NASA/UAH Weekly Seminars 2013


(UAHuntsville Courses ATS 780/781)

FAll 2013

Based on current commitments (as of August 22, 2013)
Location: National Space Science and Technology Center
320 Sparkman Drive, Huntsville, AL 35805, Conference Room 4065

Date/Time:  Wednesdays at 12:45PM-1:45PM — UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED.

Coordinator:  William W. Vaughan (UAH)

Please contact Dr. William W. Vaughan (, 961-7759) or
Ms. Lynn B. Bell (, 961-7729) concerning any
questions, suggestions, or contributions relative to the Seminar Schedule.

Updated current schedule may be found on the following website:




Wednesday, August 21st

Burgess Howell (MSFC/USRA):  “First Earth Images From the ISERV Pathfinder Instrument on the International Space Station”

The ISS SERVIR Environmental Rese

arch and Visualization System (ISERV) is a telescopic imaging system aboard the International Space Station (ISS) that utilizes the infrastructure provided by the Window Observational Research Facility (WORF) in the Destiny module to acquire images of the Earth in the visible spectrum.  It was delivered to the International Space Station by JAXA’s HTV-3 vehicle in July, 2012, and deployed in WORF in January, 2013.  ISERV was designed to function as an Earth imaging test bed/demonstration; it is a means of developing the experience and expertise required for planned future operational Earth imaging systems aboard the ISS, as well as a mechanism to inform decisions for the development of more capable Earth observing instruments, internal or external to the ISS.  Since initial power up, ISERV has collected over 45,000 frames, depicting every continent except Antarctica.  This presentation recaps the highlights – and lowlights – of Pathfinder’s first six months of operation.


Wednesday, August 28th

Bright Dornblaser (Texas Comm. On Environmental Quality): “Applications of WRF Modeling for Texas State Implementation Plans”

Visit Coordinator:Arastoo Biazar (UAH)

Photochemical modeling is an integral part of State Implementations Plan (SIPs) submittals to EPA as required under the Clean Air Act Amendments for areas of the country that severely exceed the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS).  Meteorological modeling for historical air pollution events recreates a physical atmosphere that is used to evaluate the suitability of episode selection and provides necessary inputs to drive chemical transport model.  This seminar will discuss the use of WRF modeling to support photochemical modeling for air quality applications.  Further discussion will include state funded projects including use of OMI satellite data to constrain top-down NOx inventories and GOES data to correct photolysis rates in photochemical models.  On-going projects include the evaluation of soil parameters and data sets to improve land surface models for WRF, the use of city-specific morphological data to improve urban canopy modeling within WRF, and the use of GOES data to correct cloud placement in WRF.


Wednesday, September 4th

Rezaul Mahmood (Western Kentucky University):“Meso-scale Weather and Climate Observation in Kentucky”

Visit Coordinator: Udaysankar Nair/UAH-ASD

This presentation provides a technical overview of the Kentucky Mesonet ( and examples of unique observations by the network. Moreover, potential for collaboration will also be discussed.

Kentucky Mesonet is a world class network of weather and climate monitoring stations for the Commonwealth of Kentucky.  The network currently consists of 65 research-grade stations with redundant sensors.   Each station collects temperature, precipitation, relative humidity, solar radiation, wind speed and wind direction data every five minutes and distributes quality assured/quality (QA/QC) controlled data every 15 minutes through the World Wide Web.  Selected sites measure soil moisture and soil temperature at five depths following the Climate Reference Network (CRN) criteria.  The Kentucky Mesonet applies both automated and manual QA/QC procedures.  These procedures were developed based on scientific literature. The mesonet also archives collected data accompanied by detailed metadata.  The network has a two way communication system that permits its staff to communicate with the stations whenever necessary.  To ensure the highest quality of data, the mesonet conducts in-house testing and calibration of instruments and subsequent installation and maintenance of stations.  Field technicians make site visits whenever QA/QC specialist issues maintenance tickets.  In addition, they make three scheduled site visits every year. Our short- and long-term goal is to continue to maintain this research grade infrastructure for the highest quality meteorological and climatological data collection, distribution, and decision tool development and expand the Kentucky Mesonet to a 100-station network.   In addition, we plan to utilize this unique observational infrastructure and develop collaboration with our colleagues at other universities and laboratories to study weather and climate.

