Lapenta named director of NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Prediction

William Lapenta, Ph.D., is the new director of NOAA‘s National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP).

Weather-Ready Nation
Date Posted: January 6, 2014

William Lapenta, Ph.D., is the new director of NOAA‘s National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP).  NCEP delivers national and global weather, water, climate and space weather guidance, forecasts, warnings and analyses to help save lives and protect property.  As director, Lapenta oversees the planning, science and technology, and operational responsibilities related to NCEP’s nine national centers, which include the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., and Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colo.

“Bill brings tremendous expertise and leadership from global observations to providing forecasts and important decision support services, making him uniquely qualified to lead NCEP," said Louis Uccellini, Ph.D., director of NOAA's National Weather Service and former NCEP director from 1999-2013. "Bill has extensive knowledge and experience with NOAA's critical satellite observations, how to best incorporate all observations into numerical weather prediction models, and how the model output is best incorporated into official weather and climate predictions from the sun to the sea."

Billions of earth observations and meteorological data collected over the globe flow through operational environmental model systems, developed and managed by NCEP.  NOAA’s environmental scientists analyze this information to better understand and forecast seasonal precipitation and temperature, droughts, flooding, hurricanes, and heat waves.  Emergency managers and local leaders use these forecast products to help protect life and property, enhance the nation's economy, and support the nation's growing need for environmental information.

Lapenta, 52, began working at NOAA in 2008, first as deputy director of the Environmental Modeling Center (EMC) from 2008 to 2010 then as acting director from 2011 to 2013.  At EMC, he was responsible for the development and transition to operations of 25 NOAA numerical modeling systems that help forecasters deliver more accurate climate and weather prediction information for hurricanes, severe thunderstorms, floods, winter storms, ocean currents and waves. 

Prior to joining NOAA, Lapenta spent 20 years at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. As deputy manager of the Science and Exploration Research Office from 2006 to 2008, he was responsible for the planning and execution of research and development in space science, earth science and space optics. From 2002 to 2006, Lapenta served as the principal investigator and chief scientist for the NASA Short-term Prediction Research and Transition (SPoRT) Center focused on transitioning NASA earth science research into National Weather Service forecast offices across the country.

Lapenta has a Ph.D. in meteorology from Pennsylvania State University (1990) and a Bachelor of Science degree in meteorology with a minor in mathematics from the State University of New York at Oneonta (1983). He has published numerous journal articles on numerical modeling, land/atmosphere interactions, and regional climate.  He was an adjunct professor at the University of Alabama, Huntsville from 1992 to 2008, where he taught graduate level courses in the atmospheric science department. 

NCEP is located at the NOAA Center for Weather and Climate Prediction in College Park, Md., which opened in 2012.  The world-class facility is home to 825 meteorologists, scientists, data managers and other NOAA employees from NCEP, NOAA’s National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service, and NOAA’s Air Resources Laboratory.  Scientists at this NOAA center collaborate closely with University of Maryland faculty and students. 

A native of Nyack, N.Y., Lapenta is a resident of Northern Virginia. He and his wife, Cathy, have two adult children.

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