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

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.

Toshio Suga

Affiliation: Tohoku University/JAMSTEC

Date: 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

Date: 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.

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.

Serena Chua

Affiliation: close friend

Date: Apr 13, 2018 at 5:00 AM

I was blessed to know Steve, not through his work, but as a personal friend. Steve was a unique individual. He was dedicated to his work and really felt the program Argo could change the world and make a difference to our future generations. Steve was the most generous, giving human being. He was a silent Philanthropist that gave to others constantly. On numerous occasions he would surprise myself and my family with a random act of kindness. Always remembering birthdays or events that mattered to others, I was lucky enough to share some special road trips with Steve around New Zealand and I will treasure those. My heart goes out to Steve's family and friends. We have lost a beautiful star. Love and light Steve, Serena.

Sarah Gille

Affiliation: Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego

Date: Apr 11, 2018 at 5:02 PM

Steve will be missed enormously. His enthusiasm for Argo was wonderful, and he was thoroughly engaged in everything he did for the program, from strategizing 5-year plans to monitoring floats likely to enter EEZs (and wondering about the underlying physics driving their motions). The program is fortunate to have had such a tireless advocate.

Roland Rogers

Affiliation: Friend and ex member of UK IOC Delegation

Date: 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.....

Nick D'Adamo

Affiliation: UNESCO IOC Perth Programme Office

Date: Apr 12, 2018 at 10:06 PM

Sincere condolences to all who knew and were close to Steve. Both my wife and I got to know Steve - as a true gentleman, friend, colleague. Steve was a really nice guy. We are saddened to hear of his passing. I know that these feelings will be shared by a very large number of people in the UNESCO IOC sphere. Steve was directly and closely involved with the IOC Perth Office, since its inception nearly 20 years ago, including through the special support and drive he gave to help in forming and maintaining PIGOOS and in underpinning its functions, its PIGOOS Coordinator and PIGOOS's role in the Pacific region through hosts first through SOPAC and then through SPREP. Steve always helped connect the region with ARGO and primary/secondary school education in oceans and climate via NOAA's SEREAD program along with colleagues in New Zealand and around the World. A genuine loss to the ocean community and community in general. A highly respected and appreciated person. We shall miss Steve greatly. Steve's life and legacy is to be celebrated. Kind regards Nick & Sonya D'Adamo, Perth, Western Australia

Matthew Klockars

Affiliation: Friend

Date: Apr 14, 2018 at 8:09 PM

Thanks for the great memories Steve. Loved the cheese.

Matt Donnelly

Affiliation: BODC

Date: 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.

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.