Wednesday, September 11th

David Hathaway (NASA/MSFC): “Sun Earth Connections” 

The Sun and the Earth have many connections.  The Sun’s irradiance is the ultimate driver of terrestrial climate.  The Total Solar Irradiance (TSI), the Sun’s radiated power integrated over all wavelengths, varies on time-scales from days to billions of years.  These variations physically impact terrestrial climate.  The solar interior and the Earth’s atmosphere are also connected by the physics of rotating fluids.  The fluid dynamics of the Sun’s interior has parallels with terrestrial atmospheric dynamics – some of which are only now being revealed.  In this seminar I will describe the nature and sources of variations in TSI related to the sunspot cycle and the expected impact on climate.  I will also describe the fluid dynamics associated with the sunspot cycle and show the parallels to dynamic meteorology.


Wednesday,  September 18th

Bill Lapenta (NOAA): “The NCEP Production Suite and the Transition of Research to Operations:  Perspectives from Both Sides of the ‘Valley of Death’”

Visit Coordinator: Gary Jedlovec/NASA-MSFC

Both nationally within the U.S. and internationally there is a growing awareness of the requirement to develop and deploy significantly enhanced numerical earth system prediction capabilities necessary to address evolving societal needs for natural disaster preparedness, adaptation to climate change, ensuring food security for growing planetary population, national security and defense as well as future economic prosperity. NOAA’s operational modeling systems provide information on the future state of weather, short-term and long-term climate, ecosystems, the ocean, and thus significantly contribute to the decision-making process for individuals through policy makers, and for sectors ranging from water resources to financial markets.

The National Centers for Environmental Prediction, Environmental Modeling Center (NCEP/EMC) plays a major role to improve the quality of NOAA’s foundational numerical guidance systems. The seminar will describe 2-year plans for improvements to the major components of the NOAA operational production suite.  In addition, the process used to prioritize system upgrades will be discussed along with a description of the development, testing and implementation process required transition research into NOAA operations.  A unique perspective on the “Research to Operations Valley of Death” as seen from both sides of the valley will be provided.  The presenter worked 20 years at NASA performing research with MM5/WRF and the last 5 years at NOAA managing upgrades to the operational NOAA modeling suite. The seminar will address how his understanding of the process required to transition numerical modeling research into operations with acceptable risk was woefully incomplete.  Recommendations for changes to the business model for making the transition process more effective will also be presented.


UPCOMING SEMINAR – Wednesday, September 25th

Shi Kuang (UAH): “Tropospheric Ozone Lidar Network:  Observations and Applications”

An interagency Tropospheric Ozone Lidar Network (TOLNet) has been formed for long-term ozone observations from altitudes the near surface to the top of the troposphere at multiple stations (currently NASA/GSFC, NASA/LaRC, NASA/JPL, NOAA/ESRL, UAHuntsville) to enhance air-quality studies, support field campaigns, and serve future satellite missions.  Ozone is a key trace-gas species in the troposphere and also an important pollutant at the surface.  High variability of ozone affected by various physical and photochemical processes motivates the high spatio-temporal lidar profiling, especially in the boundary layer where the resolution and precision of satellite retrievals are relatively coarse.  There are only few operational tropospheric ozone lidars within the U.S. although the community is keenly interested in obtaining more 3-dimensional, high-resolution data to address scientific questions.  The development of the tropospheric ozone lidar network has lagged behind stratospheric system (e.g., NDACC) and aerosol lidar network (e.g., AERONET, MPLNET) because of rigid requirements for the laser transmitter, complicated retrieval technique, and relatively high upfront cost.  The TOLNet project provides us an opportunity to obtain frequent, simultaneous ozone profiles at multiple stations for analyses and air-quality model input and also to develop recommendations for lowering the cost and improving the robustness of the ozone lidar systems.

In this seminar, I will briefly review the objectives and instrument development of the TOLNet and focus on its observations and applications.  I will introduce the role of the UAH lidar station in the development of TOLNet, which is the only currently operational near-sea-level ozone lidar site in the US.  I will also present the ozone and aerosol observations at UAH contributed to the recent SENEX and SEAC4RS air-quality campaigns.


