Scientists Launch Hurricane-Tracking Satellites

A new kind of weather observation system was launched by NASA today that will provide information to help better monitor and forecast tropical cyclones around the world. The 8-microsatellite constellation of observatories was the brainchild of a group of scientists from the University of Michigan.  UM Rosenstiel School Professor Sharan Majumdar and Dr. Robert Atlas, Director of NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML) were tasked with assembling and guiding a team of researchers to conduct data impact studies on hurricane model analyses and predictions.

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After three days of delays, the Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) was carried aloft aboard Orbital ATK’s Stargazer L-1011 aircraft, inside a three-stage Pegasus XL rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and launched over the Atlantic Ocean at 7:38 a.m. EST on Thursday, December 15.  At approximately 40,000 feet over the western Atlantic Ocean, the Pegasus rocket was released from the aircraft at 8:38 a.m.  The rocket was then launched in mid-air to take all 8 CYGNSS spacecraft in to orbit around Earth.

Once in orbit, CYGNSS will make frequent and accurate measurements of ocean surface winds throughout the lifecycle of tropical storms and hurricanes. The constellation of eight observatories will measure surface winds in and near a hurricane’s inner core, including regions beneath the eyewall and intense inner rainbands that previously could not be measured from space because of the heavy precipitation.

“The University of Miami and NOAA AOML team has demonstrated the potential for CYGNSS data to improve numerical analyses and predictions of the surface wind structure in tropical cyclones.  We expect that the investment in new microsatellite technologies such as CYGNSS will pave the way for better predictions of tropical cyclone impacts to benefit society around the globe,” said Majumdar.

Majumdar and colleagues wrote about the scientific motivation and the primary science goal of the mission, which is to better understand how and why winds in hurricanes intensify, in a March 2016 article in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.

The local CYGNSS research team included Sharan Majumdar and Brian McNoldy from the UM Rosenstiel School, Robert Atlas from NOAA AOML, and Bachir Annane, Javier Delgado and Lisa Bucci (also a UM graduate student) from the UM Rosenstiel School’s Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Science (CIMAS).  They have been working with simulated CYGNSS data since early 2013 to demonstrate and maximize the data’s impact in hurricane forecast models through the use of an OSSE, or Observing System Simulation Experiment, summarized by McNoldy in a NASA blog post.

Watch CYGNSS overview animation

Watch the launch!

Learn more about the hurricane-probing mission on NASA’s website.

–UM Rosenstiel School Communications Office

Book Review by Professor Amy Clement

Amy Clement 1UM Rosenstiel School Professor Amy Clement provided the following review of the book “Sea Level Rise in Florida: Science, Impacts, and Options” by Hine, Chambers, Clayton, Hafen, and Mitchum.

It’s a bright day with not a cloud in sight, yet people in Miami Beach are wading across streets through knee-deep water: seawater, that is. This scene has become increasingly commonplace in the lowest lying parts of South Florida, often referred to as sunny day or nuisance flooding. You don’t need to be a scientist to know that something is wrong with this picture. But if you want to look at the problem through the lens of a scientist, the picture comes into awesome relief. That is what ‘Sea Level Rise in Florida: Science, Impacts, and Options’ offers it’s readers. The authors are experts in wide ranging fields, and take readers on a tour of South Florida that begins millions of years ago when Florida was the bottom of a vast ocean that covered what is now most of the continental United States. This aspect of natural history is not just a geological wonder; it is critical to understanding the problem we Floridians face today. We have built a dense urban area and a vast agriculture industry on this porous, limestone rock that barely ekes its way above sea level, vulnerable to the encroaching water from all sides, and from beneath our feet. A chapter on the ecosystem impacts of sea level rise provides lessons about the unique ecology of Florida, which alone is worth the read. Perhaps the most poignant pictures in this well-illustrated book are the elevation maps of the state, highlighting how the southern part of the state is within several feet of sea level, with these low lying areas overlapping the past, present, and projected future development areas. The book’s fourth and final chapter gives some ideas for solutions, though there is clearly no ‘silver bullet.’ It is important for citizens of our state to be aware of efforts to both reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that are at the root cause of the problem and to engineer solutions that may allow us to adapt to the inevitable impacts. This book is an efficient way for Floridians to quickly come up to speed on the basics of a grand, global problem that has very local implications for current residents of our State and for future generations.

