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Researchers Leverage NSF and NOAA Grants to Improve Forecasting Models, Development and Testing of Meteorology Tools

ALBANY, N.Y. (June 16, 2015) -- Researchers within the University at Albany's Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences (DAES) and Atmospheric Sciences Research Center (ASRC), home to the largest concentration of weather and climate scientists in New York State and one of the largest groups in the nation, have recently been awarded more than $3.9 million in grants to support a broad range of atmospheric and climate science research. The grants span the spectrum of improving current forecasting tools on Atlantic tropical cyclones and extreme weather events, to reconstructing past climatic changes over several thousand years.

Awarded through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF), the funds will enhance ongoing research for improving longer range prediction models during extreme weather events.

UAlbany storm research
UAlbany researchers have received $3.8 million to examine extreme weather events and improve forecasting models.

“A major research and workforce development strength of the University at Albany is in the space of Atmospheric and Environmental Prediction and Innovation,” said James Dias, Vice President for Research at UAlbany. “This is evidenced by expanded DAES and ASRC federal funding, a 13-year partnership with the National Weather Service CSTAR training program and the national recognition of our scholars as well as the quality of the next generation of students we are training who are clearly experiencing the benefits of Governor Cuomo’s approval of the UAlbany 2020 plan."

The grants encompass the study of both tropical and Atlantic cyclones, temperature and precipitation forecasts, and orographic precipitation, and include:

Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences:

  • Distinguished Professor Lance Bosart and Professor Daniel Keyser have received a two-year, $449,998 grant from NOAA to improve 8-10 day temperature and precipitation forecasts. The goal is to improve models and provide forecasters with a "first alert" to the possibility of the occurrence of extreme temperature and precipitation events during week two, on the basis of current conditions and model forecasts.
  • Associate Professor Aiguo Dai and Associate Research Professor Junhong Wang have received a three-year, $429,588 grant from NOAA through the Modeling Analysis, Predictions and Projections (MAPP) program. Their project will examine the diurnal cycle, which is a well-studied, fundamental feature of Earth's climate. The team will also apply new diurnal metrics to diagnose the simulation of the diurnal cycle in the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) and other models.
  • Researcher John Molinari has been awarded a three-year, $467,037 grant from NSF to examine the mechanisms of intensity change in sheared tropical cyclones. The purpose of the project, which builds on previous work, is to examine one of the key factors in understanding tropical cyclone intensity change.
  • DAES Chair and Professor Chris Thorncroft has received a two-year, $378,566 grant from NOAA to improve prediction tools for the genesis of Atlantic tropical cyclones in the five-day outlook timeframe. The goal is to develop dynamical ensemble prediction tools for tropical cyclogenesis (tropical cyclone formation), guidance associated with African easterly waves (AEWs). Most Atlantic tropical cyclones form in association with the troughs of AEWs, but knowing whether a particular AEW will spawn a tropical cyclone 5 days or 10 days ahead remains problematic.
  • Assistant Professor Justin Minder has received a one-year, $84,075 grant from NSF to undertake a multi-month exploratory Chilean Coastal Orographic Precipitation Experiment Pilot Project. The goal is to use field observations to gain process-level understanding of orographic rainfall over the Nahuelbuta Mountains of Southern Chile. Results will be used to improve understanding and modeling of rainfall over mountain ranges of coastal Chile and similar locations, such as coastal California.
  • Associate Professor Oliver Elison Timm has received a two-year, $240,000 grant from NSF to examine hydro-climatic conditions over the North Pacific during the past 10,000 years. This collaborative research project with the Department of Geography at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa will investigate how variations in the dominant modes of climate variability have affected regional rainfall pattern over the tropical Pacific, the Hawaiian Islands, Alaska, and the northwestern regions of Canada and the U.S. during the Holocene Epoch.
  • Associate Professor Ryan Torn received a $318,277 grant from NSF to understand how changes to the structure of the jet stream that occur in conjunction with the intensification of upstream winter storms and hurricanes impact weather forecasts downstream. He was also awarded a $288,697 grant from the University of Miami under NOAA to help improve data collection for NOAA's Global Hawk missions into tropical cyclones. The project aims to optimize Global Hawk aircraft real-time sampling strategies in both the inner core of the tropical cyclone and the surrounding environment that will improve tropical cyclone track and intensity forecasts.

Atmospheric Sciences Research Center:

  • Research Associate Cheng-Hsuan Lu at ASRC was awarded two grants from NOAA totaling $557,913 to improve the treatment of aerosols and their impact on weather forecasts in NOAA's global forecast system. Aerosols impact clouds, precipitation, tropical cyclones and the retrieval of satellite observations that feed the daily forecasts from NOAA weather models. These projects will allow the NOAA forecast system to more realistically account for the aerosol processes.
  • Senior Research Associate Lee Harrison was awarded a $436,328 grant from the Naval Research Lab to continue development of radio sounding technology for probing tropical cyclones. Dropsondes as they are known are released from aircrafts such as the NOAA Hurricane Hunters and send back meteorological data that are used to track the path and intensity of these storms. The project is in partnership with Yankee Environmental Inc to design and eventually market smaller, more economical and accurate sensors.
  • Senior Research Associate Richard Perez has been awarded two grants through the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) and Pace University totaling $181,000 to improve regional coordination of solar power integration, as well as data analysis of New York grid production output associated with solar panels.
  • Research Associate Qilong Min has been awarded a $97,461 contract through the Universities Space Research Association to develop a suite of algorithms to better understand cloud data and how it contributes to climate studies, including cloud detection, cloud property retrieval and oxygen band exploitation.

"This variety of research funding helps mitigate danger and build resilience to disaster caused by severe weather, as we study how to more accurately predict a storm's inevitable onset and duration, as well as its effects such as wind damage, and snow accumulation and flooding,” said Dias. “The research will also help us advance how best to work with our Emergency Management officials to communicate the science underpinning these predictions to the citizens of New York to keep them informed, safe and prepared."

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