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Meet Our Fellows: Dr. Louis Uccellini ('19)

Dr. Louis W. Uccellini is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Assistant Administrator for Weather Services, and Director of the National Weather Service. In this role, he is responsible for the day-to-day civilian weather operations for the United States, its territories, adjacent waters, and ocean areas.

Prior to this position, he served as the Director of the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) for 14 years. He was responsible for directing and planning the science, technology, and operations related to NCEP’s nine centers: Central Operations, Environmental Modeling Center, Ocean Prediction Center, Hydrometeorological Prediction Center, Climate Prediction Center, all in Camp Springs, MD; the National Hurricane Center in Miami, FL; Storm Prediction Center in Norman, OK; Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, CO; and the Aviation Weather Center in Kansas City, MO. With his leadership, the 13 year effort to plan, develop and build the new NOAA Center for Weather and Climate Prediction (the NCWCP Building) at the University of Maryland M Squared Research Center was completed; as was the implementation of a Seamless Suite of Models from the S2S to Mesoscale modeling systems based on the principle of multi-model ensembles.

Dr. Uccellini was the Director of the National Weather Service’s Office of Meteorology from 1994 to 1999, Chief of the National Weather Service’s Meteorological Operations Division from 1989 to 1994, and section head for the Mesoscale Analysis and Modeling Section at the Goddard Space Flight Center’s Laboratory for Atmospheres from 1978 to 1989.

Dr. Uccellini received his Ph.D. (1977), Master (1972) and Bachelor of Science (1971) degrees in meteorology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has published 70 peer-reviewed articles and chapters in books on subjects including analysis of severe weather outbreaks, snowstorms, gravity waves, jet streaks, cyclones, and the use of satellite data in analysis and modeling applications and more recently the basis for the Joint Center for Satellite Data Assimilation, the WMO-based Grand Challenge for Seamless Prediction and the Restructuring of the NWS to Build a Weather-Ready Nation. He is the co-author of a widely acclaimed two-volume American Meteorological Society (AMS) monograph Northeast Snowstorms, published in 2004, and has authored chapters in the 1990 AMS publication Extratropical Cyclones, the 1999 AMS publication The Life Cycles of Extratropical Cyclones, and the 2008 AMS publication Synoptic-Dynamic Meteorology and Weather Analysis and Forecasting.

Dr. Uccellini is the Permanent US Representative at the World Meteorological Organization and has served on many national and international research and field experiment programs. He has received many awards in recognition of his research and operational achievements including the Maryland Academy of Sciences Distinguished Young Scientist Award (1981), the NASA Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement (1985), the AMS’s prestigious Clarence Leroy Meisinger Award (1985), the Cleveland Abbe Award (2016), and the National Weather Association’s Research Achievement Awards for Significant Contributions to Operational Meteorology (1996). He was elected as President of the AMS in 2012-2013 and served as Co-Chief Editor of Weather and Forecasting from 1988-1992. In 2001 he received the U.S. Presidential Meritorious Executive Rank Award and in 2006 he received the U.S. Presidential Distinguished Rank Award.

Here is a recent interview with Dr. Louis Uccellini:

  1. How did you get involved in public service?

Indirectly. I started in the federal government in 1978 when I joined a new research laboratory, The Goddard Laboratory for Atmospheric Sciences at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. I have always been interested in Meteorology and with a new PHD awarded to me by the University of Wisconsin (1977), I saw the new NASA laboratory as an ideal place to advance a research career. I was right, as NASA offered what seemed like unlimited opportunities to excel in research. Nevertheless, by the late 1980's I was drawn to the National Weather Service (NWS) since as a kid, I was always interested in the basis of weather forecasting, and with the research I was involved in up to that point, I became interested in the "Research to Operations" (R2O) paradigm on how to make operational forecasts and related services better. But I also became interested in, and drawn to, the mission of the NWS ("....to save lives and property...") and found that notion of service to the country, and the ongoing Modernization and Restructuring (MAR), an incredible lure that I wanted to be part of. I joined the NWS in late September 1989 as the Division Chief of the Meteorological Operations Division in the National Meteorological Center, the largest forecast office in the NWS. In a real sense I went through a personal R2O process to serve the American public and never looked back.

  1. Which of the Academy’s 12 Grand Challenges resonates most with you?

1) "Build a Resilient Community".....through a focused effort that relies on intergovernmental partnerships and addresses real world efforts. This fits right in with the current NWS Strategic Goal to Build a Weather-Ready Nation...to make communities Ready, Responsive, Resilient" which can only be accomplished through collaborative partnerships across the spectrum of governments: Federal, State, Local, Tribal and Native Communities.

2) "Fostering Social Equity." We have to serve all Americans equally working through the entire spectrum of governments that serve our people (as noted above), especially when it comes to addressing public safety. I am discovering now that this natural inclination to serve this way builds off the "Wisconsin Idea", a philosophy embraced by the University of Wisconsin since its founding essentially to give back to society, "to solve problems and improve, health, quality of life, the environment, and agriculture for all citizens of the state". I did not know this while actually going to the University of Wisconsin in the late 60's through the 1970's, but apparently it seeped into my "fiber" while I worked toward all three of my degrees at the UW-Madison and as my career path took me to this place today where I am embracing the NWS mission as we address the public safety needs of the citizens of this country.

