Federal Faces: Mark DeMaria

Mark DeMaria

Supervisory meteorologist, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Center for Satellite Applications and Research

(Courtesy of Mark DeMaria) - NOAA’s Mark DeMaria, who is considered one of the nation’s top minds in the field of storm forecasting.

Best known for: Considered one of the nation’s top minds in storm forecasting, DeMaria has pioneered numerous hurricane and wind speed prediction models that have become the bedrock for the nation’s meteorologists and the basis for National Hurricane Center forecasts.

The results from the models he created are regularly used to make critical decisions about evacuations and other preparations for severe weather.

DeMaria’s advancements, for example, were used during Hurricane Sandy in 2012, providing information regarding which locations would experience hurricane or gale force winds and when the hurricane would make landfall.

DeMaria’s initial work dates to 1987, when he developed a model that led to improved forecasts for hurricane tracking. He then tackled the more complicated problems of analyzing and forecasting hurricane formation and intensity change, leading to an innovative new forecasting approach in 1993.

He followed with breakthroughs on how hurricanes decay after landfall and the forecasting of rapid storm intensification.

He also has made use of data from satellites, as well as analysis of lightning and oceanic heat content, to improve hurricane intensity forecasts.

His next-generation work includes the geostationary lightning mapper, which aims to quantify what lightning can tell us about storm intensification, and the Hurricane Forecast Improvement Project, which seeks to further improve hurricane forecasting.

Government work: DeMaria joined NOAA as a research meteorologist in 1987, moved to the agency’s Technical Support Branch in 1995, and in 1998 became a supervisory meteorologist, leading a research branch to develop satellite applications to improve forecasts of severe weather.

Motivation for service: DeMaria studied weather and hurricanes in college, and early on decided he wanted to work for the government, where you are “on the front lines of defense and protecting the public.”

Biggest challenge: The complexity of the atmosphere and how difficult it is to provide an accurate forecast. DeMaria has been working on methods to forecast changes in hurricane intensity for more than two decades, and is still surprised by the behavior of some storms every season.

Quote: “I am really lucky that I get to work on something I love every day. Even if this wasn’t my job, I’d be doing it anyway.”

— From the Partnership
for Public Service

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