2021 NOAA Administrator Awards Recognize ARL Efforts in Atmospheric Research

October 29, 2021

Several ARL projects and accomplishments were recognized in the NOAA Administrator’s awards during a ceremony on October 27, 2021, including two bronze medals. The highest honor award granted by the NOAA Administrator, the Department of Commerce Bronze Medal recognizes federal employees for superior performance and is awarded to individuals, groups (or teams), and organizations.

One team recognized included ARL’s Rick Saylor for Scientific or Engineering Achievement. The award was presented to the GEFS-Aerosols effort to integrate weather and air quality forecasts to generate week long forecasts of aerosol components such as dust, wildfire smoke, carbon, and volcanic ash. The model was incorporated into service by the National Weather Service on September 20, 2020 following a five year effort between NOAA’s Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) and the National Weather Service. A visualization of the tool’s capability is at right.

Also receiving a bronze medal was a group including Ariel Stein, Acting Director of ARL, for Organizational Development. He was one of several leaders across OAR and NESDIS that coordinated the unique research opportunity that pandemic lockdowns offered to study our environment. The team prioritized research to explore the relationship between various levels of human activity and their environmental impact.

Finally, HYSPLIT tools for decision makers were also recognized in one award to the NOAA’s Weather Forecast Office (WFO) Houston/Galveston, TX, for innovative, live-saving decision support services during the Deer Park fire and resultant hazardous material release lasting five weeks. HYSPLIT transport and dispersion models provided essential information to the WFO to respond to the  Deer Park chemical fire which broke out in March 2019, shown below.

At approximately 10:20 am local time on March 17, 2019, a tank caught on fire in Houston, Texas. Impacts to the local air quality were monitored for weeks by a variety of federal, state, and local agencies. Image credit: EPA.gov

Graphic depicting the location of the fire and modeled concentrations of the smoke footprint color coded for high or low concentration. Extends West from near Deer Park, across Houston, to/past Cypress, TX.

March 19, 2019 Deer Park Fire smoke plume dispersion derived from HYSPLIT. Credit: NOAA NWS