Our dear friend and distinguished colleague Dr. Stephen (Steve) R. Piotrowicz passed away suddenly and unexpectedly on April 2, 2018. While we, his NOAA colleagues, are deeply saddened by his departure and miss him sorely, we are also celebrating his life, leadership, and remarkable legacy of scientific achievements. There will be a Catholic Funeral Mass held this Friday, April 13, 2018 at 10am at the St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church.

There will also be a Memorial Service at a later date for friends, family, and colleagues to be able to share their memories. Please look here for information as it becomes available.

Steve’s career of over 42 years at NOAA has been marked by dedication to NOAA’s mission, as well as notable professional achievements and successes. During the 1980s and 1990s, Steve was an Oceanographer at the Atlantic Oceanographic & Meteorological Laboratory (AOML) where he published on ocean trace elements and the variability of atmospheric gases. Steve moved to Washington, D.C., in the early 1990s where, as part of the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR), he took on responsibility for managing several observing and climate research programs—many of them focused on observing the Tropical Pacific region. Steve’s work led, in part, to today’s suite of ocean observing assets used routinely for Seasonal-to-Interannual forecasts of climate phenomena, like El Niño. During this period, Steve earned Bronze and Silver Awards from the NOAA Administrator for his outstanding leadership of the Pan American Climate Studies Program. Specifically, Steve developed a strategy that doubled the annual allocation of ship time for NOAA’s oceanic and atmospheric research; provided leadership for strategic planning for climate research; and contributed to the design, procurement, and deployment of a Doppler radar for the NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown.


Starting in 2001, Steve turned his attention to developing more integrated and global ocean observing capabilities and activities. As deputy Director of the National Office for Integrated and Sustained Ocean Observations (at the time called, he supported and coordinated a number of NOAA mission-critical activities. He also became the program manager for the U.S. Argo program, which has now grown into a global array of more than 3,500 profiling instruments that are routinely measuring the global ocean down to 2000-meter depth. Argo data are used worldwide by researchers (more than 3,100 publications to date) in multiple disciplines—including oceanography, meteorology, and global environmental change—providing foundational information for ocean, weather, climate, and regional forecast models in NOAA and other institutions nationally and internationally. A 2015 National Academy of Sciences report, titled “Sea Change: 2015-2025 Decadal Survey of Ocean Sciences (2015),” had this to say about the Argo program: “As the first observing system for the global subsurface ocean, the international global Argo array of over 3,000 profiling floats has transformed how large-scale ocean processes are studied and has blazed organizational trails that may guide developers of future oceanographic observing infrastructure… Argo is a case study of how transformational discoveries result from a good alignment of infrastructure with science priorities.” Steve received his second NOAA Administrator’s Award in 2016 for his passionate and tireless contributions to the international Argo program, and for his contributions to the advancement of global oceanography within NOAA and the international community.

Steve was an outstanding communicator. He enjoyed speaking to diverse public audiences about the Argo program and how it is evolving our understanding of the ocean. He was also a champion for oceanography education through activities such as the National Science Foundation’s Dissertations in Chemical Oceanography (DISCO) symposium, and a range of Argo/oceanography videos and books targeting elementary schools. Steve will be remembered as a brilliant scientist, a charismatic leader, and a positive influence within NOAA and the international oceanography community.

Sort by: Date   |  Name

Toshio Suga | Affiliation: Tohoku University/JAMSTEC
May 2, 2018 at 1:58 AM

I cannot imagine an Argo Steering Team meeting without Steve. Steve’s knowledge, enthusiasm and sincerity have constantly and greatly helped Argonauts to find a better way for Argo. I personally had so often expected Steve’s guidance when we had to make some decisions. Thank you, Steve. What you have done for Argo will remain the cornerstone of Argo.

Susan Wijffels | Affiliation: WHOI/CSIRO
Apr 24, 2018 at 12:54 PM

Steve will be greatly missed. He has been very important to the success of both US and global Argo. Steve's enthusiasm, kindness, honesty, sense of duty and strong work ethic helped us through the good times and bad. He was a trusted source of advice and wisdom. Thank you, Steve, for all of your support, friendship and fun.

Jessica Ham | Affiliation: Friend
Apr 20, 2018 at 10:37 PM

I met Steve when I was in first year uni studying marine science in 2005. I had to write a paper for an oceanography subject and my Aunt, who is a close friend of Steve's, put me in contact with him. He immediately sent a package containing textbooks, scientific journals and booklets relevant to my research topic. He offered to call me to discuss the topic further if I needed additional information, and on a subsequent trip to Sydney, he invited me to dinner with my aunt to follow up on how I went. Over the course of the evening I discovered a few things about Steve that I haven't forgotten. We discussed oceanography and his role at NOAA, and it was clear that he was passionate about his work, but what struck me was his humility. He was so down to earth and approachable, and genuinely interested in me as a person, beyond my studies in marine science. He spoke so fondly of his family & friends, and it was very quickly evident what a kind, warm and generous person he was. He continued to keep correspondence with me on and off during that year, and when my father passed away, he sent my family a lovely card and gift. His generosity to my mum in particular, will never be forgotten. As a way of helping her to de-stress, he sent her off to New Zealand for a holiday with her sisters. A time that will always be cherished by her. His kindness, compassion, generosity & humility were wonderful examples to me as a young adult. He leaves behind a wonderful legacy in the many lives he touched, both within his family, the scientific community, amongst friends and the broader community. Steve, you will be missed!

