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‘Tis the season for awards

Celebrating and toasting at the all-staff holiday party

December 19, 2012 | Food, drink, music, and seasonal cheer set the scene at the annual all-staff party on December 14 at Center Green. In his first year as master of ceremonies, UCAR president Tom Bogdan announced winners of internal awards and saluted his predecessor with a special honor. Tom and fellow President's Council members also paid tribute to staff who had won major external awards in the last year. 

Sizzle String Band and UCARolers

Top: The Sizzle String Band, which traditionally opens the all-staff holiday party, includes members include (left to right, all CISL unless otherwise noted) Ed Snyder, David Brown, Jeff Alipit, Nan Rosenbloom (NESL/CGD), Markus Stobbs, and John Hernandez. See a video clip of the band in action. (©UCAR, Photos and video by Carlye Calvin.)

Bottom: The UCARolers paid tribute to outgoing NCAR director Roger Wakimoto in “Old Time Rock and Roll” fashion. The lineup included (left to right) Wendy Abshire (COMET), Lesley Smith (NESL/CGD), Anita Monk-Ryan (F&A), Carol Park (NCAR Directorate), Bob Henson and Zhenya Gallon (Communications), Craig Hartsough (NESL/ACD), and Carl Drews (NESL/ACD). See video clips of Wendy’s tribute to Roger and the UCARolers strutting their stuff.

The party kicked off in a mellow mood with the bluegrass-flavored, CISL-based Sizzle String Band. Another traditional act, the UCARolers, serenaded outgoing NCAR director Roger Wakimoto with a reworking of the 1978 Bob Seger classic “Old Time Rock and Roll.” (See photos and links to video clips at right.) 

After the awards presentation, which drew a packed house, attendees dug into a tasty and varied dinner spread served up by Event Services. The crowd also moved to the lively retro-rock beats of the Nacho Men. 

Former UCAR president Rick Anthes, the host of many holiday parties in years past, found himself back on stage this year to accept his designation as NCAR Distinguished Scholar. Rick is the second person so honored, following Guy Brasseur last year.

Rick Anthes
Scott Sternberg (Vaisala) discusses the illustrious career of Rick Anthes (right), as fellow UCAR trustee Ric Porreca (CU-Boulder) looks on. 

The Distinguished Scholar program offers the highest honors that can be bestowed upon NCAR scientists who are either retired or in a part-time phased-retirement position. Testimonial's to Rick's exceptional career, which has included both administrative and scholarly contributions, came from two UCAR Board of Trustee members: Scott Sternberg (Vaisala) and Ric Porreca (University of Colorado Boulder).

Here's a rundown on this year's award winners.

Sunspot science nets a Distinguished Achievement Award

UCAR and NCAR’s highest honor, the Distinguished Achievement Award, went to Matthias Rempel (HAO).The award was presented this year for only the sixth time in its 12-year history.

Matthias Rempel with UCAR/NCAR managers
Left to right:  Roger Wakimoto, Maura Hagan, Matthias Rempel, Tom Bogdan, Katy Schmoll, and Hanne Mauriello.

Matthias was recognized for his innovative computational analyses and visualizations of sunspot behavior, which have helped solar researchers make long-sought headway on understanding how sunspots evolve. “This work has profoundly impacted solar physics and has provided, for the first time in human history, a reliable and comprehensive physical model of a sunspot,” said Tom.

Matthias’s 2009 paper in Science on the project was deemed “arguably the most important solar physics paper in the past 30 years” by renowned solar physicist Eric Priest (University of St. Andrews).

Outstanding Performance Award winners

The full list of nominations for each Outstanding Performance Award appeared in Staff Notes Daily on December 3. (Nominations are not announced in a given category if there is only one nominee or if that award is not granted in a particular year.) For details on the internal awards process, and archives of internal and external award winners from past years, see the Honors and Awards website.

All winners are photographed below with UCAR president Tom Bogdan, NCAR director Roger Wakimoto, NCAR deputy director Maura Hagan, UCAR vice president for finance and administration Katy Schmoll, and UCP interim director Hanne Mauriello.

Outstanding Publication

Thomas Karl (NESL/ACD), Peter Harley (NESL/ACD), Louisa Emmons (NESL/ACD), Brenda Thornton (University of Northern Colorado), Alex Guenther (NESL/ACD), Chhandak Basu (UNC), Andrew Turnipseed (NESL/ACD), and Kolby Jardine (University of Arizona), for
Karl, T., P. Harley, L. Emmons, B. Thornton, A. Guenther, C. Basu, A. Turnipseed, and K. Jardine, 2010: Efficient atmospheric cleansing of oxidized organic trace gases by vegetation.  Science 330, 816-819.

Group photo of 2012 Outstanding Publication Award winners
Left to right:  Roger Wakimoto, Maura Hagan, Louisa Emmons, Katy Schmoll, Alex Guenther, Hanne Mauriello, and Tom Bogdan

This paper shows that deciduous plants absorb far more pollution than previously thought. The research uses observations, gene expression studies, and computer modeling to show that vegetation can play an unexpectedly large role in cleansing the atmosphere.The findings presented came as a surprise and connected separate scientific communities across atmospheric, biological, and chemical science fields.

A unique, diverse group consisting of atmospheric scientists, plant physiologists, and molecular biologists was able to tackle a complex biogeochemical problem and study the impact on the atmosphere.The paper’s scientific significance is already demonstrated by its high ISI citation rate (27 citations in two years).  