  1. Reflecting on your career thus far, is there a highlight, a greatest accomplishment or a funny story you’d like to share?

Career highlights span my entire near 42-year journey in public service:

A) Research career spanned a number of areas: gravity waves, jet streaks, rapid cyclogenesis, snowstorms, new uses of satellite data in the study of severe weather, snowstorms and numerical prediction models; resulting in many research papers which continue to be referenced by a large number today's scientists through their journal papers.

B) Management portion of my career: Contributed to the modernization of the central component of the National Weather Service through the transformations of the National Meteorological Center to the National Centers of Environmental Prediction (from the early 1990's to 2013) and the solidification of the primary and backup large scale computers needed to run numerical weather prediction models and the steady improvement of the operational prediction models over a twenty-year period. And, I was the programmatic focal point for the 13-year project that planned, developed and executed the effort to build the NOAA Center for Weather and Climate Prediction at the University of Maryland, College Park M Squared Research Park. We moved into the new NCWCP in the summer of 2012.

C) As the Director of the NWS: Starting in 2013, we undertook the effort to 1) design, plan and receive Congressional approval (in only 2 years!) for the transformation of the NWS budget structure from a chaotic, not understood, 28 PPA's to a 6-portfolio structure that maps directly into the functions of the NWS; 2) reorganized the NWS HQ to create 6 offices that mapped directly into the planning and execution of the 6 portfolios through which Congress now appropriates money for the Annual Operating Plan for the NWS; 3) created a Governance Document that provides the roadmap for the Portfolio Process introduced into the NWS, a roadmap for the entire NWS management team, and signed by all the SES managers in the NWS. This effort provided a basis for us to take on the strategic challenge to "Build a Weather Ready Nation”, to make communities Ready, Responsive, Resilient to oncoming extreme weather, water and climate events. The WRN effort involves establishing intergovernmental core partners and over 10,000 Weather Ready Nation Ambassadors and the larger enterprise (public/private and academic/research partners), all contributing to ensure public safety across every community. This effort is already recognized by the emergency management community for saving lives and by the national security organizations for addressing improved resilience to extreme weather and water events within those communities.

  1. What advice would you give someone wanting to start a career in public service?

I always encourage the enthusiastic and best and the brightest to commit to public service; to understand the mission of the organization; and as they work their way through their own careers, to embrace a collaborative approach to team building. With that in mind, to understand that in committing to public service comes the opportunity to build and work with diverse teams and the recognition that successful teams involve everyone having a sense of belonging in order to attain the best results. As such, every team member needs to feel included and to embrace diversity as a necessity for success.

  1. What is the best trip you’ve ever taken?

For experiencing the wonders of the World and how small you can really feel when you are standing on an expansive outback or in a long and wide valley carved out by glaciers, or standing outside in the darkest of nights and seeing every star: my first trips to Australia (1984) and then Alaska (1995). From a personal perspective, my first trip to Italy (1981) where I met my grandmother’s sister and brothers who told me the story of my grandparents and their decision to emigrate to America. And from a career perspective, my 1988 trip to Helsinki, Finland where I gave my first international invited keynote paper on rapid cyclogenesis to a rousing ovation. It was at that point that I knew I had made a difference in the research world of meteorology. I wrote a letter to my parents from Helsinki after the talk to thank them for their lifelong support of my curiosity about, and then obsession with, weather; from my childhood all the way through my college education.

  1. What was the last book you read or one that you would recommend?

I read books, magazines, journal articles all the time, covering many topics: current affairs, American and world history.... Many of the books written by Joseph Ellis and David McCullough on the American history during the founding of our country (Folks: It did not have to turn out this way) and beyond; William Manchester's classic 3-part biography of Winston Churchill; and Edmond Morris 3-part biography on Theodore Roosevelt, and so many books on Lincoln; For non-fiction John Knowles' "A Separate Peace" and F Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby" remain my favorites along with every baseball book on the Brooklyn Dodgers (my favorite "Praying for Gil Hodges" a memoir by Thomas Oliphant). And two poets and naturalists I will never get enough of: Robert Frost (favorite: “Looking For a Sunset Bird in Winter") and Mary Oliver (favorite: "Walking Home from Oak-Head").

  1. Do you have a favorite podcast, journal, newspaper, or other kind of media?

The Washington Post; The Baltimore Sun, The Atlantic, Public Radio and every local paper I can get my hands on while on travel around the country and the world (tragically, there are fewer of them).

  1. What do you work toward in your free time?

Gardening (all year round); Hobby-level bird watching; Visiting every Christmas train garden I can find in and around the Baltimore area (Some of the most creative works of art you can see); The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the Speakers Series, and traveling to the Delmarva Peninsula.

									 Louis Uccellini
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