Lesley Klages | Affiliation: Acquaintance
Apr 19, 2018 at 8:52 AM

I only met Steve once but over many years I felt I got to know him a little through emails and the close contact he had with my sister, Carol. I will never forget Steve’s thoughtfulness and generosity when he organised and provided a ski holiday for me and my sisters, following the sudden death of my husband. When my daughter was studying Marine Biology at uni, Steve sent journals and materials that assisted her with an assignment. He did this freely, simply happy to help with her education. It was a great honour for me to meet Steve whilst on holiday with Carol in Zagreb. I will never forget the kindness and generosity of this wonderful man. He impacted the lives of many, yet seemed so humble. My family and I will always remember Steve fondly.

Matt Donnelly | Affiliation: BODC
Apr 17, 2018 at 9:05 AM

As a relative newcomer to the Argo program, I only had the pleasure of meeting Steve on a few occasions, but on each he struck me as a calm, thoughtful and dedicated gentleman. Only a few months ago he was only too willing to give me the benefit of his experience and insight. It saddens me to hear the next generation will no longer benefit from his guidance.

Roland Rogers | Affiliation: Friend and ex member of UK IOC Delegation
Apr 17, 2018 at 8:39 AM

All of the greats...great scientist ...great friend...great story teller...great connoisseur of food and wine...great fun to be with.....

Carol Quinn | Affiliation: Best friend and loved one
Apr 17, 2018 at 4:17 AM

To my dearest friend and loved one. How does one describe a man who was so unique? A brilliant scientist, praised and respected by his many peers. Steve loved his work, patiently explaining to me the importance of whatever he was working on. He was so proud of what he did! He spoke highly of his work colleagues, especially the women in his office. He loved to cook, and used to enjoy baking for them. I always joked that I wanted a job there. If you were lucky enough to be on his Xmas cake list, you'll know what I mean. He was selfless, kind and giving. He cared for many (including animals!) and always acknowledged my special occasions with flowers or a gift. He was kind to my family, and loved including them in our evening, when here in Australia. The many vacations that we shared, skiing at Lake Louise, a river cruise in Paris, dinner with my sister in Croatia, and the Grand Canyon were just a few. The postcards, the weekly texts, the many memories, I will always cherish. You will be so sadly missed, my life changed forever, and always remembered with love. Xxx

Jay Quinn | Affiliation: Friend
Apr 15, 2018 at 7:29 AM

Steve, we are also sad that you left us but knowing you are soaring above us makes the pain manageable. You were so kind to my family the ones I care about and I.. always putting everyone first.. we will not forget you my friend! Till we meet again

Ann Gronell Thresher | Affiliation: Retired, CSIRO Scientist in charge of operations for Argo and SOOP
Apr 15, 2018 at 6:41 AM

Steve was easily my favorite person at Argo - professional, intelligent and so nice... While I didn't expect to see him again, to know he is gone leaves a big hole. That hole will be hard to fill. It is so sad to lose someone who was genuinely kind and yet effective in a world that doesn’t always value those qualities. No problem was too large and his expert knowledge was phenomenal, keeping Argo on track and within the bounds of international law. It would not be the program it is today without his involvement. We will always remember his contributions and miss his quiet presence.

Ann A. Stethem | Affiliation: Cousins
Apr 14, 2018 at 9:47 PM

This is my amazing "cousin Steve." My family and friends have called him this since the day I was born. He is a HUGE, very important part of us all. I have learned so much from him about so many aspects of life. From every holiday or travel adventure he took, we have these amazing talks about extremely interesting topics. If only I could have retained it all, I would feel proud. I've known cousin Steve for 45 years and life without him will be very different. I wait for his arrival every holiday at the front door. I would wait to hear where he has flown in from so we could talk about the latest part of his work and travel adventure. This also meant that we could all have our holiday dinner and relax by the fireplace. As I got older, I was able to experience the delicious hors d'oeuvres all the adults were enjoying. The things he shared with me about other countries was interesting — their way of life and the foods they enjoy. To travel abroad will be challenging without insights from one of my favorite people who ever lived!!!

Page 1  of  3         |         1    2  3    Next    

Anyone who wishes to leave a word of remembrance below on behalf of Steve is encouraged to do so…

Read Comments

Catholic Funeral Mass

Friday, April 13, 2018 at 10am
St. Michael the Archangel
Catholic Church

805 Wayne Avenue
Silver Spring, MD 20910

Memorial Contributions

For friends and family members who wish to make a charitable donation in honor of Steve, his family suggests consideration of either of these two organizations that Steve was fond of: (1) Seafarers International House, or (2) The Navy League.


1315 East-West Highway Suite 100
Silver Spring, MD 20910


Americans’ health, security and economic wellbeing are tied to climate and weather. Every day, we see communities grappling with environmental challenges due to unusual or extreme events related to climate and weather.