CIMSS Tropical Cyclones Group to receive AMS Special Award

October 3, 2014 | Jean Phillips



CONTACT: Chris Velden, 608-262-9168,; Steve Ackerman, 608-263-3647,


MADISON – The Tropical Cyclones Group at the Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies (CIMSS), University of Wisconsin-Madison, has been selected for an American Meteorological Society (AMS) Special Award.

The award is presented to groups or individuals that have made important contributions to meteorology, meteorological aspects of oceanography or hydrology, or the Society.

The AMS cited the CIMSS Tropical Cyclones Group for “providing the weather community with valuable tropical cyclone-related satellite information and derived products for over two decades,” stating that the award is “a reflection of [their] commitment to the Society and to the field.”

The Special Award recognizes the scientific contributions of current and former members of the Tropical Cyclones team: Timothy Olander, Derrick Herndon, Anthony Wimmers, David Stettner, Steven Wanzong, Jason Dunion, Sarah Griffin, John Sears, and group founder Christopher Velden.

According to CIMSS Director Steve Ackerman, the group has worked with its operational partners − the National Hurricane Center (NHC) and the Joint Typhoon Weather Center (JTWC), along with many international centers − to deliver state-of-the-art, satellite-based tools and research directed toward applications to help monitor tropical cyclones.

The majority of tropical cyclone warning centers around the world rely on satellite-derived information to determine the position, intensity, and structure of tropical cyclones. The analysis aids developed by the CIMSS team are now almost universally applied at these centers.

For example, a CIMSS product or analysis (on shear measurements, thermal profiles, estimates of intensity) has been cited in nearly 60% of NHC Forecast Discussions since 2004, indicating the “robustness and growing impact on operations,” notes Robert Hart, professor of meteorology at Florida State University.

“When considering that NHC forecasters typically have precious few minutes to examine data during a forecast cycle, these dominant statistics alone warrant an AMS Special Award,” writes Hart in his nomination letter. “It is impossible to imagine the global tropical cyclone forecast process today without CIMSS research and associated operational products.”

Beyond research and development, the CIMSS Tropical Cyclones website has provided real-time satellite imagery during each hurricane season since 1994, and was the first to do so. This year the website is celebrating its 20th year of expanded service to the weather community and to the public.

Hurricane Sandy and Typhoon Haiyan were recent stark reminders of the need and societal benefit of the satellite imagery and derived products provided on the website. These two storms alone exceeded 4 million hits to the site per day, bringing with them countless media and public requests for information and graphics.

“Our outreach extends beyond the tropical cyclone forecast centers, to the research community and curious public,” notes Velden. “We are honored to receive this award, knowing that we are contributing important information to our understanding of the global threat of tropical cyclones.”


Jean Phillips

Featured image: CIMSS Tropical Cyclones Group. From left: Christopher Velden, Derrick Herndon, Steven Wanzong, Sarah Griffin, David Stettner, Timothy Olander. From upper right: Jason Dunion, Anthony Wimmers, John Sears. Credit: Sarah Witman.