Wednesday, October 2nd

Brenda Dolan(Colorado State Univ.): “Microphysical Observations From Multiple Wavelengths of Polarimetric Radar”

The perspective gained by observing storms with multiple wavelengths is shown to provide complimentary information about storm microphysics in both winter and summer cases.  At X-band, increased differential phase shift (Kdp) allows more sensitivity in light rain regimes, as well as in the ice phase.  Thus, X-band is adept at picking out dendritic growth zones, such as in Colorado winter storms.  C-band is prone to significant resonance effects, and as such, large Zdr signatures are noted to be associated with big drops and melting hail.  S-band provides nearly unattenuated observations of heavy rain events, and generally insignificant Mie scattering effects from large hydrometeors, such as hail, make detection of those types less ambiguous than at shorter centimeter wavelengths.  By exploiting these strengths at different wavelengths and using them in concert, better analysis of bulk microphysics can be achieved.  To this end, a new multiwavelength hydrometeor classification algorithm is explored and applied to data from the Department of Energy Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Southern Great Plains supersite, which sports an array of scanning centimeter wavelength radars from X- to S-band.  Two very different cases from summertime Oklahoma convection are analyzed; one severe weather case (23 May 2011) and one where a large number of large drops (> 5 mm) were observed by surface instrumentation (25 April 2011).  Additionally, data from the dual-wavelength CSU CHILL radar are investigated during a winter storm.

Visit Coordinator: Larry Carey/UAH

Wednesday, October 9th

Gretchen Mullendore(Univ. North Dakota): “Understanding the Variability in Deep Convective Mass Transport Using Radar and Cloud-Resolving Models”

Updrafts in severe storms are the most efficient pathways for vertical mass transport in the atmosphere.  The mass detrainment profile from deep convective transport is approximated in large-scale chemical transport models by evaluating the vertical thermal profile and calculating the neutral buoyancy height for a range of parcels with different mixing profiles.  An overview of the dynamics of deep convective transport will be presented, and regional simulations will be shown that demonstrate the importance of storm morphology, which is largely ignored by large-scale models.  Recent results have also shown that radar reflectivity serves as a good approximation of the observed storm-scale convective mass detrainment profile.

Visit Coordinator: Larry Carey/UAH-ASD


Wednesday, October 16th

Dennis Buechler (UAH/ESSC): “Update on Lightning Climatology from OTD (Optical Transit Detector) and LIS (Lightning Imaging Sensor)

The Lightning Imaging Sensor has been collecting total lightning data over the global tropics since late 1997.   Its predecessor, the Optical Transient Detector, collected nearly global total lightning data from 1995-2000.   Data from these low-earth-orbit sensors have been combined to generate climatologies and time series.   The gridded climatologies include annual mean flash rate on a 0.5° grid, mean diurnal cycle of flash rate on a 2.5° grid with 24 hour resolution, mean annual cycle of flash rate on a 0.5° or 2.5° grid with daily, monthly, or seasonal resolution, mean annual cycle of the diurnal cycle on a 2.5° grid with two hour resolution for each day, and time series of flash rate over the sixteen-year record with roughly three-month smoothing.  For some of these (e.g., annual cycle of the diurnal cycle), more smoothing is necessary for results to be robust.  These gridded climatologies are archived at Global Hydrology Resource Center for public access.

The mean global flash rate from the merged climatology is 46 flashes s-1.  This varies from around 35 flashes s-1 in February (austral summer) to 60 flashes s-1 in August (boreal summer).  The peak annual flash rate at 0.5° scale is 160 fl km-2 yr-1 in eastern Congo.  The peak monthly average flash rate at 2.5° scale is 18 fl km-2mo-1 from early April to early May in the Brahmaputra Valley of far eastern India.  Lightning decreases in this region during the monsoon season, but increases further north and west.  An August peak in northern Pakistan also exceeds any monthly averages from Africa, despite central Africa having the greatest yearly average.


