I had never met him, although we mailed once or twice in the past year. He also occasionally commented on the Arctic Sea Ice Forum, to chime in or explain one thing or other about some of the work he did.
Most of all, I increasingly used images and graphs from his wonderful personal website, for blog posts and on the Arctic Sea Ice Graphs website, that features several of his graphs on the front page.
I guess that's why the passing of this near-stranger really struck me emotionally. The fact that a scientist would spend so much of his energy and own time to freely share all that info and visualized data, not just for fellow scientists via the peer-review process, but for the lay public as well, on a website chock-full of near-real time graphs (snow cover, sea ice, model forecast)...
It's invaluable. It really says something about a person.
Back in July I paid extra attention to his prediction for this year's September minimum, writing a few things about it in this blog post. Who knows, Slater would perhaps even have improved his method, as it seems he was looking into the relationships between terrestrial snow cover and sea ice extent (based on this poster at the 2016 Polar Prediction Workshop). We'll never know.
Andrew Slater was about to enter the best and most productive phase of his career as a scientist, in a field that is in my view one of the most important on the planet, doing research and guiding students, helping science forward so that we collectively learn as much as we can about sea ice. Not to perfectly forecast when the Arctic will be ice-free, but to be able to bring it back safely one day.
We can't afford to lose such an important person, but we did. And that's life. Aside from the tragic loss for his relatives and friends, Andrew Slater's knowledge and skills will be sorely missed in decades to come. Even by people who didn't know him.