Joseph Cione

Color portrait of Joe Cione against a white background.

Research Highlights

Research Interests

Atmospheric and oceanic boundary layer thermodynamic processes in hurricanes and extra-tropical winter storms.

Difficult to observe regions.

Research to operations.

Joseph J. Cione, Ph.D.

Lead Meteorologist, Hurricane Research Division

(719) 357-8259

 National Center for Atmospheric Research
3090 Center Green Dr.
Boulder, CO 80301

“I’ve always been curious about the unknown. It’s why I decided to become a scientist. It’s also why I specifically chose to study the air-sea environment of hurricanes.  It’s a critical region of the storm that also happens to be the most difficult and dangerous environment to observe and fully understand.  By employing cutting edge research and advanced emerging technologies, I believe that we will be able to significantly improve our ability to more accurately forecast hurricanes in the future.”

Dr. Joseph J. Cione, a Lead Meteorologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration received his Bachelors, Masters and Ph.D. degrees in Meteorology with a concentration in Physical Oceanography at North Carolina State University. Cione was hired as a Federal Employee in 1995 and spent 2 years in Washington D.C. at OAR headquarters as US Weather Research Program Deputy Director before joining AOML’s Hurricane Research Division in Miami, FL in 1997. In June of 2014, Cione relocated to Boulder, Colorado and is currently on a multi-year detail at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). Cione specializes in studies of atmospheric and oceanic boundary layer thermodynamic processes in hurricanes and extra-tropical winter storms. Throughout his career, Cione has shown an interest in exploring difficult to observe regions and has helped transition basic research into improved forecast operations. Some of his previous work illustrates a previously undocumented direct link between storm-induced, ocean cooling and subsequent hurricane intensity change. These promising research findings were successfully incorporated into the operational version of the Statistical Hurricane Intensity Prediction Scheme (SHIPS) used by the National Hurricane Center (NHC) in 2005. As a result of this integration, significant improvements to SHIPS operational forecasts have been documented.

In 2005, Dr. Cione, in conjunction with NASA and Aerosonde Corporation collaborators, conducted the first successful unmanned aerial system (UAS) flight into the core of a mature tropical cyclone (Ophelia). In November of 2007, this same team conducted a record duration (17.5h), minimum altitude (82m) UAS mission directly into the center of Hurricane Noel. Near-surface wind measurements were reported to NOAA’s NHC in real time, enabling these critical data to be used in subsequent public forecasts and warnings. Related to these achievements, Cione received the United States Department of Commerce Bronze Medal Award in April of 2010. In 2014, Cione and his team continued efforts to deploy low altitude small UAS into tropical cyclone environments. On September 16-17, 2014 the first aircraft-deployed UAS missions into a Hurricane were conducted. Using NOAA’s manned P-3 aircraft, two Coyote UAS, each measuring 13 pounds and 5 feet across were successfully launched into the atmospheric boundary layer of Hurricane Edouard. Cione, along with his NOAA team received the DoC Silver medal for these ground-breaking efforts in 2015. Follow-on P-3/Coyote UAS hurricane missions were also successfully conducted in Major Hurricanes Maria (2017) and Michael (2018). Analyses from these flights have been documented in an AMS BAMS article published in February 2020. In September of 2022, Cione and Team members successfully conducted a drone mission into Category 5 Hurricane Ian, setting sUAS records for duration, communication range, and measured wind speed.

Today, as a Lead Meteorologist at HRD, Cione is spearheading a diverse mix of top scientists and engineers from the government, academia and the private sector. Under Cione’s leadership, the group, known as NEOTAC, is charged with identifying, sharing, developing, testing and implementing promising new emerging technologies and advanced concepts of operations. Additional information about NEOTAC, including past presentations, can be found in the Current Work section.

1996, Ph.D. Meteorology with a concentration in Physical Oceanography, North Carolina State University, Chapel Hill, NC

1992, M.S. Meteorology with a concentration in Physical Oceanography, North Carolina State University, Chapel Hill, NC

1990, B.S. Meteorology with a concentration in Physical Oceanography, North Carolina State University, Chapel Hill, NC

  1. Kang, S.K., S.-H. Kim, I.-I. Lin, Y.-H. Park, Y. Choi, I. Ginis, J. Cione, J.Y. Shin, E.J. Kim, K.O. Kim, H.W. Kang, J.-H. Park, J.-R. Bidlot, and B. Ward. The North Equatorial Current and rapid intensification of super typhoons. Nature Communications, 15:1742, 2024
    Ref. 4393
  2. Wadler, J.B., J.J. Cione, S. Michlowitz, B. Jaimes de la Cruz, and L.K. Shay. Improving the statistical representation of tropical cyclone in-storm sea surface temperature cooling. Weather and Forecasting, 39(6):847-866, 2024
    Ref. 4392
  3. Aberson, S.D., J.A. Zhang, J. Zawislak, K. Sellwood, R. Rogers, and J.J. Cione. The NCAR GPS dropwindsonde and its impact on hurricane operations and research. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 104(11):E2134-E2154, 2023
    Ref. 4330

2023 Department of Commerce Gold Award

Awarded 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.

2018 Aviation Week Laureate Award for Dual Defense Use

For use of the Coyote unmanned aerial system to gather data in the eye of Hurricane Maria, enabling NOAA to better forecast how intense the storm would be at landfall and more accurately estimate the magnitude of Maria’s storm surge.

2015 U.S. Department of Commerce Silver Medal

For successfully executing the first-ever launch of an Unmanned Aircraft System from a manned aircraft into a major hurricane, Hurricane Edouard. 

2009 U.S. Department of Commerce Bronze Medal

For successfully executing the first launch and recovery of an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) into the core of a tropical cyclone (Tropical Storm Ophelia, 2005).

1993 John A. Knauss Sea Grant Fellow

First Meteorologist appointed as a National Sea Grant Fellow.