2020 NOAA Awards Recognize ARL Research Efforts

October 30, 2020

Margaret Simon

NOAA’s annual awards recognized several efforts within ARL. The 2020 NOAA Administrator’s Awards include the upgrade to the National Air Quality Forecasting Capability (NAQFC) developed jointly with ARL and NWS. OAR awards were also given to ARL’s Mark Cohen and Rick Jiang in the Personal & Professional Excellence Category for developing the ARL’s Locust Forecasting Web Application for the United Nations (UN) Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Both awards recognize the outstanding research and teamwork within the organization.

Air Quality forecasting upgrades recognized

More than a decade of NOAA research and modeling efforts in developing the NAQFC capability were recognized in 2020. The upgrade to the National Air Quality Forecasting Capability (NAQFC) developed jointly was a cooperative effort with ARL and NWS. ARL Awardees include ARL’s Pius Lee and Rick Saylor, joined by NWS’s Jeff McQueen, Ivanka Stajner and Dorothy Koch; the team is cited: For implementing and upgrading NOAA’s Air Quality Forecasting Capability for improving the lives of Americans and saving billions of dollars per year. Pius Lee and Rick Saylor have been closely supported at ARL by Daniel Tong, Youhua Tang, Tianfeng Chai, HyunCheol Kim, Fantine Ngan, Barry Baker and Patrick Campbell, some for more than a decade. This prestigious award recognizes the atmospheric research and modeling advances that improve our societal well-being.

The NAFCQ project began back in 2003 when the U.S. Congress mandated that NOAA launch NAQFC by the H.R. Energy Policy Act of 2002 (Senate Amendment) S. 517, SAI383, Forecast and Warning bill. The NOAA NAQFC forecasting service began nationwide coverage in 2006, with forecasts and warning of poor air quality that adversely affect the public. As of today, NAQFC provides daily 48-hour forecasts of ground-level ozone and PM2.5 (atmospheric particles with diameter less than 2.5 micrometers). These pollutants are silent, yet significant, sources of mortality, and productivity and property loss in the U.S. These features of the NAQFC provide a vital service to public health agencies across the country by saving at least 10,000 lives and billions of dollars of potential property-related losses on an annual basis since 2017. The highly accurate 48-hour forecasts of adverse pollution and air quality conditions allow state and local public safety and health agencies, at-risk citizens, and businesses to take advance preventive actions to aid in saving lives and mitigating property loss.

Locust forecasting application developed and deployed rapidly to meet urgent need in Africa.

The timescale for development of the locust forecasting application was vastly different. By late 2019 locust swarms had arisen in the horn of Africa, the worst in a quarter century. The UNFAO turned to ARL to see whether the HYSPLIT dispersion model could be used to issue forecasts and warnings to affected countries about a potentially devastating second wave of locust swarms. A core team including Mark, Rick, software engineer Sonny Zinn and Network Administrator Fred Shen, quickly developed a user friendly, web-based application using the HYSPLIT model at its core. Within a few weeks, Cohen and Zinn created the web application which now supports FAO’s operational forecasts. The product was well received and upgrades and improvements to the model are already being developed.