UW News

January 25, 2017

Monsoons to mosquitoes: UW researchers attend national weather conference in Seattle

UW News

Seattle is home to a lot of self-described “weather geeks.” Even so, this week is exceptional. Thousands of scientists came to attend the American Meteorological Society annual meeting, being held through Thursday at the Washington State Convention Center.

The University of Washington is well represented in the program. Keynote talks include John (Mike) Wallace, UW professor emeritus of atmospheric sciences, who gave a history of research on tropical ocean storms. Ian Joughin, a glaciologist the UW’s Applied Physics Laboratory, spoke about how satellites are observing ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica.


Robert Houze

An all-day symposium was held Tuesday in honor of Robert Houze, a UW professor of atmospheric sciences. Former students and colleagues presented on topics from mountain rain to reviewing some of Houze’s most memorable field campaigns, including a 2005 effort that flew research aircraft through hurricanes.

A Thursday morning talk looks at how pressure data from smartphones could be used to improve weather forecasts. A session that afternoon will give results from OLYMPEX, a 2015 NASA field campaign that measured precipitation on the Olympic Peninsula.

Some studies focus on local phenomena. A presentation Monday looked at quantifying the 2015 decline of glaciers in Olympic National Park. Also close to home, UW researchers spoke Monday about taking oceanographic measurements from Washington State Ferries crossing Admiralty Inlet. A presentation Wednesday will look at how the Columbia River water level is likely to respond to climate change.

Other studies center on more far-flung locales. A UW civil and environmental engineering group discussed new methods for flood forecasting in Southeast Asia. Other UW research focuses on tropical cyclones. Yet another uses ice cores from the Antarctic ice sheet to peer into Earth’s prehistoric atmosphere.

Researchers at the Applied Physics Laboratory presented work in the Arctic, including fall freeze-up pancake ice, trends in Arctic wave heights and long-term forecasts for Arctic sea ice. Other ocean-focused talks include rainfall over the ocean and what controls the Atlantic Ocean’s Gulf Stream current.

satellite image of clouds

Images from NASA’s new GOES-16 satellite, first shared this week, will help the study of Earth’s clouds.NOAA/NASA

Cloud-gazers of all types will convene at the event. UW atmospheric scientists will look at Arctic clouds, Pacific Ocean marine clouds, daily clouds over the Great Plains, smoke-seeded clouds in Namibia, the complexity of warm low clouds, and ice clouds over Oklahoma and Australia.

The conference lineup includes a few surprises, too. A Monday panel on communicating risk included Susan Joslyn, a UW psychology professor who looks at how people interpret weather forecasts, and Kate Starbird, an assistant professor of human-centered design and engineering who studies how information spreads on Twitter during emergencies.

Other talks focus on human effects. A UW global health professor explained methods and challenges for forecasting mosquito-borne diseases such as Chikungunya and Zika virus. A UW School of Public Health presentation looked at measuring heat exposure among Seattle roofing workers. A talk Wednesday afternoon featuring Kristie Ebi, a UW global-health researcher, will cover health risks from rising global and regional temperatures.

An invited talk Wednesday morning by Robert Peña, associate professor of architecture, is on the data-driven design of the world’s greenest building. The talk will focus on Seattle’s Bullitt Center, which was designed to respond to its surrounding climate.

UW participants in Sunday’s WeatherFest educational event included the Department of Atmospheric Sciences’ student outreach group, the Washington state climatologist’s office and research groups that measure rain and snow. And UW scientists will, of course, assist with the conference’s daily weather briefings.


Media can attend the conference for free. For more information, contact AMS press officer Rachel Thomas-Medwid at rthomas@ametsoc.org.