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National Hurricane Center Meteorologist to Receive NOAA’s David S. Johnson Award

March 1, 2023

Stephanie Stevenson, Ph.D., a meteorologist at the NOAA/National Weather Service National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami, has been selected as the 2023 winner of NOAA’s prestigious David S. Johnson Award. She will receive the award on March 10, 2023, at the 66th Annual Dr. Robert H. Goddard Memorial Dinner in Washington, D.C.

Headshot of Dr. Stephanie Stevenson in front of a glass window with the NOAA logo to her left

The David S. Johnson Award is named after the first assistant administrator of NOAA’s Satellite and Information Service, and honors professional scientists who have shown outstanding innovation in the use of satellite data for operational environmental applications.

Dr. Stevenson is being recognized for her ground-breaking study on the link between NOAA’s Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R (GOES-R) Geostationary Lightning Mapper observations and hurricane intensification. From her research, Dr. Stevenson learned that the structure of a tropical cyclone matters when looking for a relationship between lightning and intensity change. 

“When evaluating cases with hurricane aircraft reconnaissance data, lightning inside a storm’s radius of maximum wind speeds was found to be beneficial for storm intensification,” she said. “Additionally, the lightning’s evolution over time with respect to environmental factors, such as vertical wind shear, can give insight into how the storm’s structure—and its intensity—are changing.”

Furthermore, Dr. Stevenson assisted with all aspects of the transition process from research to operations—including algorithm development and forecaster training. Through her efforts, new GOES-R applications are being used as guidance for NHC forecasts as well as in media and decision-support briefings.

"The Johnson award recognizes exemplary work from young scientists like Stephanie, who are using satellite data that help save lives, protect the economy and benefit society overall," said Dr. Stephen Volz, assistant administrator for NOAA’s Satellite and Information Service.

A native of suburban Houston, Dr. Stevenson began her career as a GOES tropical applications developer at the NHC through the Cooperative Institute of Research in the Atmosphere (CIRA). Stevenson received a bachelor’s degree in meteorology from Texas A&M University in 2012, and a Ph.D. in atmospheric science from the State University of New York at Albany in 2018. Her Ph.D. dissertation was titled: Influence of Lightning-Producing Convection on Tropical Cyclone Intensity Change.