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Tropical Meteorology Powerhouse

DAES graduate students Patrick Duran (left) and Michael Fischer were both awarded for their presentations at the American Meteorological Society Hurricane and Tropical Meteorology Conference.

ALBANY, N.Y. (May 15, 2018) – The University’s Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences won the top two awards at last month’s 33rd annual American Meteorological Society Hurricane and Tropical Meteorology Conference, beating out hundreds of nominees.

The department received the Max A. Eaton student prize, awarded to the conference’s most outstanding student research presentation, and the Banner I. Miller Award, presented for the most outstanding published contribution to the science of hurricane and tropical weather forecasting during the last 48 months.

This is tropical meteorology’s equivalent of winning the Super Bowl and Heisman Trophy – awarded to college football’s most valuable player.

“These recognitions are a testament to the strength of our department,” said DAES Department Chair Chris Thorncroft. “You would be hard pressed to find another college program in the United States that matches our breadth and depth of expertise in tropical meteorology.”

The conference took place in Ponte Vedra, Fla.

The Max A. Eaton Student Prize:

The Max A. Eaton Student Prize is typically awarded to a single student, making this year’s award recipients unique.

DAES graduate student Patrick Duran was presented with the Max A. Eaton student prize, while his classmate Michael Fischer was awarded the “most outstanding oral presentation,” essentially the same recognition under a different name.

The two are not only in the same Ph.D. program, but also share an office in the Earth Sciences Building.

“The judges felt that of our presentations were both worthy of being recognized, so they found a way for both of us to win,” said Duran, a native of Jacksonville, Fla. “UAlbany is one of the most highly-respected, if not the most respected, tropical meteorology program in the world. This award is further proof of that.”

Also a Florida native, Fischer understands the devastation hurricanes can leave behind.

“We’ve had a lot of close calls. I can still remember when Category 5 Hurricane Andrew made landfall,” said Fischer, who grew up in Miami. “There’s a lot of personal motivation for me to advance our understanding of what makes these storms so destructive.”

At the conference, Duran presented on research he published last year in the AMS Monthly Weather Review. His paper analyzed Office of Naval Research (ONR) data on Hurricane Patricia, the second most intense tropical cyclone on record, in order to better understand how certain conditions in the Earth’s tropopause region intensified the storm.

Fischer’s conference research analyzed a group of storms that rapidly intensify. He presented on a new machine-learning technique that can observe the effects of the earth's upper-troposphere region on hurricanes to help improve intensity forecasting. His work was published last year in the AMS Monthly Review.

Both students plan to graduate this summer and continue their hurricane research in the field.

DAES department chair Chris Thorncroft, along with DAES graduate Jason Dunion ’15 and Chris Velden of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, hold the Banner I. Miller award
Banner I. Miller recipients: Chris Velden of the University of Wisconsin-Madison (left), DAES graduate Jason Dunion ’15 and DAES Department Chair Chris Thorncroft.

The Banner I. Miller Award:

Thorncroft, along with DAES graduate Jason Dunion ’15 and Chris Velden of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, were presented with the Banner I. Miller award for their paper titled, “The Tropical Cyclone Diurnal Cycle of Mature Hurricanes.”

The paper describes a new technique that uses infrared satellite images to examine the daily evolution of all North Atlantic major hurricanes over the last 10 years.

Dunion commuted daily from Massachusetts to earn his Ph.D. degree from UAlbany, while also working in NOAA’s Hurricane Research Division. Under the mentorship of Thorncroft, he was able to have the winning paper published in the AMS Monthly Weather Review prior to graduating.

 “Last year, I was named a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society. I’m very proud of that. But, this is a different feeling,” Thorncroft said. “To earn this award with Jason, a graduate of our program, is special.”

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A comprehensive public research university, the University at Albany offers more than 120 undergraduate majors and minors and 125 master's, doctoral, and graduate certificate programs. UAlbany is a leader among all New York State colleges and universities in such diverse fields as atmospheric and environmental sciences, business, criminal justice, emergency preparedness, engineering and applied sciences, informatics, public administration, social welfare, and sociology taught by an extensive roster of faculty experts. It also offers expanded academic and research opportunities for students through an affiliation with Albany Law School. With a curriculum enhanced by 600 study-abroad opportunities, UAlbany launches great careers.