Researchers Take to the Skies to Study Earth’s Climate

UM Rosenstiel School co-principal investigator Elliot Atlas (standing) during 2012 ATTREX mission.

UM Rosenstiel School co-principal investigator Elliot Atlas (standing) during 2012 ATTREX mission.

UM Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science professor Elliot Atlas recently returned from the two-month long CONTRAST (Convective Transport of Active Species in the Tropics) field experiment in the western Pacific Ocean. The research study focused on understanding the climate impact of trace gases transported from the ocean surface, up through a chimney of clouds and into the upper atmosphere.

Atlas, a professor of atmospheric chemistry, was a co-principal investigator of the first-of-its-kind National Science Foundation-funded research project into the chemistry of the tropical atmosphere.

Atlas is interested in trace gases that are linked to the formation and destruction of ozone in different layers of Earth’s atmosphere.  In the upper part of the atmosphere, known as the stratosphere, ozone absorbs much of the harmful UV radiation coming from the sun.  In the lower atmosphere, the presence of ozone is critical to facilitate the natural processes that cleanse the air of harmful pollutants.  In the region where the lower and upper atmosphere meet, ozone acts as a greenhouse gas and its abundance can be linked to global climate change.

The thickness of the ozone layer varies worldwide, being smaller at the equator and bigger near the poles. The ozone layer has been depleted in recent years due to large quantities of man-made compounds, including the most well known, the aerosol sprays containing CFCs.

Ozone Depleted

Members of the CONTRAST, CAST, and ATTREX research teams. Credit: NCAR

Members of the CONTRAST, CAST, and ATTREX research teams. Credit: NCAR

One question Atlas and his co-investigators Ross Salawitch from the University of Maryland and Laura Pan from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), are trying to answer is, “what controls the abundance and variation of ozone in the atmosphere?”

To get closer to the answer, the CONTRAST team took to the sky to study the chemistry of clouds half a world away – in Guam. Understanding how atmospheric gases contribute to ozone abundances, and therefore Earth’s overall radiation budget from the sun, is critical for scientists to improve global climate change models.

“When you press on one side of the climate system, you get a response somewhere else,” says Atlas, explaining how seemingly different environments are linked in the global climate system.

View of convective clouds at 14 Km from one of the CONTRAST research flights. Credit: Laura Pan

View of convective clouds at 14 Km from one of the CONTRAST research flights. Credit: Laura Pan

A unique cluster of convective clouds – a virtual global chimney – forms over the western Pacific Ocean and is particularly intense during the winter in the Northern Hemisphere.  The tropical chimney is key to determining the chemical composition of the air entering the stratosphere. Huge clusters of thunderstorms feed heat and moisture as well as gases and particles into the upper atmosphere and eventually into the stratosphere, where they can influence climate on a global scale.

Of particular interest to Atlas and his UM-based research team is the role of chemicals containing bromine. Bromine-containing chemicals are emitted into the atmosphere from two distinct sources – a man-made source, which include compounds commonly used in fire extinguishers and can remain in the atmosphere for decades, and a natural source of short-lived compounds produced by tiny marine organisms in the ocean.

The bromine component of these chemicals can rapidly react with ozone as the compounds decompose in the atmosphere. Man-made bromides leave long-lived fingerprints that can be easily identified. What UM Rosenstiel School scientists are investigating are the poorly understood natural bromine concentrations from the ocean that is lofted into the atmosphere through the tropical chimney.

UM Rosenstiel School post-doctoral researcher Maria Navarro monitoring in-flight data collection.

UM Rosenstiel School post-doctoral researcher Maria Navarro monitoring in-flight data collection.

Atlas, and his UM research team, which included post-doctoral researcher Maria Navarro and research fellow Valeria Donets, took to the sky to study the trace gases in the atmosphere that are produced in high amounts by marine organisms in the warm tropical waters of the western Pacific.

“We want to know what happens to the bromine contained in gases from marine organisms when they are moved by clouds from the near the ocean surface up to the boundary of the stratosphere, over 9 miles up,” says Atlas.

Taking Flight

Stainless steel air sample canisters installed inside the NSF G-V aircraft to analyze trace gases.

Stainless steel air sample canisters installed inside the NSF G-V aircraft to analyze trace gases.

