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CIRES Outstanding Performance Awards >

2011 Director's Award for Diversity

Leslie Hartten (Physical Sciences Division-PSD)

CIRES Director Konrad Steffen in 2010 determined that CIRES should make it a priority to devote some of our expertise and resources toward the goal of increasing diversity in the sciences. We want to extend our knowledge and our community to include more of the diverse ethnic groups that make up society and obtain a better gender balance. As a part of that effort Koni instituted the Director's Award for Diversity. This occasional award recognizes outstanding accomplishments by CIRES employees to enhance diversity in the scientific community and scientific understanding in diverse communities.

For her extensive volunteer effort with the SOARS program over the last ten years Dr. Leslie Hartten is the premier recipient of the Director's Award for Diversity. SOARS, Significant Opportunities in Atmospheric Research and Science, is an undergraduate-to-graduate bridge program designed to broaden participation in the atmospheric and related sciences. Managed locally by UCAR, SOARS is built around research, mentoring and community. As a scientific mentor each summer, Dr. Hartten has worked one-on-one with SOARS summer interns (called SOARS protégés), designing appropriate, authentic research projects, teaching relevant scientific content and processes, building tools to support protégés' investigations, and guiding her protégés in their research. SOARS Program Director Rajul Pandya writes, "She has also supported protégés in presenting their summer research successfully at an end-of-summer research colloquium at UCAR, as well as at national conferences including the American Meteorological Society and AGU. SOARS estimates that scientific mentors, like Dr. Hartten, spend an average of 10 hours a week working with their SOARS protégé in the summer, so the investment of time and energy, especially over ten consecutive years, is significant. Dr. Hartten's investment in protégés especially stands out; the steering committee for SOARS onsiders her an ideal mentor for first-year protégés because of her commitment, dedication, and willingness to invest whatever time is necessary to ensure their success."

2011 Science and Engineering Awards

Dave Carter, Dave Costa and Paul Johnston (Physical Sciences Division-PSD)

Paul Johnston, Dave Costa and Dave Carter are three outstanding CIRES scientists who have teamed up to design, prototype, build, and deploy a new network of snow-level radars for California. The snow level, the altitude in the atmosphere where snow changes into rain, is a critical parameter influencing runoff in mountainous watersheds because it determines the surface area of the watershed that will be exposed to rain versus snow. When the snow level is above most or all of the terrain in a watershed, a storm is more likely to produce enough rapid runoff to cause flooding. On the other hand, if the snow level is low in a watershed, then the storm increases the snowpack, providing valuable storage of water for potential later use. The radar instruments typically used to measure snow level are prohibitively expensive, particularly for state-wide monitoring of water resources and flood control issues. In response to this need, the nominees employed modernized frequency-modulated, continuous wave (FMCW) technology as part of a project with the California Department of Water Resources (CADWR). By innovating a new radar design using FM-CW technology, the nominees built a prototype snow-level radar for about one tenth of the cost of one of the conventional instruments. This new network of snow-level radars implemented by the nominees will allow scientists to monitor this key variable over time. The nominees designed creative ways to process the data and generate radar profiles, and the new technology is already being applied to new fields, including wind profiling.

Paul Loto'aniu and Juan Rodriguez (Space Weather Prediction Center-SWPC)

Paul Loto'aniu and Juan Rodriguez are CIRES research scientists with NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC). They were nominated for the CIRES Outstanding Performance Award in Science and Engineering for their investigation of the failure of the Galaxy-15 geostationary communications satellite, work that went beyond their normal duties as CIRES employees. Galaxy-15 experienced a debilitating anomaly that rendered the satellite useless and severely compromised the performance of the Federal Aviation Administration's Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS). Following the Galaxy-15 anomaly announcement, the CIRES team assembled space environment data from a number of relevant sources, including the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES) that were in close proximity to Galaxy-15. Through a charged particle "moments calculation" and the local magnetic environment, the team showed that the space weather conditions leading up to the time of the anomaly had the potential for significant spacecraft charging, a situation that Galaxy-15 may have only experienced once before in its operational life. Electrostatic discharge is a established mechanism for disabling satellites in space. The environmental parameters representing extreme space weather conditions have now been folded into spacecraft charging modeling studies. This work has included a collaborative study with the Air Force Research Laboratory using the new GOES measurements to model both spacecraft surface charging and deep electric charging. Findings were presented at the 11th Spacecraft Charging Technology Conference (20-24 September 2010, Albuquerque, NM) and the 49th Aerospace Sciences Meeting (04-07 January 2011, Orlando, FL).

