman.
Born Nov. 7, 1923, to Sadie Puritz and Michael Caprio, he grew up in New Brunswick, N.J., where he played football for New Brunswick Senior High School. He received a B.S. degree in meteorology from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), California, and a B.S. and M.S. from Rutgers, N.J., in agriculture and agricultural meteorology, respectively. After joining the faculty at Montana State University, he received a Ph.D. degree in biometeorology from Utah State University.
He worked for the American Institute of Aerological Research from 1950-1953, involved in agricultural climatological studies mostly in western United States. He also worked with the University of California Citrus Experiment Station from 1953-1955, studying weather effects on citrus quality and production.
Joe married the love of his life, Marilyn Frangos, on July 6, 1951, in Pasadena, Calif.
He joined Montana State University, College of Agriculture in 1955, starting as an assistant professor of agricultural climatology and retiring as a full professor in 1993, serving also as Montana state climatologist for 15 years (1979-1993). While at MSU he took a year and a half assignment in Iran from 1963-1964 as a climatological expert with the United Nations World Meteorological Organization. His wife, Marilyn, and their three daughters accompanied him to Iran, and it provided an opportunity for a "round the world" adventure.
During his 38 years at MSU he did research and taught classes in microclimatology, agricultural climatology, statistics and field methods in plant climate relations. He led a Western regional project to develop a phenology network which went from 1957-1994. Numerous research publications resulted from his work at MSU, and he along with co-worker Jerry Nielsen published a climate atlas of Montana.
After retirement, Caprio was involved as a visiting scientist with the Pacific Agri Foods Research Center on studies of five irrigated fruit crops in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia which were published in the Canadian Journal of Plant Science. He was involved in a phenological study in western United States that was published in the American Meteorological Society Bulletin which indicated that plant development was occurring earlier in recent decades.
While residing during the winters in Tucson, Ariz., Caprio worked with professors at the Tree-Ring Laboratory of the University of Arizona on a study to determine daily weather impacts on Ponderosa pine tree ring variations over a 104-year period which was published in the journal, Tree-Ring Research.
Two published research studies compiled in the years 2008-2009 measured extremes of daily weather in Montana and British Columbia and the effect El Nino had on daily weather in Bozeman. Caprio has left an important legacy of scientific research embodying global warming and the effect of weather on agriculture. One of the most important contributions he made was the development of the Chi Square statistical method which is now being used worldwide. It determines the effect of the impact of daily weather on crops. The ability to do this on a daily basis had not been readily available until now.
He is known worldwide as the "Father of Scientific Phenology." Phenology means the study of periodic plant and animal life cycle events and how these are influenced by climate.
Joe was preceded in death by his parents; and his sister, Florence Caprio Daily.
Most important of all was that he was dearly loved and cherished by his wife of 60 years, Marilyn Frangos Caprio, and three daughters, Anne Marlene of Honolulu, Hawaii, Jean Arlene of Edmonton, Alberta, and May Darlene of Calgary, Alberta; and grandchildren, Charlene Shovic, Sean Whistler, Carolyn Triscott, Joanna Triscott, Elizabeth Triscott, Stephanie Prevette and Tyler Prevette. Caprio considered his family the greatest legacy of all.
A visitation will be held on Monday, Oct. 31, from 10 to 11 a.m. at Dahl Funeral Chapel. A funeral to celebrate Joe's life will be at 11 a.m. Monday at Dahl Funeral Chapel, followed by interment in Sunset Hills Cemetery.
Condolences and memories may be shared with the family at www.dahlcares.com.
Published by Bozeman Daily Chronicle on Oct. 28, 2011.