Amy Clement is a professor of Atmospheric Science at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences.

Awards and Accolades

Outstanding Mentor Award
Danielle McDonaldUM Rosenstiel School Professor Danielle McDonald is the 2016 recipient of the Outstanding Mentor Award. In its third inauguration, this award is meant to recognize outstanding mentors who go above and beyond in fostering the professional and personal development of RSMAS graduate students. This award is based on student nominations.

McDonald was described as an “engaging researcher and educator who demonstrates a vested interest in her students’ success and personal well-being.”

An associate professor of marine biology and ecology, McDonald directs the UM Toadfish Lab.  She combines whole animal physiology, molecular biology, pharmacology and toxicology research to study the interactions between serotonin (5-HT), its receptors and transporters and the stress hormone, cortisol, as toadfish have a unique physiological process, pulsatile urea excretion, that involves all these components. Her work has toxicological as well as human health relevance as it gives some insight on the impact of chronic antidepressant administration, which has many negative side effects in humans.

 

Graduate Student Receives NASA Fellowship

Ryan KramerUM Rosenstiel School graduate student Ryan Kramer was awarded the NASA Earth and Space Science (NESSF) Fellowship for research in the area of Earth Science. Kramer was one of 73 Earth Science fellows to receive the award, which provides a maximum award of $30,000 for one year, with two more potential years of funding.

Kramer, a PhD student in the UM Rosenstiel School Atmospheric Sciences Program, was awarded for his proposal “Understanding Radiative Feedbacks and Radiative Forcings of the Hydrological Cycle.”

The purpose of the NESSF is to ensure continued training of a highly qualified workforce in disciplines required to achieve NASA’s scientific goals. Awards resulting from the competitive selection are made in the form of training grants to the respective universities and educational institutions, with the faculty advisor serving as the principal investigator.

“I’m extremely honored to receive this Fellowship,” said Kramer. “It will provide me significant freedom to continue my research on the earth’s hydrological cycle as effectively as possible, and will help me build a valuable connection to NASA and their incredible resources.  There is such great work being done at RSMAS, and I am proud to represent the School in some small way.”

Awards for Excellence 

Congratulations to the winners of the 2016 UM Graduate Student Association and TA Excellence Awards:

UM Graduate Student Association Awardees

* Sean Kennelly was awarded the Linda Sher-Collado Memorial Staff Appreciation Award.
* Anna Ling was awarded the GSA Academic Excellence, Leadership, and Service Award.

TA Excellence Awardees

* Zack Daugherty for MSC 328: Introduction to Aquaculture
* Sharmila Giri for MSC 232: Introduction to Marine Biology Laboratory
* Jake Jerome for MSC 460: Spatial Applications for Marine Science

Professor Emeritus Receives Surprise Honor

Joe and lab plaque_IMG_1561UM Rosenstiel School Professor Emeritus Joseph Prospero received a unique recognition at the 100th anniversary celebration of the Izana Observatory, a world-renowned atmospheric research station located in Tenerife, Canary Islands.

“For the celebration they asked me to present a short lecture on the history of our aerosol studies at Izana,” said Prospero. “At the end of the lecture – and to my great surprise – they presented to me a large aluminum plaque that was intended to be affixed to a building.”

The Izana Observatory building is now named the “Joseph M. Prospero Aerosol Research Laboratory.”

Known as the “grandfather of dust,” Prospero’s lifelong work has been to measure the effects of airborne dust. Since 1965, he and his colleagues have been measuring dust particles in Barbados, West Indies, thus creating the longest dust measurement data set in science.

Sergio and Joe with my lab at far left_MG_1543

“I have had a long association with the observatory, starting in 1974 when I started aerosol sampling at the site,” said Prospero. “Over the years we have continued to cooperate and we have held some major field campaigns there.”

About 100 people representing the major atmospheric and meteorological centers attended Prospero’s lecture.

 

Award-Winning Research Paper

P1070894A paper authored by Cassandra Gaston, UM Rosenstiel School assistant professor of atmospheric sciences, on emissions of sulfur compounds from the ocean to the atmosphere has been selected as the top environmental science paper of 2015 from the journal Environmental Science and Technology (ES&T).