Ken Aikin, Roya Bahreini, John Holloway, Gerhard Hübler, Dan Lack, Justin Langridge, Andy Neuman, John Nowak, Jeff Peischl, Anne Perring, Ilana Pollack, Harald Stark and Carsten Warneke (Chemical Sciences Division- CSD)

This team from ESRL Chemical Sciences Division supported the NOAA P-3 science flights in June of 2010 over the Gulf of Mexico to assess the potential air quality risks posed by the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill crisis to workers/citizens in the Gulf and surrounding areas. The nominees made measurements of the highest scientific quality under stressful and high-stakes conditions, and conducted the mission with admirable care, professionalism and unselfishness. At the time of the incident, the nominees were engaged in an extensive field campaign in California. They stepped forward to take a hiatus from the California mission and flew across the country to carry out two science flights before successfully completing their original California mission. The nominees used a suite of complementary instruments on the aircraft to provide the much-needed preliminary analyses that showed health risks to workers in the oil spill area were not as great as originally feared. They demonstrated an innovative new approach for assessing future oil spills, and provided an accurate and independent estimate of the fluid leak rate from the ruptured oil well over a mile below the surface. This significant effort involved coordinating with the Environmental Protection Agency and Occupational Health and Safety Administration to share data, compare analyses, and utilize the other agencies' complementary measurements to obtain a broader cross-section of the pollution effects arising from the oil spill. In addition, the team worked closely with petroleum engineers from BP and the federal government, and oceanographers from NOAA and academia to improve our collective understanding of the transport and removal of leaking fluid (oil and gas) in the water column and the atmosphere.

2011 Service Awards

Craig Tierney (Global Systems Division-GSD)

The NOAA High Performance Computing (HPC) team is the engine that runs many CIRES scientists' research and Craig Tierney has been a driving force at HPC. His deep knowledge of high performance computing systems and innovative approach has lead to significant improvements in computing capabilities that have served not only CIRES, but other NOAA centers and the HPC community as a whole. In addition to his outstanding performance at his normal duties, in August 2009 Craig voluntarily assumed the role of acting HPC lead; for the next 16 months Craig provided strong leadership in managing all aspects of NOAA Boulder's HPC resources. During his tenure as acting lead, he managed a re-compete of HPC systems and effectively utilized $170 million in stimulus funding, which will transition NOAA to a centralized computer model. Just one example of his skills was his key role in developing and managing the high performance computer system for the Hurricane Forecast Improvement Project. This system ranked 50th on November 2010's Top 500 Supercomputer List and makes Boulder the largest NOAA-managed HPC site. In just one year, it helped scientists achieve the 5-year goal of a 20% improvement in hurricane track and intensity forecasts. The system provides the crucial efficiency and reliability required for real-time support. Craig has also been instrumental in forming the Front Range Computing Research Consortium, a collaborative effort between NCAR, Colorado State University, Colorado School of Mines, DOE/NREL, NOAA, and the University of Colorado to promote collaborative research in high performance computing.

Katherine Leitzell (National Snow and Ice Data Center-NSIDC)

Katherine Leitzell demonstrates strong leadership and initiative at the National Snow and Ice Data Center, bringing creativity and innovation to her numerous roles. She serves as science writer and editor for NSIDC's hugely visible Arctic Sea Ice News and Analysis (ASINA) product, which provides a monthly scientific sea ice analysis that is picked up by news media worldwide. Katherine brought new energy and ideas and implemented a workflow and schedule that keeps the analyses flowing and getting published with minimum distraction to the scientists, solving a long-standing problem. She arranged for updates via Twitter, which has been enormously successful in communicating not only ASINA updates, but also other NSIDC science news. When a technical writer was required for the Antarctic Glaciological Data Center (AGDC) project, Katherine stepped in to fill the gap. Her outstanding writing support, detailed investigation into each data set, and her organizational skills all contribute to the success of the AGDC. Her work clearly advanced this project's service to its science community and helped secure ongoing funding for the project. Katherine has exceeded all expectations for her position and has supported her projects in ways that have visibly increased their success. She handles a very large, chaotic workload, produces incredibly tight turnarounds, and still finds time to help her peers and implement new ideas. Her scientific education and knowledge add quality to her products and make it easy for her to understand and work with her teams. She is a great organizer, making projects run more smoothly for everyone. On top of it all, she has a calm, friendly, and professional demeanor, which enhances the ability of NISDC to fulfill its mission.