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July-August 2004

A pair of sixes: NCAR bolsters its scientific staff

NCAR has added six senior scientists and hired six new Scientists I, or junior scientists, as it continues to strengthen its research ranks.

“This group truly demonstrates the diverse research interests and strengths here at NCAR,” says NCAR director Tim Killeen. “I’m very pleased by this remarkable gathering of talent.”

The junior scientist hires represent the third major class of new scientists since 2001. One of Tim’s top goals has been to boost the number of new scientists, especially because tight budgets in the middle and late 1990s restricted the number of scientists hired.

A search committee from across NCAR helped select the six new junior scientists from a large and impressive pool. The NCAR director’s office will share the initial costs of the new hires with the divisions that employ them. Departments are also continuing to bring on board an occasional new Scientist I using their own funds. CGD, for example, recently hired paleoclimatologist Caspar Ammann, a global climate modeler with expertise in volcanoes.

Tim says he would like to hire an additional class of new scientists in the next year or two, but he acknowledged that tight budgets may restrict the number.

The senior scientists were appointed by the UCAR Board of Trustees at its June meeting. Senior scientists, who provide the center with long-term scientific leadership, are selected on the basis of individual competence in research and other activities that enhance NCAR’s interaction with scientists elsewhere. The position is analogous to that of full professor at a tenure-granting university.

Following are brief profiles of the new senior and junior scientists.

Senior scientists

Alex Guenther. Since coming to ACD in 1990, Alex has focused on studying the impacts of biogenic emissions on

Alex Guenther

Alex Guenther

atmospheric chemistry and air quality. Trees and other plants emit a class of chemicals, known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), that are usually harmless. But they can react with human-generated industrial emissions of nitrogen oxides to form ground-level ozone, an important component of smog, and they also have impacts on climate.

By measuring VOCs in the United States and at many overseas sites, Alex has found that clearing forests and other natural ecosystems can have subtle but important impacts on air chemistry. He is working with the Environmental Protection Agency on several projects looking at the impact of rising temperatures and wildfires on plant emissions and air quality. He is also overseeing research in the Brazilian Amazon and other tropical regions, where lush vegetation pumps out the bulk of VOCs in the atmosphere. Because the emissions have important ramifications for cloud development and the retention of solar radiation in the atmosphere, many of Alex’s measurements are incorporated into climate models such as NCAR’s Community Climate System Model.

He has also incorporated his measurements into the regional air quality models that are used to develop pollution control strategies.

Alex has a master’s degree and Ph.D. from Washington State University in environmental engineering. He serves on two of NCAR’s strategic initiative steering committees: Biogeosciences and Wildland Fire Collaboratory.

Phil Judge. At HAO, Phil’s research centers on quantitative spectroscopy of the atmospheres of the Sun and other

Phil Judge

Phil Judge

stars using ground- and space-based instrumentation. His work over the last decade has helped create a new

framework in which to interpret ultraviolet and extreme ultraviolet radiation emitted from the outer atmospheres of stars. This has confirmed a growing sentiment in the scientific community that the atmospheric layers are highly dynamic and structured by turbulent magnetic fields.

At present, he is working on measuring the coronal magnetic field of the Sun, building on a breakthrough detection he and his collaborators made in 2002 (of the 3.934 micron emission line of Si ix in the solar corona). An accurate measurement would be a major step toward linking the dynamic activity of the Sun’s interior and atmosphere with the consequences of solar storms on Earth’s atmosphere. Phil is also looking into nonthermal heating of the outer solar atmosphere, an issue that has attracted the attention of two generations of solar physicists.

Phil has a bachelor’s degree and Ph.D. from Oxford University. An NCAR Technical Note completed under his leadership has been the foundation of the NCAR strategic initiative to measure solar coronal magnetic fields using ground- and space-based instrumentation.

John Orlando. John is a member of ACD’s laboratory kinetics group. He earned his doctorate in physical

John Orlando

John Orlando

chemistry from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. After a stint as a postdoctoral fellow at the NOAA Aeronomy Lab here in Boulder, John joined ACD in 1989.

John looks at the kinetics and mechanisms of chemical reactions that govern atmospheric composition. More specifically, he uses infrared and ultraviolet spectroscopy to characterize photochemical reactions that help regulate stratospheric ozone levels and tropospheric air quality. John has built several instruments for such work, including a laser flash photolysis/resonance fluorescence system, a temperature-regulated UV/visible absorption spectrometer system, and an excimer laser flash photolysis/time-resolved tunable diode laser system. He has also helped develop and improve the chemical mechanisms used in ACD’s suite of regional and global models.

