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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Jorge L. Sarmiento

Affiliation: Princeton University

Date: Apr 12, 2018 at 10:24 AM

Steve was a wonderful person who always impressed me with his warm personality and his deep knowledge of his work, as well as his enthusiasm, commitment, and willingness to help. His support was crucial to the success of SOCCOM.

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

Margarita Gregg

Affiliation: NOAA, retired

Date: Apr 12, 2018 at 1:29 PM

Dear Steve, The ocean community will miss your expertise, dedication, and enthusiastic championship of the Argo program. I saw this first hand at the Climate Program Office, the IOC Advisory Group, the IOC General Assembly and numerous national and international venues. Your love for the program and the oceans and accompanying expertise shined through every time. I was always amazed at the number of friends you made along the way and loved hearing your adventures as you visited them around the globe. I will miss that. I will also miss our awesome conversations about your cooking. Even though I never tasted it first hand, I do have the gems of restaurants you introduced me to in places like Paris and Brughe. You will be missed but what a legacy you left for the current and future Argonauts. Farewell.

Judy Gray

Affiliation: NOAA, Retired

Date: Apr 11, 2018 at 9:23 PM

Steve was a wonderful person who always let me feel like I had a special place in his pantheon of friends. He was incredibly generous to me, and so many others. To Steve’s family and friends, I count myself lucky to be one of you. God bless you, Steve. You were a memorable and amazing man.

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.

Marilyn (Pearson) Moll

Affiliation: Retired Program Manager of the NOAA Joint Institute Program

Date: Apr 11, 2018 at 3:28 PM

While I was one of the OAR employees in Silver Spring, MD I always remember Steve coming in early walking by my cubical to go have coffee with Dr. Alan Thomas. He would make a cup for himself and one for Alan so that they could sit and chat about science. Steve was such a stellar employee and very devoted to his job. He was cordial and kind to everyone, incredibly smart and dressed impeccably every day he arrived at the Silver Spring offices. He was a work colleague that I will fondly remember for many years to come and I am very saddened by this huge loss to his family, friends, and the science community. Perhaps he was needed and is still making a difference from above!

Jessica Snowden

Affiliation: NOAA/IOOS

Date: Apr 11, 2018 at 10:46 AM

I first met Steve when I joined Ocean.US. I was new to the ocean obs world, and as you all know, Steve was an expert. He answered so many questions from me, always with patience and often putting aside other work to focus on our conversation. I'm not sure I ever had a discussion with Steve that didn't result in him tracking me down at least two more times to add a few more thoughts, share a paper, or make sure I knew exactly where to get the best sauce for the pasta recipe he had just given me (Da Marco - unfortunately closed now). Thank you for the education, kindness, and food, Steve. It was a privilege knowing you.

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.

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

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.

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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.


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