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.

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Craig McLean

Affiliation: NOAA

Date: Apr 05, 2018 at 6:33 PM

Few have known as much about any complex subject as did Steve, have such a passion for sharing it, and the ability to easily do so. A delightful man of the Ocean, who built our ocean observing system, was also an epicure, gentleman, and kind, sharing soul. His work was his passion, as was his being a good friend to many. We know much more about the ocean today because of Steve. Thank you, Steve.

Mathieu Belbéoch

Affiliation: JCOMMOPS

Date: Apr 06, 2018 at 5:08 AM

Dear Steve, We have been in touch for 17 years and I am deeply sad these days. I am floating somewhere in midwaters like the thousands of seeds you have been sowing. Knowing that what you have built, what we do build in this community will survive us all, relieves just a bit my sadness. I owe you a large share of my professional life. I can't believe we won't discuss anymore about Argo or ocean observations, or share some nice cooking recipes. I already miss your enthusiastic and challenging requests. You have supported me consistently, as you certainly did for anyone or any initiative that would benefit the overall observing system. You have encouraged me to stay close from my subject and keep the focus in a complex GOOS environment. There would probably be no JCOMMOPS without you, and of course Argo won't be such a success. But on top of all, I had the opportunity to learn some human values with your large experience of world traveler supporting the ocean observation. Some values of tolerance that I will never forget. Fair winds Steve. I will never forget you. JCOMMOPS will never forget your founding support. Mathieu

Carol Young

Affiliation: Seread

Date: Apr 06, 2018 at 7:39 PM

I was so sorry to hear of Steve's Passing. He was a true gentleman and a genuine friend. He had such an incredible passion for the ocean and learning about how it worked. Equally he was passionate about teaching others in a knowledgeable yet totally non-condescending way. Thank you, Steve, for your contributions to Seread. Without you, we would not have been able to continue. We will do our best to ensure that your love of ocean science is passed on to as many youngsters in the Pacific as we can reach. RIP.

Gregory Johnson

Affiliation: NOAA/PMEL

Date: Apr 09, 2018 at 1:15 PM

Stalwart Argonaut, Dr. Steve Piotrowicz, we mourn his passing.

Dean Roemmich

Affiliation: Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Date: Apr 09, 2018 at 1:46 PM

Ever since the infancy of Argo, Steve has been a constant and dedicated advocate and leader. His good nature, even temper, and enduring fairness distinguished him as an individual. He wanted no more or less than whatever was the best path forward for Argo. He had both vision and persistence. He was a valued colleague and a good friend to the hundreds of Argonauts all around the world. With Steve’s passing Argo will never be the same, but it will always be greater for having had his wisdom, guidance, and initiative.

Etienne Charpentier

Affiliation: WMO

Date: Apr 09, 2018 at 10:12 AM

I remember the early days of Argo, around OceanOBS99 (Saint Raphaël, France, 1999), when we discussed establishment of the Argo Information Centre (AIC) and JCOMMOPS together with Stan Wilson. Steve, together with Stan, was key in moving this forward and he has always been very supportive of AIC since then. Steve also has been a relentless supporter of Argo and Satellite Data Telecommunication, and of using modern satellite systems to collect data from Argo and other marine observing platforms. I will always remember him as an energetic, enthusiastic, and proactive person; always very cautious that everything we make and develop comply with international regulations (e.g. EEZ, environmental issues), while being a strong supporter of our marine observing activities. The oceanographic community will deeply miss him.

Stan Wilson

Affiliation: Retired

Date: Apr 09, 2018 at 10:47 AM

As Deputy Chief Scientist of NOAA in 1998, with the full backing and support of Administrator Jim Baker, we organized development of the domestic and international political support behind the emerging Argo program. Within the U.S., ONR provided initial funding for Argo in advance of an FY2000 new start within NOAA. And serving as the U.S. Representative, I was able to use the IOC as an international forum for the development of advocacy for Argo. After five years, that support had been established but we realized that maintaining it over the long term would necessitate that Argo be shifted from NOAA Headquarters to one of its line organizations where it could be more effectively managed in concert with complementary programs. Steve Piotrowicz emerged as the most appropriate candidate to assume management responsibility for Argo within NOAA's OAR, and he has done an outstanding job ever since. Many of you are better versed in how he has contributed to the more recent successes of Argo. Yes, his death represents a real loss for Argo. Perhaps he shared the following with some of you, but Steve told me on more than one occasion, "I love my job; it is the best one I've ever had!" His love of and devotion to Argo were obvious. While he was unable to enjoy retirement, Steve did achieve something that quite a number of people never do — he had the satisfaction of being able to work for a decade and a half in a job he loved and that was the best job he ever had. He died while he was doing what he was good at and what he loved. Argo enriched Steve's life, and his legacy is a magnificent contribution to Argo. May he be long remembered and appreciated.

Zenghong Liu

Affiliation: SIO/SOA

Date: Apr 09, 2018 at 9:10 PM

Steve, you are a man who impressed me a lot every time I attended an Argo meeting. I am saddened by the loss of our Argo friend. I will never forget you and your outstanding contributions to Argo. Thank you.

Howard Freeland

Affiliation: Inst of Ocean Sciences, BC, Canada

Date: Apr 10, 2018 at 4:14 PM

It is hard to imagine an Argo Steering Team meeting without Steve. Steve has been a wonderful friend and colleague for about 17 years. Rest in peace dear friend, you will be missed

John Cortinas

Affiliation: NOAA/OAR

Date: Apr 11, 2018 at 10:38 AM

I always appreciated Steve's positive outlook on things. He will be missed.

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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


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