“The unique sea spray particles described in this work were detected along the California coast, across the Pacific Ocean, and in the southern Indian Ocean suggesting that these particles represent a globally significant biogenic contribution to the atmosphere,” said Gaston about the paper. “This study reveals the complexity of air-sea interactions, which are important drivers of global climate.”

To highlight notable publications, each year ES&T‘s editors identify a pool of outstanding papers. The editorial advisory board works with the editor-in-chief to select best papers in four categories on the basis of quality, novelty, and impact.

“It is difficult but rewarding to select the best papers, and we appreciate the efforts of the chair of the selection committee, Dr. Jason White, and the board members who made the tough choices,” said ES&T’s Editor-in-Chief David Sedlak in an editorial. “We are also grateful to the thousands of authors and reviewers who made it possible for us to publish so many excellent papers during the past year.”

Gaston’s paper, titled “Direct Night-Time Ejection of Particle-Phase Reduced Biogenic Sulfur Compounds from the Ocean to the Atmosphere,” can be read here.

In 2015, ES&T received almost 6000 manuscripts and published 1643 articles. To see more of the award-winning papers, click here.

Faculty and Alumni News

The Oceanography Society Honors Professor Fine

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Rana Fine

UM Rosenstiel School Professor Rana Fine was elected a 2016 Fellow of The Oceanography Society (TOS) for her outstanding contributions to the field of oceanography. She will be honored along with other 2016 Fellows during the TOS breakfast on Feb. 23, 2016 at the American Geophysical Union’s Ocean Sciences Meeting.

Fine’s scientific interests include ocean circulation processes and their role in climate using chemical tracers. Fine is a fellow of the AGU, American Association for the Advancement of Science, and American Meteorological Society.

A graduate of the UM Rosenstiel School, Fine has received the highest honor attainable at the University of Miami, induction into the School’s Iron Arrow Honor Society. Fine also received a Provost’s Award for Scholarly Activity from the University of Miami.

TOS was founded in 1988 to disseminate knowledge of oceanography and its application through research and education, to promote communication among oceanographers, and to provide a constituency for consensus building across all the disciplines of the field.

Alumna Heads to Washington, DC as 2016 Knauss Fellow

Erica-Towle_thumb

Erica Towle

UM Rosenstiel School alumna Eric Towle was awarded a 2016 NOAA John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship through the Florida Sea Grant Program for her outstanding achievement in marine and coastal policy research. Towle will relocate to Washington, D.C. for one year to work with the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation for the majority staff, focusing on oceans, atmosphere, fisheries, and the Coast Guard.

Towle is a double alumna of the UM Rosenstiel School earning her B.S. in marine and atmospheric science in 2010 and her Ph.D. in marine biology and ecology in 2015.  Her Ph.D. research was completed in Chris Langdon’s Corals and Climate Change Lab, focusing on identifying indicators of resilience to climate change stress in corals of the Florida Reef Tract.

The National Sea Grant College Program created the Knauss fellowship in 1979 to provide educational experiences to students that have an interest in ocean and coastal resources and in the national policy decisions affecting those resources.

Towle hopes the fellowship will teach her more about how science is translated and used in policymaking.

Alumna Elected Chair of Beach Preservation Association

Leanne Welch

Leanne Welch

UM alumna Leanne Welch was elected chair of the Florida Shore and Beach Preservation Association (FSBPA) at their annual meeting in September. Her tenure as chair began Jan. 1, 2016 and runs through Dec. 31, 2016. As chair, Welch directs the board meetings and serves on the planning committees for the statewide meetings, which will be held in Jacksonville and Naples in 2016. She works closely with the president and executive director of FSBPA, as well as with other member counties and cities, to promote effective beach management throughout the state.

Welch graduated from UM in 1994 with a double major in marine science and biology and is currently an environmental manager with Palm Beach County’s Department of Environmental Resources Management. She manages many coastal issues in Palm Beach County, including coastal construction (beach and dune nourishment, artificial reef construction, inlet management, and living shorelines), coral reef ecosystem monitoring, sea turtle nesting, manatee protection, and a variety of estuarine management and monitoring programs in Lake Worth Lagoon.

Since its inception in 1957, the Florida Shore and Beach Preservation Association has functioned as a league of coastal cities and counties on behalf of Florida’s beaches. FSBPA provides information to the Florida Legislature and Congress on beach preservation issues and funding.

Welch has been on the Board of Directors of FSBPA since February of 2012.