Outstanding accomplishment awards - 2017 nominees

Award winners will be announced at the all-staff holiday celebration, Dec. 8

November 27, 2017 |

UCAR Outstanding Accomplishment medallion
Winners of the UCAR Outstanding Accomplishment Awards are recognized with a monetary prize and a personalized version of this engraved medallion. (©UCAR.)

Listed below are the UCAR 2017 Outstanding Accomplishment Award nominations. Winners will be announced on December 8 at the 2017 Outstanding Accomplishment Awards and Holiday Celebration in the Center Green auditorium. To find out more, see About NCAR & UCAR Awards to Staff or check out the honor roll of previous award winners.

There are seven possible categories. Please note that if only one nomination was received in a particular category, that single nomination will not be listed below. The Administrative & Technical Support Services award will not be presented this year.

Update November 28, 2017: The nomination of the WRF-Hydro Modeling System has been added to the roster of Scientific and/or Technical Advancement nominees. It was accidentally omitted from an earlier version.

Mentoring Nominations

William Randel (ACOM)

Bill Randel has provided a sustained effort to work with students and postdoctoral scientists within the remote sensing group in ACOM, helping to develop the next generation of atmospheric research scientists. The research involves an array of topics aimed to develop and utilize satellite trace constituent observations, including making detailed comparisons to global model simulations. Randel often obtained funding to support graduate students and postdoctoral scientists at ACOM, guided research topics, and collaborated in developing and presenting results. These students have all benefited from Randel’s personal approach to mentoring, attention to detail, and focus on completing high quality publications. Most students have been inspired to go forward to become successful early career scientists.


Edward (Ned) Patton (MMM)

Ned Patton is being nominated for the UCAR mentoring award for his exceptional influence on the professional growth of NCAR early career scientists. Patton is a Project Scientist at NCAR who largely supports his own research program via external grants, which usually have specific deadlines and deliverables. Nevertheless, he consistently carves out time for postdocs and early career scientists, as well as graduate students that he frequently hosts for long-term visits at NCAR. His dedication to staff and visitors, who are sometimes working on topics unrelated to his externally funded projects, is commendable and unusual for an externally funded Project Scientist. His “open door” policy and willingness to pause whatever he is doing to provide help is a hallmark of Patton's mentoring strategy. His collaborators often note his willingness to unselfishly share his time and experience. Patton excels at providing instruction on numerical modeling of turbulent phenomena, but also helps interpret observations of turbulent flow, including data from field programs that he has helped organize. His efforts to transfer these skills to young scientists have profoundly altered their career trajectories in positive ways. Patton’s reputation is such that scientists have increasingly come to him for advice, technical consultation, and collaboration. Patton singlehandedly bolsters the reputation of NCAR and UCAR by launching careers and establishing long-term, mutually beneficial collaborations.


Branko Kosović (RAL)

RAL is pleased to nominate Branko Kosović for this year’s Mentoring Award for his work with numerous graduate students, visitors, and early career scientists. Kosović goes beyond simply sharing his strong technical expertise, to helping those he mentors better understand the scientific process, learn how to think about difficult problems, and hone the communication skills that are essential to succeeding as a scientist. His mentoring has had a substantial impact on the lives of a number of young scientists, helping to guide them through Ph.D. programs and start their own scientific careers. That impact has been especially noteworthy for the five female graduate students Kosović has mentored recently. Helping them launch careers in a field in which women are severely underrepresented (turbulence modeling) is a powerful testament to his mentoring skills. In addition, he has mentored several students on broader impact projects, working with younger children, including women and underprivileged youth. The letters provided by his mentees and colleagues speak to his personal credibility as a scientist and to his ability to model scientific integrity, help people discover their self-confidence, and help shape them as productive scientists and citizens. 

Outstanding Publication Nominations

Gerald Meehl, Aixue Hu, John Fasullo, Kevin Trenberth (all of CGD), and Julie Arblaster (Collaboration for Australian Weather and Climate Research/Bureau of Meteorology, Australia)

Externally forced and internally generated decadal climate variability associated with the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation, 2013, J. Climate, 26, 7298-7310, http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-12-00548.1.

In comparison to the rapid warming that occurred from the 1970s to 1990s, the trend of global mean surface temperature increase in the early 21st century slowed considerably. This is often referred to as the early-2000s slowdown or hiatus. Since human-produced greenhouse gases (GHGs) such as CO2 increased steadily throughout these periods, and the global mean temperature could be expected to increase at a comparably steady rate, then how could such epochs of surface temperature trends be so different? The authors of this paper addressed this seeming contradiction by definitively quantifying, for the first time, the interplay between naturally occurring variability in the climate system in the Pacific, and the response to increasing GHGs from human activity. The paper documented the discovery that as CO2 continues to increase, trapping more and more heat in the system, there are decades when this accumulating heat is mixed into the subsurface and deeper ocean, thus producing a reduced surface warming trend. In other decades, the trapped heat accumulates preferentially in the ocean surface layers and contributes to more rapid surface warming trends. This pioneering analysis of climate model simulations showed how these global warming trends are connected to decadal variability of tropical Pacific sea surface temperatures, and identified three physical processes that accomplish it. The paper started a new direction of research by providing a physical framework for the interplay between internal variability and external forcing, and pointed to the urgent need to be able to realistically simulate these interactions for credible near-term climate predictions.


