NEWS | July 8, 2015

Dr. Justin McLay Honored as Defense Department’s ‘Laboratory Scientist of the Quarter’

By Daniel Parry

Dr. Justin McLay, research meteorologist at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) Marine Meteorology Division, receives the esteemed Laboratory Scientist of the Quarter award honoring extraordinary service to the Department of Defense (DoD). McLay is bestowed the award for his distinguished accomplishments in leading the 'New Rules of Predictability' project and his key role in developing and transitioning the Navy Global Environmental Model (NAVGEM) Ensemble Forecast System (EFS).

Dr. McLay's development of the 'New Rules of Predictability' has been groundbreaking, said Dr. John Montgomery, Director of Research at NRL. His sustained effort in developing an ensemble system and using ensemble information provide a fundamental understanding of the impact weather and climate change have on Navy assets, and offer unique and valuable contributions to overall Defense Department missions and goals.

McLay is a recognized subject matter expert in the design and application of atmospheric ensemble predictions. His work on the 6.1 level predictability project and 6.4 level NAVGEM EFS may significantly enhance the current and future missions of the Navy and DoD in environmental information dominance. Providing detailed knowledge of future extreme weather variability and conditions (wind speeds, wave heights, air and sea temperatures, sea ice thickness and extent, and sea level) the ensemble will enable the Navy and DoD to adapt to future environmental impacts.

Beginning his career in weather science as a certified weather observer for the National Weather Service (NWS), McLay worked to obtain a doctorate in atmospheric science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he had received both a bachelor's and master's degree in atmospheric science in 1997 and 2001 respectively. After receiving his Ph.D. in 2004, he was granted a post-doctoral appointment within the National Research Council (NRC) for a position at NRL-Monterey in the Global Modeling Section of the Atmospheric Dynamics and Prediction Branch.

In 2007, McLay started his federal career at NRL-Montery, and progressed to improve the design of the now retired Navy Operational Global Atmospheric Prediction System (NOGAPS) EFS through the implementation of locally banded ensemble transform (ET) perturbations of the initial state. In March 2015 he led the successful transition of the Navy's first operational method for stochastic forcing of the NAVGEM global model (SKEB-mc), which improves the measurement of forecast uncertainty.

McLay has authored or co-authored 17 journal publications and has led nine successful technical transitions for the Navy's NAVGEM global EPS. In April 2015 he received the Alan Berman Annual Research Publication Award for a study of statistical inference applied to model parameter uncertainty. He is currently Associate Editor for the Monthly Weather Review journal and a member of the American Meteorological Society (AMS) Weather Analysis and Forecasting Committee. McLay has presented his research at numerous conferences and workshops, including as an invited speaker on the topic of forecast time series behavior at the Developmental Testbed Center (DTC), National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).