Scientific and/or Technical Advancement

Jeff Anderson, Nancy Collins, Tim Hoar, Hui Liu, Kevin Raeder (all from CISL/IMAGe), and Glen Romine (NESL/MMM), for development of the Data Assimilation Research Testbed (DART).

Data assimilation (DA) is the process of combining observations with models. DA is the cornerstone of modern weather prediction, but it is also an essential tool for improving models, designing observing systems, and understanding the physical world.  However, the extreme difficulty and cost of building DA systems meant that most NCAR models had no DA capability at the start of the 21st century. This critical shortcoming has been rectified by the development of the Data Assimilation Research Testbed (DART), a unique community software facility that provides DA for a growing list of more than a dozen major geophysical models, including nearly all NCAR community models. 

Group photo of 2012 Scientific and/or Technical Advancement Award

Left to right:  Roger Wakimoto, Maura Hagan, Nancy Collins, Glen Romine, Jeff Anderson, Kevin Raeder, Hui Liu, Hanne Mauriello, Katy Schmoll, and Tom Bogdan.

Using innovative algorithms and creative software engineering, DART provides state-of-the-art DA tools that empower the scientific progress of model users, model developers, and observational scientists. Its impact has been widespread, with downloads by users at 48 UCAR member universities and 360 other organizations, resulting in dozens of research papers published every year. In addition, DART is a teaching tool used at many universities and for DART community tutorials to train a cadre of early career scientists in DA methods.

The impact on atmospheric and related sciences has been transformative, ranging from improvements in the prediction of tropical storms to decadal climate predictions in the Community Earth System Model. DART also unites a growing research community of DA experts and users, faciliating collaborations that are accelerating the development of enhanced DA algorithms for all applications.

Education and Outreach

Dennis Shea (NESL/CGD), Mary Haley (CISL/TDD), and Dave Brown (CISL/TDD)
, for an ongoing series of NCAR Command Language workshops

Group photo of 2012 Outstanding Performance Award winners
Left to right:  Roger Wakimoto, Maura Hagan, Dennis Shea, Dave Brown, Katy Schmoll, Hanne Mauriello, and Tom Bogdan.

NCAR Command Language (NCL) is an open source, interpreted programming language designed specifically for the analysis and visualization of geoscientific data. It is developed and supported by staff in CISL/TDD, with scientific consulting support from staff in NESL/CGD.

The workshop program provides specific training in the use of NCL, along with more general training in the area of programming and fundamentals of scientific data analysis and visualization in the Earth system sciences. These workshops directly address NCAR’s mission to “support, enhance, and extend the capabilities of the university community and the broader scientific community—nationally and internationally” and have been a highly successful, multi-year international community capability building effort, reaching students and researchers worldwide. The analysis of large, complex data is a rapidly growing and well-recognized challenge in our community, and this unique training program is aimed at advancing our ability to meet it.

External award winners

Winners of 2012 external awards
Left to right: Roger Wakimoto, Maura Hagan, Fei Chen, Karyn Sawyer, Hanne Mauriello, Kevin Trenberth, Tom Bogdan, Katy Schmoll.

Staff members who won external awards in the past year were spotlighted at the holiday party. They included:

Fei Chen (RAL), AMS Fellow

Jeff Kiehl (NESL/CGD), AGU Climate Communication Award (see Staff News article, August 3)

Margaret “Peggy” LeMone (NESL/MMM), AMS Joanne Simpson Mentorship Award

Kevin Trenberth (NESL/CGD) and Aiguo Dai (formerly NESL/CGD, now at the University at Albany, State University of New York)Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz International Prize for Water (see sidebar, below)

Karyn Sawyer (UCP/JOSS), Special AMS Award for field campaign support over more than three decades

Roger Wakimoto (NCAR), AMS Charles Franklin Brooks Award for Outstanding Services to the Society

See the Staff News article, October 9 for more on the AMS honors, which will be presented to Peggy, Roger, Karyn, and Fei next month at the 2013 AMS annual meeting in Austin.

Like parties?

If you’re wondering how events such as the holiday party come together, it’s largely through the hard work of the Employee Activities Committee. This low-key volunteer group coordinates all-staff events and secures a variety of discounts for employees. The group’s informal motto: “If it’s not fun, we’re not doing it!”

The committee is now seeking several fun-loving, energetic folks who can attend monthly lunchtime meetings and pitch in on specific projects to help enrich the lives of their fellow employees. To find out more, contact EAC chair Chrissy Fladung, ext. 2139, or Kristin Alipit, ext. 1661.

Kevin Trenberth, Aiguo Dai win international water prize

As water gains an ever-higher profile in geopolitics, a major international honor in hydrologic science is going to a pair of scientists who have carried out landmark research at NCAR. Kevin Trenberth (NESL/CGD) will accept the Surface Water Prize—one of five categories in the biennial Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz International Prize for Water—at a ceremony in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on January 6, 2013.

The $133,000 Surface Water Prize is being shared by Kevin and former NESL/CGD colleague Aiguo Dai, who has joined the University at Albany, State University of New York, as an associate professor.

The award citation notes the team’s “groundbreaking work that provides a powerful estimate of the effects of climate change on the global hydrological cycle, with a clear explanation of the global water budget.”

The International Prize for Water was founded by Sultan Bin Abdulaziz in 2002 during his tenure as crown prince of Saudi Arabia. Among its goals are acknowledging work related to global water scarcity and sustainable water supplies. The award categories include Creativity, Groundwater, Alternative Water, and Water Management as well as Surface Water.

Kevin was among several winners of external awards recognized at the all-staff holiday party on December 14 (see main article).