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4 STAR Scientists Honored with 2012 NOAA Bronze Medals

photo: Fred Wu, Bob Kuligowski, Mark DeMaria, John Knaff & Celso Barrientos2 May 2012 - Last month 4 different STAR scientists were honored for scientific excellence, government service and leadership at the NOAA Bronze Medal Awards, held on May 1, 2012 at the NOAA Auditorium in Silver Spring. At the same ceremony, Dr. Celso S. Barrientos was also posthumously honored.

Xiangqian "Fred" Wu

logo: Global Space-Based Intercalibration SystemDr. Wu was honored for scientific engineering in developing an international science algorithm to provide climate quality data from geostationary weather satellites, and then engaging with scientific peers to secure its adoption by international operational satellite agencies, including NOAA. His combination of scientific and leadership efforts enable significantly improved climate and weather applications from geostationary satellites.

Dr. Wu accomplished this by leading the GSICS (Global Space- Based Intercalibration System) Research Working Group of international scientists in developing a novel consensus algorithm now used by international operational satellite agencies, including NOAA. The algorithm non-climate quality geostationary satellites are continuously calibrated to climate-quality hyperspectral infrared sensor data on polar- orbiting satellites, enabling significantly improved climate and weather applications from geostationary satellites.

Bob Kuligowski

NESDIS Hydro-Estimator image showing heavy rain over Namibia 2-2-2011. Used by the Namibia Hydrological Service to trigger flood warnings Dr. Kuligowski was honored for his work advancing satellite-based real- time precipitation products to improve global hydrologic monitoring and forecasting. The goal was to implement systems and procedures that provide reliable, real-time precipitation estimates from NOAA satellite data in order to improve flash flood monitoring and forecasting around the world, enabling people in developing nations that are not always well-supported with meteorological information services to prepare for and respond to extreme weather events, saving lives and sparing property in the most extreme cases.

In most developing countries, rainfall information is scarce or unavailable; even where there is radar coverage, forecasts and data may be incomplete and data outages occur. There is a significant need for satellite information to improve operational precipitation monitoring and forecasting. Dr. Kuligowski recognized that the satellite retrieval processing systems developed at NOAA for domestic use were a valuable tool to provide the information needed in data-scarce regions worldwide. He led the enhancement, transfer and implementation of NOAA's Hydro-Estimator system to recipients in Costa Rica and Mexico. The system in Costa Rica feeds a flash flood modeling system that provides critical flash flood guidance to the Meteorological Services of seven Central American countries. Bob has also led the efforts to include the hydro-estimator in other regional systems around the globe. Dr. Kuligowski is now working with the WMO, the Hydrologic Research Center, and USAID to build a Global Flash Flood Guidance System, and is partnering with the Egyptian Government to implement a satellite rainfall estimation processing system.

The product implemented by Dr. Kuligowski has made a significant impact during several intense rainfall events around the globe, including an unusual rainstorm in Namibia that caused extensive flooding, and flash flooding in Thailand that affected 286,000 people in Spring 2011. The Hydro-estimator was the only forecast information resource for the Haiti-Dominican Republic Flash Flood Guidance System. Hourly rainfall estimates were also very valuable during the passage of Hurricane Tomas near the western coast of Haiti in November 2010 and were used for humanitarian and disaster relief planning.

Mark DeMaria
John A. Knaff
John Kaplan (OAR)

Mark DeMaria's team was recognized for providing skillful operational hurricane intensity models as demonstrated by the National Hurricane Center (NHC) forecast verifications for the 2009 and 2010 seasons. The team developed innovative methods to provide skillful operational forecasts of intensity changes in tropical cyclones. The success of these models is a significant first step in solving the problem of forecasting hurricane intensity change, a problem that has seen little progress in recent years.

Accurately forecasting hurricane intensity changes can reduce loss of life and property destruction due to hurricanes. The use of atmospheric models, which has worked well in other areas such as winter storms and hurricane tracks, has not worked as well to predict hurricane intensity changes. DeMaria's team developed an alternate approach to the problem that takes advantage of the improved prediction of hurricane tracks and the surrounding environment, as well as remote sensing observations. However, rather than predicting the intensity changes directly from the atmospheric models, intensity changes are estimated from observed relationships between intensity changes and the remote sensing observations and the more reliable information from the atmospheric models.

Hurricane Intensity metrics over timeMore accurate and timely storm warnings benefit everyone in hurricane prone areas. This research provides the NHC with a tool to improve their forecasts of rapid changes of storm intensity and, consequently, the storm's destructive potential. For example, during Hurricane Adrian, the first storm of the 2011 east Pacific season, the statistical models showed a very high probability of rapid intensification, which was used by NHC to correctly increase their intensity forecast for that storm, as documented in their tropical weather discussion products.

The top panel shows the trends of the Official NHC intensity errors as a function of year since 1990, which shows slow and steady improvements, especially at the longer lead times. The bottom panel shows the performance of the best statistical-dynamical model (SHIPS 1990-2000, D- SHIPS 2001-2005, LGEM 2006-2011), which shows a rather steady and impressive reduction of errors over the same 1990-2011 period.

Dr. Celso S. Barrientos
NOAA Distinguished Career Award

Dr. Barrientos was posthumously honored with a NOAA Distinguished Career Award for his long career at NOAA and the sustained excellence of his work in scientific management, equal employment, and community outreach efforts over 41 years of service. His wife accepted the award in his honor. Dr. Barrientos died in November 2010.