John is the co-editor of Atmospheric Chemistry and Global Change, a textbook written predominantly by NCAR scientists, and he also served as a co-editor for Glossary of Meteorology, published by the American Meteorological Society. He has supervised numerous undergraduate and graduate students.

Chris Synder

Chris Snyder

Chris Snyder. An applied mathematician by training, Chris develops techniques to incorporate varied types of observations in numerical models and to reduce model error. He has worked extensively with the ensemble Kalman filter. This method uses ensemble members (parallel model runs with tiny variations in their starting points) to characterize forecast errors. Using the ensemble Kalman filter, Chris and his colleagues are working on new ways to bring highly detailed radar and satellite data into weather models. Chris is also interested in the dynamics and predictability of mesoscale atmospheric motions.

After receiving a doctorate in applied mathematics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Chris spent two years as an ASP postdoc (1989–91) before joining MMM. He was a visiting scientist in 1994 at France’s Centre National de Recherches Meteorolgiques and is currently an adjunct professor at Texas A&M University.

Chris is one of the lead scientists for the NCAR strategic initiative on data assimilation (see the Spring 2004 issue of the UCAR Quarterly at www.ucar.edu/communications/quarterly/spring04/initiatives.html) and co-organized a 2003 ASP Colloquium on the topic. He is an associate editor of the Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences.

Morris Weisman. One of Morris’s goals in his 25 years at NCAR has been to better understand how the

Morris Weisman

Morris Weisman

atmosphere produces its wide spectrum of thunderstorm activity, from isolated storms with little rain to vast convective complexes. Using sophisticated computer models tailored to the storm scale, Morris and his MMM colleagues were among the first to show how variations of wind with height can produce an environment favorable for supercells or other severe storms. Recently he’s been involved in experiments using a high-resolution version of the Weather Research and Forecasting model to examine U.S. summertime convection.

Morris earned his master’s degree in meteorology in 1978 from The Pennsylvania State University and joined NCAR as an associate scientist the next year. He completed his doctorate from Penn State in 1990 and has served as visiting professor at the universities of Oklahoma and Washington and the University at Albany, State University of New York. Morris has been a key organizer and principal investigator for several field projects, including last year’s Bow Echo and MCV Experiment (BAMEX), and he serves as a subject matter editor for the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.

A lecturer for several COMET Program courses, Morris is lead scientist for a popular COMET training module that helps forecasters predict which storm type to expect on a given day among a matrix of possibilities (see “A Convective Storm Matrix”). His work on this and other projects won Morris the 2001 UCAR Outstanding Accomplishment Award in education and outreach.

Larry Winter. Larry came to NCAR last year to serve as deputy director. Although administrative

Larry Winter

Larry Winter

responsibilities take up much of his time—he played a key role in the NCAR reorganization—he has a long-time interest in applying mathematics and computational science to hydrologic modeling. He has concentrated on two aspects of hydrology: applying stochastic partial differential equations to uncertainty in groundwater models, and analyzing spatially distributed computational models of regional hydrologic cycles.

Larry has a Ph.D. in applied mathematics from the University of Arizona. Before coming to NCAR, he worked in Los Alamos National Laboratory for 12 years, leading its Geoanalysis Group and its Computer Research and Applications Group. Although his principal focus was hydrology, he applied Lagrangian simulations (which focus on the difference between kinetic and potential energy) to modeling traffic flow for the U.S. Department of Transportation and to predicting locations in random terrain of military vehicles for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

Larry’s many appointments included a term as science advisor to the New Mexico governor’s office. Among his honors are a Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC) Publication Prize in Mathematics, Computer Science, and Operations Research, and a Los Alamos Distinguished Performance Award. He has taught at Idaho State University and the University of Arizona, and he serves as an adjunct professor in the UA Department of Hydrology and Water Resources.

Junior scientists

George Bryan

George Bryan

George Bryan. In MMM, George focuses on mesoscale convective systems (groups of thunderstorms) to find out more about their behavior and structure. One of his key research areas is studying unstable layers of air in the storms to determine how the layers’ properties, such as depth and width, affect the system. He participated in last year’s BAMEX project and he is currently helping to analyze BAMEX data to evaluate theories and model forecasts of these storms. An experienced modeler, George has created a numerical cloud model to help researchers study thunderstorm complexes.

