Sowa was born in Montana and studied meteorology at the Spartan School of Aeronautics, Tulsa, Oklahoma. He joined Northwest Airlines in 1945 and worked in Minneapolis, Seattle and Anchorage before becoming meteorology superintendent in 1959.
Under Sowa’s guidance, Northwest became the industry leader in gathering and using weather data. He pioneered studies of low-level wind shear, mountain and clear-air turbulence as well as their effects on airline operations. He also helped develop Northwest’s Turbulence Plot Program, which provided pilots with up-to-the-minute weather warnings and helped Northwest to gain the highest reputation for passenger safety and comfort.
Sowa lectured worldwide, published numerous papers on weather and earned several prestigious awards. He retired in 1986.