Wednesday, October 23rd

Impact of the Assimilation of Hyperspectral Infrared Retrieved Profiles on Advanced Weather and Research Model Simulations of a Non-Convective Wind Event  :  E. B. Berndt (ORAU), B. T. Zavodsky (USRA), G. J. Jedlovec (SPORT), and J. Elmer (UAH)

Non-convective wind events commonly occur with passing extratropical cyclones and have significant societal and economic impacts.  Since non-convective winds often occur in the absence of specific phenomena such as a thunderstorm, tornado, or hurricane, the public are less likely to heed high wind warnings and continue daily activities.  Thus non-convective wind events result in as many fatalities as straight line thunderstorm winds.  One physical explanation for non-convective winds includes tropopause folds.  Improved model representation of stratospheric air and associated non-convective wind events could improve non-convective wind forecasts and associated warnings.  In recent years, satellite data assimilation has improved skill in forecasting extratropical cyclones; however, errors still remain in forecasting the position and strength of extratropical cyclones as well as the tropopause folding process.

The goal of this study is to determine the impact of assimilating satellite temperature and moisture retrieved profiles from hyperspectral infrared (IR) sounders (i.e.  Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS), Cross-track Infrared and Microwave Sounding Suite (CrIMSS), and Infrared Atmospheric Sounding Interferometer (IASI)) on the model representation of the tropopause fold and an associated high wind event that impacted the Northeast United States on 09 February 2013.  Model simulations using the Advanced Research Weather Research and Forecasting Model (ARW) were conducted on a 12-km grid with cycled data assimilation mimicking the operational North American Model (NAM).  The results from the satellite assimilation run are compared to a control experiment (without hyperspectral IR retrievals), North American Regional Reanalysis (NARR) reanalysis, and Rapid Refresh analyses.



Wednesday, October 30th

Iphigneiz Keramitsoglou(National Observatory of Athens):  “Towards Building a Center of Excellence for Earth Observation in Greece”

City development has a direct effect in the thermal environment as built areas are warmer than the surrounding rural ones. The synergic result of two advanced methodologies for monitoring the thermal urban environment is presented. The aim is to downscale the quarter-hour geostationary land surface temperate images to 1km spatial resolution- characteristics currently not available by any Earth Observation mission; and then to extract the surface urban heat island patterns so as to study their diurnal variability. The approach is applied to Athens, Greece, a Mediterranean coastal city, using METEOSAT Second Generation SEVIRI data. Furthermore, a method to estimate heat wave hazard and risk based on the intensity, duration and time lag between consecutive events as well as the vulnerability of the population using fuzzy logic is proposed.

At the second part of the presentation, the collaboration between NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, Earth Science Office, and the National Observatory of Athens (NOA, Greece) to fulfill the objectives of the Global Urban Observation and Information work task of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) is presented. Finally, the efforts of NOA towards building capacity for a Center of Excellence for Earth Observation in Greece are discussed.

Visit Coordinator:  Dale Quattrochi (NASA/MSFC)


Wednesday, November 6th

John Mecikalski/UAH-ASD:  Title:  TBD


Wednesday, November 13th

ATS 781 Student Seminar Presentations


Adam Sherrer, MS Candidate
“Observations of a Thermal Boundary’s Role on the April 27, 2011 Super Outbreak”
Faculty Advisor: Kevin  Knupp

Abstract:  The April 27, 2011 outbreak can be broken down into three events that include the early morning QLCS, mid-day QLCS and late afternoon supercell outbreak.  The convection preceding the afternoon super cells produced a thermal boundary. Analysis of the data will show this boundary’s impact on several super-cells including the Hackleburg EF-5 and Cullman EF-4.


Lamont Bain, MS Candidate
“Polarmetric and Electrical Observations of Deep Moist Convection Across Northern
Alabama During the DC3 Field Campaign”
Faculty Advisor: Larry Carey

Abstract:  Focus of the research to be reported on is to examine integrated storm microphysics, kinematics and lightning properties of deep moist convection across northern Alabama through use of polarimetric radar and lightning mapper platforms.  Explored is the ability of radar inferred kinematic and microphysical measurements to parameterize flash rates for estimation of LNOx production in cloud resolving models without explicit lightning.


Danielle Kozlowski, MS Candidate
“Assessing the Role of Lightning in Tornadogenesis”
Faculty Advisor: Larry Carey

Abstract:  This research is to investigate the potential direct role of lightning discharges in tornado-genesis and maintenance using available Lightning Mapper Array data, National Lightning Detection Network, Doppler/polarimetric radar, and other meteorological observations.  The underlying assumptions and viability of the lightning-based tornadogenesis theory will also be tested using these combined data sets.