Helen M. Worden, Merritt N. Deeter (both of ACOM), Christian Frankenberg (JPL/Caltech), Maya George (Sorbonne University Pierre & Marie Curie), Florian Nichitiu (University of Toronto), John Worden (JPL/Caltech), Ilse Aben (SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research), Kevin W. Bowman (JPL/Caltech), Cathy Clerbaux (Sorbonne University Pierre & Marie Curie and Free University of Brussels), Pierre F. Coheur (Free University of Brussels), T. Jos de Laat (SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research), Raymond Detweiler (UCAR SOARS alumnus), James R. Drummond (Dalhousie University, Canada), David P. Edwards, John C. Gille (both of ACOM), Daniel Hurtmans (Free University of Brussels), Ming Luo (JPL/Caltech), Sara Martínez-Alonso (Sorbonne University Pierre & Marie Curie), Steven Massie, Gabriele Pfister (both of ACOM), and Juying X. Warner (University of Maryland, College Park)

Decadal record of satellite carbon monoxide observations, 2013, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 13, 837-850, https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-13-837-2013.

Emissions of carbon monoxide (CO) into the atmosphere degrade air quality and indirectly contribute to climate warming. To enable predictions in chemistry-climate models, the broad impacts on tropospheric chemistry brought about by changes in CO abundance must be simulated accurately. This paper showed for the first time that atmospheric CO concentrations have been decreasing globally over the last decade, by using multiple satellite observations. Although regional trends in CO are variable, this paper reports the unexpected result that CO over Eastern China is also decreasing, in contrast to projections from bottom-up emissions inventories. The decreasing trends reported by the paper were cited in the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, since they have significant implications for greenhouse gas forcing by reducing the lifetime of methane and also by reducing growth rates of tropospheric ozone and carbon dioxide.


Greg Holland and Cindy Bruyére (both of MMM)

Recent intense hurricane response to global climate change, 2014. Climate Dynamics, 42, 617–627.

Are hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria a sign of things to come? And how are humans involved? The question of whether tropical cyclone intensity has already been influenced by anthropogenic climate change is hotly debated, with significant implications for societal impacts and response. The human fingerprint on tropical cyclones is quantified in this paper, with surprising conclusions. The majority of studies assume historical anthropogenic climate change to be the linear trend from the early 20th century to the present. This paper presents evidence that anthropogenic climate change began in the 1970s, thereby providing a new frame through which to understand it and its impacts on weather extremes. A new anthropogenic climate change index is developed, based simply on the distance between global climate model simulations with and without anthropogenic forcing. The authors use their new index to show that humans have already had an influence on global tropical cyclones, not in absolute frequencies but in the proportion of the most intense tropical cyclones. This has led to an increasingly bi-modal distribution of tropical cyclone intensities in recent decades. Perhaps most intriguing is the authors' hypothesis that this increasing bi-modality may reach a saturation, with no further increase in the proportion of the most intense tropical cyclones with continued warming.


Andrew Monaghan (RAL), Cory W. Morin (University of Washington), Daniel Steinhoff, Olga Wilhelmi, Mary Hayden (all of RAL), Dale A. Quattrochi (NASA Marshall Space Flight Center), Michael H. Reiskind (North Carolina State University), Alun L. Lloyd (North Carolina State University), Kirk A. Smith (Maricopa County Environmental Services), Christopher A. Schmidt (RAL), Paige E. Scalf (Durham University), and Kacey Ernst (University of Arizona)

On the seasonal occurrence and abundance of the Zika virus vector mosquito Aedes aegypti in the contiguous United States, 2016. PLoS Currents: Outbreaks, 1, doi:10.1371/currents.outbreaks.50dfc7f46798675fc63e7d7da563da76.

This “rapid-response” paper was written in early 2016, as the Zika virus pandemic was unfolding across the Americas, and motivated by the urgent need to provide early warning of risk for acquiring Zika in the United States. The work was performed, peer-reviewed, and published in less than eight weeks, representing a remarkable scientific achievement. This groundbreaking paper uses weather-driven models to characterize, for the first time, the seasonality of the mosquito that transmits Zika virus, Aedes aegypti, across the U.S. The interdisciplinary team then goes beyond weather, combining the simulated mosquito seasonality results with socioeconomic and travel factors to improve scientific understanding of when and where Zika can be spread. The resulting maps provided timely prediction, months in advance, guiding Zika surveillance and control activities in the U.S. In the words of one supporting letter, "This paper has hit the trifecta of making key contributions to our basic science knowledge, to methodological advances, and to applied knowledge with far-reaching societal impact." The paper has had at least 55 scholarly citations since March 2016, has been featured in more than 1,250 news articles informing the public, and the results were used by the White House during its request of emergency Zika funds from Congress.

