On September 30, 2019, the weather community lost a friend, mentor, advocate, scientist, and exemplary leader: Dr. William “Bill” Lapenta, National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) director (2013-2019) and Weather Program Office director (2019), at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Bill meant a lot to many of us. Today we take a moment to look back on the year that has elapsed since his passing. We at NOAA and our external community partners have sustained the many activities started with and by Bill. Now, we invite you to a humble reflection of some of his significant contributions that impact our work. Our community newsletter’s Fall edition will further highlight his vision and passionate mission dedicated to weather science in the coming weeks.
The Unified Forecast System (UFS) is a consolidated modeling architecture for which Bill was one of the strongest and most vocal advocates. Bill understood the need to simplify the National Weather Service (NWS) operational modeling production suite and advocated for a close partnership between NOAA and the external numerical weather prediction (NWP) community. He was a strong proponent for the adoption of the UFS to accelerate operational forecast skill improvement. Over the last year, the UFS community realized one of Bill’s dreams by releasing the first user-ready version of the UFS Medium-Range Weather Application, aligned with NOAA’s operational Global Forecast System (GFS).
In partnership with the UFS Community, NOAA has established the integrated UFS R2O Project, a coordinated effort aggregating 14 community organizations representing research and operational forecasting activities. Bill was integral to the launch of UFS R2O: the project grew out of our shared vision of close coordination among NOAA line offices to support a broad community of NWP partners. These are essential steps to rapidly advance the nation’s forecast systems. Bill inspired us towards adopting open and collaborative approaches for our science and forecast communities, which allowed us to create new and more effective business approaches.
In March 2020, NOAA realized another landmark of Bill’s legacy: the Earth Prediction Innovation Center (EPIC) request for proposals. Bill played a significant role in developing the concept of EPIC, a program that envisages improving NWS operational modeling systems. Bill was very enthusiastic about the EPIC concept and its role in accelerating the flow of new ideas from research to operations. We are sure that Bill would be proud of our community’s progress in going from concept to implementation, which has led us to exciting times ahead.
EPIC and the UFS are cornerstones of Bill’s vision of the NWP community driving NWS operational forecast systems’ advances in the United States. Bill spoke endlessly to us about the need for seamless integration of the numerical modeling community across boundaries and building bridges. We hope Bill’s commitment continues to motivate us to invest all our energy in making our community seamless and focused on important societal challenges.
1Director of the Storm Prediction Center, Acting Director of the OAR Weather Program Office
2Deputy Director of NOAA’s Global Systems Laboratory, former NOAA EPIC Program Manager
3Division Chief – Modeling Program Division, Office of Science and Technology