George has a master’s degree and Ph.D. in meteorology from The Pennsylvania State University. He came to NCAR last year as an ASP postdoctoral fellow. He is an associate editor of Monthly Weather Review.

 

Paul Field. Paul comes to MMM from the Met Office in the United Kingdom, where he has participated in hundreds of hours of research flights studying ice-related microphysical processes in stratiform clouds. One of his principal research interests is improving the modeling of mixed-phase clouds (which include both ice crystals and liquid water). This could lead to improved weather forecasts and better predictions of hazardous icing conditions for aircraft. He also studies the growth of ice crystals in deep ice clouds and ice nucleation at temperatures warmer than -40ºC (-40ºF). He has been involved in the development of an instrument known as the Small Ice Detector to probe mixed-phase and ice-cloud structures.
A British native, Paul has a bachelor’s degree in astrophysics and a Ph.D. in solid Earth geophysics.

David Gochis

David Gochis

David Gochis. David (RAP) studies the physical mechanisms that drive the North American Monsoon and the resulting impacts on climate and society. A major aspect of his work is analyzing the movement of precipitation once it reaches the ground. As a researcher with the North American Monsoon Experiment (NAME), he has set up a surface rain gauge network over the core monsoon area in western Mexico and the southwestern United States. He also studies exchanges of energy and water between land and the lower atmosphere and their impacts on climate, working with other scientists to incorporate such information into modeling.

David has a master’s degree from Oregon State University and a Ph.D. from the University of Arizona. He came to NCAR as an ASP postdoc in 2002.

Josh Hacker

Josh Hacker

Josh Hacker. Josh (RAP) is exploring the nature of error in forecast models and how it can best be minimized. His current focus is to relate the quick growth of error in high-resolution models to space and time scales and to the phenomena depicted in the model. Over the longer term, Josh plans to study how improved observations, such as radar, profiler, and aircraft data, can help pin down the initial state in an ensemble of model forecasts and help characterize the errors that emerge later. He’s also interested in how a model’s performance can be measured in terms of its usefulness to society, in addition to measuring it with standard variables such as temperature or winds.

Josh earned his master’s degree and doctorate in the atmospheric science program at the University of British Columbia. He joined NCAR as an ASP postdoc in 2002, working in MMM. Josh co-organized the 2003 Junior Faculty Forum for Future Scientific Directions and has served as the president of the Denver-Boulder Chapter of the American Meteorological Society.

Arlene Laing. Arlene (MMM) focuses on storms and other convective systems from cloud clusters to hurricanes.

Arlene Laing

Arlene Laing

One of her principal research interests is developing a warm-season climatology of precipitation in Africa, which could then be compared with the climatologies of other continents. Such a study could both improve weather forecasts and lead to a better understanding of showers and thunderstorms. Arlene is also working toward improved predictions of coastal weather by using high-resolution atmosphere models, ocean models, and observations. Other interests include wildfire forecasting, volcanic ash fall modeling, and flood hazards.

Arlene has a master’s degree and Ph.D. in meteorology from The Pennsylvania State University. Before coming to NCAR, she was an assistant professor in the geography department at the University of South Florida.

Amik St-Cyr

Amik St-Cyr

Amik St-Cyr. In SCD, Amik studies high-order numerical methods for partial differential equations, which are used for computer modeling of the atmosphere and other geophysical applications. One of his main interests is the application of adaptive mesh refinement in atmospheric modeling. An adaptive mesh can follow an event in the atmosphere, focusing on it with a higher resolution than the rest of the simulation. Another interest is creating time-stepping schemes, allowing models to be run more efficiently. His new time-stepping scheme is twice as fast as any semi-implicit method. Such research can help lead to an efficient coupled time-implicit, three-dimensional high-order model for the ocean and atmosphere.

A former postdoctoral fellow at McGill University’s Computational Fluid Dynamics Lab, Amik came to NCAR last year as a project scientist. He has a Ph.D. in applied mathematics from the University of Montreal and a bachelor’s in mathematical physics.

Scientists III
Five NCAR researchers have been promoted to the Scientist III level, which is one step below senior scientist. They are Mary Barth (MMM), Fei Chen (RAP), Yuhong Fan (HAO), Mohan Ramamurthy (Unidata), and Mark Rast (HAO).

Also in this issue...

Coping with heat

Over the hill and picking up speed

No day at the beach: SOARS protégés tackle research projects

Child's play

Delphi Questions

New Leaders


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