sometimes it rains and other times it pours

Research in Atmospheric & Environmental Sciences

It's been another banner year for the Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences. Since December 2013 alone, they have added over $2.5 million in federal grants to their already-impressive portfolio of funded research. With the inclusion of atmospheric and environmental sciences research as a cornerstone of UAlbany's NYSUNY2020 initiative and with plans for the new E-TEC facility underway, the future of the department looks bright.

Part of the mission of the department is to pursue cutting-edge research that addresses important atmospheric and environmental problems for society in the 21st century. The recently funded projects are just the latest examples of the robust research programs that contribute to this mission. The strengths of the department include:

Synoptic Meteorology

This research area remains a significant strength for DAES and is contributed to by many faculty. Recently-hired faculty members who have enhanced this area include Kristen Corbosiero, Andrea Lang, Justin Minder, Brian Tang and Ryan Torn. Department faculty have recently participated in two field campaigns: the Mesoscale Predictability Experiment (MPEX: Lance Bosart and Ryan Torn) and Ontario Winter Lake-effect Systems (OWLeS: Justin Minder). This area has benefited from a 13-year collaboration with the National Weather Service will continue through 2016 thanks to a new Collaborative Science Technology and Applied Research (CSTAR) award that was led by Kristen Corbosiero (with collaborators Lance Bosart, Dan Keyser, Andrea Lang, Ryan Torn and Brian Tang). The current search aims to further enhance the Department in this area by recruiting someone with expertise in mesoscale weather.

Tropical Meteorology

While this research area is a long-recognized strength new faculty additions have again enhanced this effort. These include Kristen Corbosiero, Brian Tang, and Ryan Torn, all of whom are actively carrying out tropical cyclone research. Some recent highlights include participation in NASA’s Hurricane Severe Storm Sentinel research project and field campaign (HS3: Lance Bosart, Kristen Corbosiero, John Molinari, and Chris Thorncroft). This follows participation in two other recent tropical cyclone field experiments in 2010 (PREDICT and GRIP: Lance Bosart, John Molinari, Chris Thorncroft, Ryan Torn). Ryan Torn’s research, in collaboration with scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), has been used operationally in one of NCAR’s hurricane forecast models. In addition, Paul Roundy is a leader in the area of intraseasonal variability of tropical convection and its interactions with midlatitudes. Paul’s expertise is routinely sought by number of different groups including NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center and private companies.


A particularly exciting achievement in the past 7 years has been establishing a new strength in climate research. Faculty contributing to the climate research strength in DAES include (among others): Aiguo Dai, Oliver Elison-Timm, Jiping Liu, Justin Minder, Brian Rose, Chris Thorncroft, Mathias Vuille and Liming Zhou. This group of researchers carry out work in a number of important areas including Climate Variability and Climate Change (including how this impacts water resources), Paleoclimate, Human influences on Land Surfaces, and with expertise that includes analysis of observations, modeling and remote sensing. Mathias Vuille leads the Andean Climate Change Interamerican Observatory Network (ACCION) that is concerned with the impact of decreased water availability in several South American countries due to glacier retreat. It is also worth highlighting that Aiguo Dai recently jointly received the Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz International Prize for Water (PSIPW) for his work on climate and water.


  Justin Minder (Photo by Paul Miller)

CAREER: The Mesoscale Climate Dynamics of Rocky Mountain Snowpack Depletion
National Science Foundation | $570,640
Assistant Professor Justin Minder

Professor Minder will study surface-albedo feedback (SAF) in the Headwaters region and other US mountain ranges. The albedo, or whiteness, of the surface is related to the rate of snow depletion. A positive feedback system is created as snow melts: a small amount of depletion exposes darker ground, which absorbs more heat leading to more depletion. Professor Minder hopes to create, “a framework that can be used by other researchers to systematically analyze the SAF in other models and regions.” The project includes plans for annual high school classroom visits and weeklong summer camps on weather and climate for local students. “These programs will serve urban districts with high populations of minorities underrepresented in the STEM fields. The camps will engage students through lectures, demonstrations, hands-on laboratory experiences, and an interactive field trip to a local mountaintop observatory.” Read more about this study at the NSF project page.

John Molinari (Photo by Mark Schmidt)

Outflow Layer Dynamics and Thermodynamics and Tropical Cyclone Intensity Change
Office of Naval Research | $375,000
Research Professor John Molinari

The goal of this project is to improve prediction of the intensification of tropical cyclones. Dr. Molinari's proposal states that this funding will allow him to, “…undertake four projects that relate to the role of the tropical cyclone outflow layer on subsequent intensity of the storms.” Tropical cyclone formation, structure, and intensity are among Dr. Molinari's areas of expertise and his recent research includes projects funded by the NSF and NASA.

Paul Roundy (Photo by Mark Schmidt)

The Madden Julian Oscillation, Tropical Cyclones and Extratropical Circulation Responses
National Science Foundation | $396,969
Associate Professor Paul Roundy

Dr. Roundy will examine the relationship of the presence of tropical cyclones at different geographical points with the extratropical effects of the Madden-Julian Oscillation, the natural 30-60 day cycle of fluctuating rainy and dry weather in the tropics. "Results will provide insights that might benefit commodity and energy markets as well as disaster planners some of whom already consider the MJO and northwest Pacific TCs in their assessments of future risks of extreme temperature and rainfall or drought events," writes Dr. Roundy in his project's abstract.

Aiguo Dai

The Natural Variations and Forced Changes in Historical and Future Precipitation and Draught
National Science Foundation | $499,886
Associate Professor Aiguo Dai

In his new study, Professor Dai will develop a better understanding of the amount of variation in regional precipitation and drought that can be attributed to natural occurring variability simulated response to future GHG forcing." Professor Dai is an expert on climate variability, drought, and future climate change whose recent work includes studies of the changes in East Asian Monsoon precipitation and also of the changes in the terrestrial water cycle of the United States. Read more about Dr. Dai's new study at the NSF award page.

Dan Keyser (photo by Mark Schmidt)

Phenomenological Studies of Cool-Season Extreme Weather Events over Central and Eastern North America on Intraseasonal Time Scales
National Science Foundation | $663,221
Distinguished Professor Lance Bosart
Professor Daniel Keyser

According to the project abstract, "The goal of this project is to investigate extreme weather events (EWEs), defined here as a category of high-impact weather events that are societally disruptive, geographically widespread, exceptionally prolonged, and climatologically infrequent, from a phenomenological perspective."