Department of Commerce Honor Awards 2024

Congratulations to AOML’s 2024 Department of Commerce Medal winners! AOML is proud to recognize the achievements of our outstanding scientists for their vital contributions to better understand the Earth systems and protecting our nation.

A 2024 Department of Commerce Gold Medal was awarded to AOML’s Joseph Cione, alongside his partners at NOAA’s Aircraft Operations Center and Acquisition and Grants Office, for successfully deploying an Altius-600 small uncrewed aircraft system (sUAS) into the eyewall of Hurricane Ian after a multi-year collaborative effort overcoming many obstacles. We would also like to recognize AOML’s Cooperative Institute partners Jun Zhang and Jason Dunion from the Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies, who are a major part of the team that contributed to this effort.


The sUAS or drone, designed with an airframe that can handle considerable damage, can be released from a NOAA WP-3D Orion Hurricane Hunter aircraft and is capable of operating in low- and medium-altitude maritime environments – areas of the storm too dangerous for humans to go – and features a range of up to 135 miles while traveling at speeds of up to 100 mph. It has its actions controlled through onboard programming and/or by aircraft-based operators. On September 28, 2022, the Hurricane Hunters transected Category 4 Hurricane Ian during a period of rapid intensification. Despite extreme turbulence, the crew successfully launched the 27-pound drone, which then completed a two-hour mission, acquiring critical measurements to understand these complex storm systems.


Left: Altius demonstration model with Hurricane Hunter, NOAA WP-3D Orion, at NOAA’s Aircraft Operations Center in Lakeland, FL during the second UAS flight test window on May 25, 2022. Photo Credit: NOAA/AOC
Right: Radar image of Hurricane Ian from September 28th showing the NOAA P-3’s flight track and the location of the Altius-600 deployment within the eye. Photo Credit: NOAA/AOML


~ ~ ~

Additionally, a 2024 Department of Commerce Silver Medal was awarded to AOML’s Sang-Ki Lee, alongside his partners at NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Lab, for developing the first U.S. river chemistry dataset for regional ocean biogeochemical modeling and carbon chemistry studies in U.S. coastal regions. The dataset will be very useful for regional ocean biogeochemical modeling and carbon chemistry studies. This team was led by Fabian Gomez of the Northern Gulf Institute.


The dataset, named RC4USCoast, provides a monthly time series, as well as a long-term averaged monthly climatology, for 21 chemical variables, including alkalinity, pH, dissolved inorganic carbon concentration, and nutrients. The dataset is derived from the USGS’s Water Quality Database, along with river discharge data from the USGS’s Surface-Water Monthly Statistics for the Nation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The goal of this work was to develop a U.S. river chemistry dataset for use in NOAA’s next-generation operational ocean modeling and decision support system, which aims to reduce impacts, increase resilience, and help marine resources and resource users adapt to changing ocean conditions. 


Congratulations and thank you to everyone involved in these vital research efforts.