Wednesday, November 20st

Sue Van Den Heever (Colorado State Univ): “Dust Impacts on the Microphysical  and Dynamical Characteristics of Deep Convective Storms”

Visit Coordinator: Udaysankar Nair and Emily Foshee/UAH-ASD

Wednesday, November 27th

Thanksgiving Holidays—No Seminar Scheduled

Wednesday, December 4th

ATS 781 Student Seminar Presentations


12:45pm — 1:00pm
Claire Herdy, MS Candidate
“International Applications for the Decision Support System for Agrotechnology Transfer (DSSAT): The Sensitivity of DSSAT to Different Environmental Parameters”
Faculty Advisor:  Tom Sever

This study uses satellite derived data in a deterministic crop model, the Decision Support System Agrotechnology Transfer (DSSAT).  Work has been underway with the International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in Kathmandu, Nepal to understand the growth and yield of lowland cultivated rice.  This project hopes to help contribute to knowledge of regional environmental parameters that influence agricultural production.


1:00pm — 1:15pm
Ian Chang, MS Candidate
“Daytime Variation of Absorbing Aerosols Above Stratocumulus Clouds and Their Radiative Effects”
Faculty Advisor:  Sundar Christopher

This study examined the radiative effects of smoke above stratocumulus clouds from spectral, spatial, and temporal perspectives via the Spinning Enhanced Visible and Infrared Imager (SEVIRI).  This study is among the first to assess above-cloud smoke using the SEVIRI data set, thus providing a more profound insight into the climatic impact of aerosols.


1:15pm — 1:30pm
Eric Dobbs, MS Candidate
“Southeast Air Quality: A Wildfire and Aerosol Transport Study Using Satellite Remote Sensing”
Faculty Advisor:  Sundar Christopher

The Okefenokee Swamp fires in 2007 burned over 600,000 acres in SE Georgia and NE Florida.  Upper level winds were favorable for wildfire smoke transport from the fire’s location to Jefferson County, Alabama which received very high aerosol concentration levels.  This study used NASA satellite and EPA PM2.5 data to show that this “exceptional event” was caused by external sources of aerosols from the wildfire rather than from local pollutant sources.


1:30 – 1:45pm
Xuechang (Shay) Liu, MS Candidate
“Using Satellite Data to Study Stratiform Cloud Properties”
Faculty Advisor:  Sundar Christopher

This study is focused on using satellite remote sensing data to study important properties for low-level stratiform clouds, including cloud liquid water path and droplet effective radius.  Before retrieving , low-level stratiform water clouds must be identified by visually inspecting satellite imagery.  After the retrieval, the indirect effect of aerosol on cloud formation will be discussed, as well as the formation of drizzle in stratocumulus cloud systems.


Wednesday, December 11th

Dan Cecil (NASA/MSFC): “Tropical Cyclone Research Using Unmanned NASA Global Hawk Aircraft”

NASA operates two unmanned, high-altitude, long-duration Global Hawk jet aircraft capable of ~24-hour flights in the lower stratosphere.  One of these was used in the Genesis and Rapid Intensification Processes (GRIP) experiment in 2010, with the aircraft operated from NASA Dryden to investigate tropical cyclones in the Gulf of Mexico, Carribean Sea, and Western Atlantic.  Two were used in the Hurricane and Severe Storms Sentinel (HS3) project in 2012 and 2013, operating out of NASA Wallops to reach almost the entire north Atlantic basin.  HS3 will have another field phase in 2014.  Another Atlantic hurricane project is likely in 2015, conducted by NOAA.  A typhoon project called OUTFLOW is being proposed for Guam in 2016 and 2017.  Measurements from these programs have included dropsonde profiles through the entire troposphere, radar reflectivity and Doppler velocity with components allowing wind vector retrieval, surface wind speed retrieval, cloud top height, cloud and aerosol backscatter, and retrievals of temperature and moisture vertical profiles.


Wednesday, December 18th

No seminar scheduled-Upcoming Christmas Holidays

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