NOAA 2004-R208
Contact: Keli Tarp
NOAA News Releases 2004
NOAA Home Page
NOAA Public Affairs


Joseph Schaefer, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Storm Prediction Center (SPC) in Norman, Okla., has received the 2003 Presidential Rank Award for exceptional long-term accomplishments. He was among a group of federal senior executives recently honored at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. NOAA is an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The Presidential Rank Award is a prestigious award given to a select group of senior federal executives who have provided exceptional service to the American people over an extended period of time. Executives who have demonstrated strength, integrity, industry and commitment to public trust are nominated for the award by the head of their agency. A panel of private citizens evaluate the candidates, selecting only those who through their personal conduct and results-oriented leadership qualify for referral to the president who makes the final designation.

Under Schaefer, the SPC - part of the NOAA National Weather Service (NWS) National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) - has acquired an international reputation as a center of expertise for the prediction of hazardous, small-scale, mid-latitude weather.

“Throughout his career, Joe has compiled a record of outstanding accomplishments,” said retired Navy Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Ph.D., undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere, and NOAA administrator. “This is a fitting recognition of the work he has done and the major innovations he continues to bring to the Storm Prediction Center, NOAA, and the American people.”

As the first director of the SPC, Schaefer was responsible for its start-up from design of facilities to the logistics of the organization's move from Kansas City in 1997, where it was previously known as the National Severe Storms Forecast Center.

Schaefer broadened the scope of the SPC program to make it an all-hazards forecast center. He added forecasts of the small scale aspects of extreme winter weather, excessive rainfall and fire weather to its original suite of tornado and severe thunderstorm forecasts.

Additionally, Schaefer significantly upgraded existing SPC products. The one- and two-day severe thunderstorm forecasts were changed to indicate the probability of specific types of severe weather. A three-day severe thunderstorm forecast was added, to more fully meet the needs of the Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Schaefer has been a leader in the effort to incorporate the detailed, specific knowledge that only forecasters at a local office have into tornado and severe thunderstorm watches. All watches are now produced through collaboration between local forecasters and SPC forecasters. Because of these efforts, the National Weather Service now provides a seamless suite of products on tornadoes and severe thunderstorms.

Schaefer earned a bachelor of science degree in meteorology in 1965 and a Ph.D. in meteorology in 1973, both from St. Louis University. He began his career as a meteorologist with the Weather Bureau (forerunner to today’s National Weather Service) office in Evansville, Ind., in 1963, then served at the National Severe Storms Forecast Center (now SPC), the NWS office in Wichita, Kan., and the NWS office in St. Louis, Mo. He was a research meteorologist at the Navy Weather Research Facility in Norfolk, Va., from 1969 to 1971 and held the same position at the National Severe Storms Laboratory in Norman, Okla., from 1971 to 1976. He then became chief of the Techniques Development Unit of the National Severe Storms Forecast Center in Kansas City, serving until 1983 when he was named chief of the Scientific Services Division of the National Weather Service Central Region, also in Kansas City. From 1991 to 1995 he was director of the NWS Training Center in Kansas City, and then was named director of the Storm Prediction Center.

In Feb. 2003, Schaefer received the Reichelderfer Award from the American Meteorological Society (AMS). He has also received the Department of Commerce bronze medal for his warning verification work in 1990 and an AMS editor's award in 1993. He has published more than three dozen articles in professional literature and has written chapters in four textbooks. He is a member of the National Weather Association, American Meteorological Society, American Geophysical Union, Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society and the Missouri Academy of Sciences.

Schaefer is a past president of the National Weather Association, a fellow of the AMS, a former chair of the AMS Board on Certified Consulting Meteorologists, a former chair of the AMS Severe Local Storms Committee and a past member of the AMS Committee on Fellows. Schaefer is an adjunct full professor at the University of Oklahoma and has taught at St. Louis University, the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and Kansas City (Kan.) Community College.

The NOAA Storm Prediction Center issues forecasts and watches for severe thunderstorms and tornadoes over the contiguous United States. The SPC also monitors heavy rain, heavy snow and fire weather events across the U.S. and issues specific national products for those hazards. SPC meteorologists are on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Part of the National Weather Service's National Centers for Environmental Prediction, the SPC was established in Washington, D.C. in 1952, moved to Kansas City in 1954 and then Norman in 1997.

NOAA National Weather Service is the primary source of weather data, forecasts and warnings for the United States and its territories. The National Weather Service operates the most advanced weather and flood warning and forecast system in the world.

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of our nation’s coastal and marine resources.

On the Web:


NOAA National Weather Service:

NOAA National Centers for Environmental Prediction:

NOAA Storm Prediction Center: