Staff awards presented at holiday party

Festive event highlights outstanding achievement

December 15, 2014 | It was a packed house at CG1 on Friday, December 12, for the annual EAC all-staff holiday party and awards presentation. Many UCAR staff members and their families turned out for the fun and enjoyed a great meal, music, awards, and time to connect with colleagues. 

The Nasal Ridge Pickers bluegrass band kicked off the event in the main ballroom. NCAR director Jim Hurrell then recognized our external award winners, followed by UCAR president Tom Bogdan's presentation of the UCAR Outstanding Accomplishment Awards. Following the awards ceremony, Events Services served a fabulous holiday feast and Tom's band, Dr. T and the Trouble, took center stage with some great classic rock songs. 

Outstanding Accomplishment Award Winners

Tom Bogdan announced winners of the 2014 Outstanding Accomplishment Awards. The full list of nominations appeared in Staff News on Dec. 2. 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.

Mary Marlino, Steve Yeager, Tom Bogdan, Alicia Karspeck, Joe Tribbia, Michael Thompson at 2015 holiday party
Mary Marlino (far left), Tom Bogdan (third from left), Michael Thompson (second from right), and Jim Hurrell (far right) accompany winners of the 2015 Outstanding Publication Award: (left to right) Steve Yeager, Alicia Karspeck, and Joe Tribbia. Not pictured: Gokhan Danabasoglu and Haiyan Teng. (Photo by Rebecca Swisher, ©UCAR.)


Outstanding Publication Winner

Stephen Yeager (NESL/CGD), Alicia Karspeck (NESL/CGD), Gokhan Danabasoglu (NESL/CGD), Joe Tribbia (NESL/CGD), and Haiyan Teng (NESL/CGD)

Stephen Yeager, Alicia Karspeck, Gokhan Danabasoglu, Joe Tribbia, and Haiyan Teng, 2012: A decadal prediction case study: Late Twentieth-Century North Atlantic Ocean heat content. Journal of Climate, 25, 5173–5189, doi: 10.1175/JCLI-D-11-00595.1.

Predicting climate change in the near-term, over time horizons of up to a few decades into the future, is a relatively new and rapidly evolving field of climate science. Such “decadal prediction” research is aimed at bridging the gap between seasonal-to-interannual forecasting carried out by many operational weather services worldwide, and the centennial timescale future climate change projections that are the mainstays of the periodic IPCC assessments. Decadal time scales and regional spatial scales are particularly relevant to policy makers and other climate stakeholders. Skillful decadal predictions have the potential to confer tremendous benefits to society by providing advance warning of climate changes such as prolonged droughts, severe heat waves, and increased hurricane activity. The nominated publication distinguishes itself as an outstanding publication on the topic of decadal prediction in several respects:

  • This study has provided impetus for continued and expanded decadal prediction efforts at NCAR, and influenced the latest Strategic Plans of NCAR, NESL and CGD that now highlight decadal climate prediction as a Grand Challenge objective (NCAR Strategic Plan: 2014-2019).
  • It demonstrates that significant decadal prediction skill is possible today using community models developed by NCAR.
  • It goes beyond simply documenting predictive skill by providing a clear explanation of the physical processes that give rise to that skill through a rigorous and innovative analysis of a relevant case study.

Its immediate and lasting impact on the international research community is evidenced by a high and accelerating citation rate.

Mentoring Winner

Greg Holland (NESL/MMM)

Greg has a formidable scientific and leadership reputation and is widely known for mentoring young scientists in the field of extreme weather, in particular tropical cyclones. His commitment to mentoring throughout his career not only advanced the careers of fortunate mentees but also had broader impacts across UCAR through increased diversity in the workplace, proposal success rates, innovative interdisciplinary research papers, and closer integration of UCAR science with society. Greg thrives on interaction with young scientists, and provides the nurturing environment for early career scientists to realize their full potential. Greg’s holistic mentoring style integrates good science with a multitude of other skills necessary to succeed in today’s research environment. This includes being strategic in research direction, creating networks, developing niche research areas, and being ahead of the game—all critical to attract sustained funding. His vision saw the creation of the new Regional Climate Section in MMM—an interdisciplinary mix of young atmospheric and social scientists, engineers and statisticians—with the goal to understand the interactions between society and high- impact weather and climate. This section grew from a team of four in 2010 to fourteen in 2014 and provides a supportive environment for young scientists to grow, network, and interact easily across disciplines and societal communities. Greg's mentorship has ultimately created a bolder, more relevant UCAR.

