The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has announced that Louis Uccellini will step down as director of the US National Weather Service (NWS) on January 1, 2022.
Having joined NOAA in 1989, Uccellini has served in a variety of leadership roles over the years, including 14 years as director of the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP). Prior to his time at NOAA, Uccellini spent more than a decade at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s Laboratory for Atmospheres. He earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Antonio Busalacchi, president of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), praised the career and contribution of the retiring Uccellini, hailing him as a “pivotal member” of the weather community.
Busalacchi said, “I am honored to have known Louis since we both worked at NASA Goddard in the early 1980s. Louis has been a pivotal member of the weather community for 50 years, and he will leave a lasting legacy that includes more accurate and longer-range forecasts and better communication of weather risks to vulnerable populations.
“I have fond memories of Louis working with our mutual friend and colleague, the late Franco Einaudi, to start the Joint Center for Satellite Data Assimilation, a program that aims to accelerate the use of observations from Earth-observing satellites to improve predictions of the Earth system. The center, now two decades old, is one of the UCAR Community Programs. Louis’ legacy also continues with NOAA’s Center for Weather and Climate Prediction. I was privileged to help support the state-of-the-art building’s location next to the Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center (ESSIC), my former center at the University of Maryland research park,” he said.
Rick Spinrad, NOAA administrator, said, “For more than half a century, Louis has been a force throughout the field of meteorology. He is someone I consider both a friend and a professional colleague. Louis has taken on many roles, including authoring numerous scientific papers and books on the complex nature of historical snowstorms, championing our Weather Ready Nation initiative, and as a respected leader beaming with pride for our scientists. Louis is a legend whose legacy will have a lasting and positive influence for generations to come.”
Commenting on his retirement, Uccellini said, “I have lived my dream, from loving weather and yearning to be a meteorologist as a child to leading the most dedicated public servants in government at the NWS. As I reflect on this rewarding career and the talented people I have had the fortune to learn from and work with, I can’t believe how lucky I have been.
“Through teamwork, we have advanced forecast skill and improved public resilience in the face of extreme weather beyond anything in my wildest imagination,” he said. “We continued the work of research giants from previous decades and built off the success of the NWS modernization in the 1990s and into the 21st century. Everything we accomplished together was possible because of the hard work and determination of our employees and the tremendous partnerships they cultivated with emergency managers and water resource managers at every level of government.”
Uccellini’s myriad contributions to meteorology have been recognized throughout his career with several prestigious awards, including the NASA Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement, the American Meteorological Society’s Clarence Leroy Meisinger Award, and the National Weather Association’s Research Achievement Awards for Significant Contributions to Operational Meteorology, among others. He is an expert on northeastern snowstorms, and has received acclaim for the two-volume book he co-authored on the subject, published in 2004. He is also the United States Permanent Representative with the World Meteorological Organization, and he served as president of the American Meteorological Society from 2012-2013.
Beyond his tireless work to advance data assimilation, Uccellini also advocated for providing the weather community with the supercomputing resources it needs to continue to improve prediction. At UCAR, Uccellini was instrumental in the signing of a 2019 Memorandum of Agreement between NOAA and National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), which is managed by UCAR on behalf of the National Science Foundation.