Scientific and/or Technical Advancement Nominations


David Gochis, Roy Rasmussen, Wei Yu, Aubrey Dugger, James McCreight, Logan Karsten, Arezoo RafieeiNasab, David Yates, Laura Read, Michael Barlage, Kevin Sampson, Linlin Pan, Yongxin Zhang, Andy Gaydos, Molly McAllister, Joe Mills, Andrew Newman, Andrew Wood, Katelyn Fitzgerald (all of RAL)

WRF-Hydro Modeling System 

The WRF-Hydro team developed and transitioned the community WRF-Hydro modeling system into the National Water Model (NWM), the first operational, high-resolution, physics-based hydrologic prediction model ever implemented across the continental United States. Developed in close collaboration with the National Weather Service's Office of Water Prediction, the U.S. Geological Survey, and a number of university partners, the RAL team delivered the first version of the model in only one year (two years ahead of schedule), on a modest budget. Subsequent versions delivered in 2017 have provided important new capabilities and services and marked improvements in forecast skill. The model is now being used, as NWS Director Louis Uccellini stated in testimony to Congress in April 2017, to “solve a complex problem—tracking water flow across the country to aid local communities and emergency managers in responding to water-related threats.” It is also providing consistent, reliable, high-resolution data to decision makers across the country, helping them address increasingly complex societal issues related to flooding, drought, water availability and water quality. In addition to providing significant benefit to the operational community, the NWM is proving to be a valuable tool in the conduct of research and as a mechanism for moving research to operations. As an open source, open platform model, the NWM will continue to evolve to meet the nation’s complex needs for water resource planning and management information while also providing a seamless pathway for academic researchers to innovate new improvements in water prediction.


Scott Spuler, Matt Hayman, Tammy Weckwerth, Bruce Morley, Jim Ranson, Todd Bernatsky, Rich Erickson (all of EOL), Kevin Repasky (Montana State University), and Amin Nehrir (NASA Langley)

The NCAR Water Vapor DIAL Instrument

The design and development of the NCAR Water Vapor DIAL instrument is not only an impressive accomplishment in itself but a game changer in addressing the long-standing challenge of how to adequately sense water vapor on the mesoscale. Our nomination recognizes this innovative and sustained multi-year effort that turned a prototype semiconductor laser WV DIAL system into a low-cost, autonomous, field deployable system now available to the broader NSF community. Measuring water vapor profiles in the lower atmosphere at high temporal and vertical resolution has been long recognized by the research community as one of the essential steps toward improving numerical weather prediction and quantitative precipitation forecasting. After several years of development and in-depth testing, this next-generation system is capable of collecting unprecedented continuous vertical profiles of water vapor that are comparable to data derived from rawinsondes. As proven during several field campaigns, the WV DIAL outperforms other commercially available ground-based moisture profiling systems. Most recently, the team received funding from NSF to construct four additional WV DIAL systems to form a network to be used on a national scale, effectively revolutionizing weather prediction in the United States. The work of the WV DIAL team gives testimony to EOL’s expertise in scientific and engineering leadership, design and fabrication, and collaboration with the university community.


Frank Flocke, Gabriele Pfister (both of ACOM) and James Crawford (NASA Langley)

The FRAPPÉ and DISCOVER-AQ experiments

The nominees served as principal investigators on the FRAPPÉ (Front Range Air Pollution and Photochemistry Experiment) and DISCOVER-AQ (Deriving Information on Surface conditions from Column and Vertically Resolved Observations Relevant to Air Quality) experiments, which were carried out jointly in Colorado in the summer of 2014. This mission was innovative and exemplary in the way it was funded and executed. Both the mission itself and the continued presentation of results by the Principal Investigators to local stakeholders and the public, as well as the scientific community, greatly fostered the visibility of NCAR and its reputation for world-class air quality research.


Glen Romine, Craig Schwartz, Kate Fossell, Ryan Sobash, and Morris Weisman (all of MMM)

The NCAR Ensemble Project

The NCAR Ensemble team is nominated for their conceptualization, development, and execution of a real-time, high-resolution, ensemble weather prediction system designed to answer fundamental questions about the predictability of high-impact weather. The team developed this end-to-end numerical weather prediction system leveraging NCAR community facilities for ensemble data assimilation (DART, the Data Assimilation Research Testbed) and weather prediction (Advanced Research WRF, the Weather Research and Forecasting model). The team overcame many technical challenges to combine these tools with necessary software infrastructure to create custom initial conditions for forecasts, robust tools to monitor and execute the forecasts, novel diagnostics to extract statistics for high-impact weather threats, real-time probabilistic forecast guidance and verification statistics, and an eye-catching suite of scientific visualization that set the community standard for interrogation of ensemble forecast guidance. The ongoing NCAR Ensemble project, begun in April of 2015, has garnered considerable attention from a diverse community spanning university, government, and private sectors, drawing over 45,000 visitors to the NCAR Ensemble website from 138 countries and all 50 U.S. states. Described in one supporting letter as an "earth-shattering scientific development," the Ensemble has produced a one-of-a-kind data set that is freely available to the UCAR community (and beyond) and has already served as the basis for numerous collaborative research activities with universities, including tornado prediction, orographic snowfall, power grid interruptions, predictability of damaging hailstorms, and East Coast winter cyclones.