Education and Outreach Winner

Alison Rockwell (EOL)

As the provider of the majority of NSF’s Lower Atmospheric Observing Facilities (LAOF), EOL routinely conducts international and domestic field campaigns. While these campaigns provide an excellent opportunity to carry out public engagement and educational activities in parallel with the conduct of science itself, such activities have until recently been the responsibility of the science team Principal Investigators (PIs) as part of the broader impacts of a funded science proposal. Over the last five years, however, Alison has single-handedly developed the EOL Program for Education and Public Engagement to help PIs implement targeted education and outreach activities as part of their field campaigns. She tailors activities to the research being performed, the needs of each science team and their level of participation, as well as the make-up of and opportunities within each campaign’s host community. The goals of these activities are to stimulate public interest in the wide range of scientific questions that are addressed through fieldwork; to capture the imagination of the public and students of all ages; and to reach out and help increase the number of “science appreciators” who are essential to continued national investment in science. Alison’s ideas, hard work and enthusiasm have not only earned her the respect of scientists and NSF Program Officers but have also significantly raised the visibility of NSF-funded and NCAR-supported research around the world, and have enhanced the public’s understanding of science.

Diversity Winner

Rebecca Haacker (UCP/UCSE)

Rebecca's nomination is for her outstanding accomplishment in increasing UCAR’s direct impact on increasing the diversity of the geoscience workforce, and for strategically setting in motion a sea change in how internships mentor and retain underrepresented students through educating and supporting faculty across the nation. Rebecca’s impact has grown from 20 students per year in the SOARS internship program to more than 160 faculty and one thousand undergraduates per year. Currently about 40 percent of doctoral degrees in the atmospheric sciences earned by underrepresented groups come from the SOARS program, and this number is rising. In addition, Rebecca has strategically expanded the diversity-focused SOARS program into a more broadly impacting SOARS Center for Undergraduate Research by: (1) adapting and expanding the SOARS model to new SOARS programs that focus on community colleges and high school students, first-generation students, and veterans; (2) mentoring a growing cohort of SOARS alumni for years after the program through graduate school and beyond; (3) working with other labs on building SOARS-like diversity internship programs; (4) speaking and publishing to national and international geoscience audiences on diversity strategies; and (5) leading efforts to train the nation’s geoscience faculty on increasing diversity through high-quality workshops, conference sessions, and online resources. As a result, Rebecca has become a respected and influential leader on broadening participation in the atmospheric science workforce nationally and has positioned UCAR as a renowned leader in serving the university community in diversity priorities in the geosciences. 

Scientific and/or Technical Advancement Winners

Piyush Agrawal (CU), Justus Brosche (CU), Greg Card (HAO), Rebecca Centeno-Elliott (HAO), Clemens Halbgewachs (University of Freiburg), Bruce Hardy (consultant), Michael Knölker (HAO), Alice Lecinski (HAO), Ron Lull (HAO), Chris Mahan (EOL), Courtney Peck (CU), Jim Ranson (EOL), Rich Summers (HAO), and Tom Wissman (EOL).

The Sunrise balloon-borne observatory produced the highest-resolution images ever taken of the Sun. Engineers and scientists in HAO and EOL worked with international partner institutions and the NASA Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility to win two science proposals totaling more than $6 million to realize two science flights of Sunrise. The objective of the NCAR effort was threefold: 1) to develop a gondola observing platform that was strong enough to protect the delicate one-meter Sunrise primary mirror and post-focus scientific instrumentation; 2) to design an agile and intelligent control system that would maintain solar pointing accuracy to within one-tenth of an arc second for prolonged periods of time in the harsh wind shears of the Earth's stratosphere; and 3) to bring the mirror, instruments, and valuable science data safely to the ground again. The NCAR team that designed, built, rebuilt, and flew the gondola and pointing system has enabled groundbreaking observations of the Sun at spatio-temporal resolutions never before achieved.