2018 News & Events

Steve Brown awarded NOAA Bronze Medal

9 April 2018

Steve Brown
Dr. Steve Brown

CSD's Dr. Steve Brown receives a 2018 NOAA Bronze Medal for his work on the Utah Winter Fine Particle Study (UWFPS). The highest honor award granted by the Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere, the Bronze Medal recognizes federal employees for superior performance. Specifically, Brown was credited with conceiving, organizing, and leading the airborne field project that delivered time-sensitive information on a major air quality problem in the West.

Brown and his colleagues designed UWFPS to provide the Utah Department of Air Quality (UDAQ) essential information on sources, composition, and atmospheric transport of particulate matter that contribute to routine exceedances of the levels prescribed by the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). The emissions sources and air chemistry leading to these exceedances are not well known, hampering the design of effective emissions control strategies. Utah's exceedances are some of the worst in the nation, but the reasons why were largely unavailable before Brown's study came along.

Brown identified the lack of airborne observations of aerosol composition as the single largest hurdle preventing the design of effective control strategies to mitigate these winter exceedances in Salt Lake City. By gathering airborne measurements, Brown and his team sought to develop a better understanding of the sources and chemistry which have a significant impact on air quality in Utah's most populated region.

UWFPS logo

After securing support from NOAA and regional agencies, Brown organized and led the six week field study. He and his team equipped the Twin Otter aircraft with instrumentation, and then planned and executed 21 research flights over the study period. These flights provided unprecedented data to diagnose the origins of PM2.5 (fine particulate matter with a diameter of less than 2.5 microns) and other contributing pollutants.

Preliminary discussions about the project began in 2015, and the field study was completed in February 2017. Brown's ability to respond to pressing stakeholder needs reflected positively on NOAA's foresight and capability to address real-world air quality issues affecting million of people. UWFPS positioned NOAA for success in similar future endeavors, supporting its Healthy People and Communities objective of the Weather-Ready Nation goal. Following the conclusion of UWFPS, the EPA proposed downgrading the Salt Lake City NAAQS designation from "moderate" to "serious" nonattainment, underscoring the interest in and need for these study findings and follow up research.

Steve receives this well-deserved recognition at the award ceremony on May 22 at NOAA Headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland.