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Yongqi Gao will be remembered for his exceptional kindness, his patience, and his dedication in building trust and collaboration. When Yongqi entered the room, everyone felt happy. Photo: Gudrun Sylte

Yongqi Gao (1965–2021)

Our beloved and highly esteemed colleague and friend Yongqi Gao died peacefully at home Friday 23 July. He leaves behind his wife, son, and daughter.


Written by Tore Furevik, Tor Eldevik and Helge Drange on behalf of friends and colleagues at the Nansen Center, the Geophysical Institute at the University of Bergen, and the Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research.

Yongqi Gao grew up in Datong in the Shanxi province in northern China. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the Peking University in Beijing in 1988 and worked for several years as a research assistant at the Institute of Atmospheric Physics under the Chinese Academy of Sciences. In 1996 Yongqi moved to Bergen where he completed his master’s degree in 1998 and PhD degree in 2003, both at the University of Bergen. He has been employed at the Nansen Center since 1998.

Yongqi Gao has been a very active and productive scientist. In his PhD work, he studied chemical tracers in an ocean model. Using observed transport and dispersion rates of pollution from known sources such as nuclear bomb explosions in the 1960’s, such tracers could be used to improve the mixing and advection rates in the model. And the models could then be used to predict the spreading of nuclear waste from e.g., the Sellafield power plant in the UK or after the Fukushima catastrophe in Japan.

Another of his research interests has been to understand and predict the variations in the large-scale ocean circulation in the North Atlantic. This is important not only for the size and distribution of our rich fish stocks, but also for the climate of northern Europe and Arctic. Since the turn of the century, the Arctic has become much warmer and lost much of its sea ice. An important research question is to what extent these changes can influence climate and weather extremes further to the south, and here Yongqi has made numerous contributions. 

Yongqi Gao has written more than 100 scientific papers, showing a research capacity few can match. Still, his probably greatest contribution to climate science has been the way he has used his enthusiasm, inclusiveness, intelligence, and energy to promote and establish research collaboration between Norway and China. A concrete result is the Nansen-Zhu Centre established in 2003, connecting several leading Chinese institutions with the Nansen Center, the University of Bergen, and NORCE. Several Norwegian and Chinese ministers have visited the Centre, and during the 15 years anniversary in 2018, even the King of Norway paid his visit.

Yongqi Gao often referred to the proverb “If you want to go fast, go yourself. If you want to go far, go together”. And we are many that have gone far together with Yongqi. Hundreds of PhD students and scientists have benefited from the Nansen-Zhu collaboration, attending joint projects, workshops, summer schools, and mobility schemes. There is a strong will from both Chinese and Norwegian partners to carry on the unfinished lifework of Yongqi and further consolidate and develop the Norway-China collaboration in the Earth sciences. 

Yongqi was a person always smiling and optimistic, even to the near end. We will remember him for his exceptional kindness, his patience, and his dedication in building trust and collaboration. And last but not least for his inclusive friendship. As someone said, when Yongqi entered the room, everyone felt happy. Our thoughts these days go to his wife, his son, and his daughter.

Thank you, Yongqi, for all you have meant to us. You will always be in our hearts.