To collect bromine-containing gases, Atlas and colleagues built a specially designed instrument to fly onboard the NSF’s Gulfstream G-V aircraft during the 16 eight-hour CONTRAST flights. The aircraft flew at an altitude ranging from 0.5-15 km (0.2-9 miles), well above the limits of commercial airplanes, during January and February of 2014. The high altitude capabilities of this aircraft allowed the large team of scientists and engineers from multiple universities and research organizations participating in the project to study a critical part of the upper atmosphere that was unreachable by previous research aircraft.

To study the various chemical and physical components of the chimney cloud and the surrounding air, the aircraft was outfitted inside and out with state-of-the-art equipment that measure the many gases and air particles in the skies as the aircraft flew through the atmosphere, along with other data to understand the state of the atmosphere during the flights. During each mission, researchers at the shore-based operation center on Guam watched as data streamed back in real time and they communicated with colleagues onboard the aircraft to make spur-of-the-moment decisions about where additional sampling should take place. While instruments on the aircraft were making real-time measurements, trace gases were also being collected in airtight canisters for further in-depth analysis back in Atlas’ lab.

Now that the scientists have returned to their home bases, the data collected during the mission will be further analyzed and used to test how well current climate models depict cloud convection processes and the chemical composition of the tropical atmosphere, with a goal of improving how climate models predict future climate changes.

CONTRAST was conducted in collaboration with two other field experiments to take a comprehensive look at the entire region – the UK-led CAST (Coordinated Airborne Studies in the Tropics) experiment flew an instrument-laden aircraft to perform detailed studies in the atmosphere from near the ocean surface up to 6 km (3.7 mi), while the high-altitude ATTREX (Airborne Tropical Tropopause Experiment) mission using NASA’s Global Hawk unmanned drone studied the chemistry and physics of the atmosphere from 14-19 km (9-12 mi) altitude. The NSF G-V aircraft overlapped the study regions of the other two aircraft and sampled near the altitude of the outflow of the tropical cloud chimney.

“These combined aircraft measurements will provide an unprecedented description of the tropical atmosphere, from the ocean surface to the lower stratosphere, which will ultimately improve our current understanding of the atmosphere and our ability to make predictions about the role of atmospheric chemistry and tropical convection in a future climate,” said Atlas.

–Annie Reisewitz

 

 

 

Honors and Awards

Editor-in-Chief Nick Shay

Rosenstiel School Professor Dr. Nick Shay

Rosenstiel School Professor Dr. Nick Shay

Rosenstiel School Professor Lynn “Nick” Shay will take on the role of Editor-in-Chief of the Elsevier journal Dynamics of Atmospheres and Oceans this July.

Shay, a professor in the Department of Ocean Sciences at the UM Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, has been an active member of the Dynamics of Atmospheres and Oceans Editorial Board for a number of years.

His research interests include experimental and theoretical investigations of the ocean response and coupled air-sea

interactions during hurricanes, airborne oceanographic profiling of upper ocean variability, coastal oceanographic process studies, and high frequency (HF) and satellite radar remote sensing to examine the linkages between surface signatures and upper ocean structure. He has authored over ninety peer-reviewed manuscripts and book chapters and has chaired or served on thirty student committees.

He serves on various panels and committees: Southeast Coastal Ocean Observing Regional Association Board of Directors; National Federation of Regional Association National HF Radar Steering Team; NSF and NOAA Hurricanes at Landfall Co-chair; NOAA Hurricane Forecast Improvement Project Observing and Coupled Modeling Teams; Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System-Regional Association Observations Committee; and the NASA Hurricane Science Team. Internationally, he has been the Oceanic Impacts and Air-Sea Interaction rapporteur for the World Meteorological Organization’s (WMO) International Workshop for Tropical Cyclones; panel member of the WMO Landfall Processes; and HFR Oceanography Workshops.

He is also a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society (AMS) and was part of a NASA Group Achievement Award for his work with satellite altimetry during the Genesis and Rapid Intensity (GRIP) Program conducted in the fall of 2010.

Teaching Assistant Excellence Award Winners

RSMAS campusCongratulations to the 2013-14 Rosenstiel School Teaching Assistant (TA) Excellence Award Winners!

Undergraduate Lecture: Stacy Aguilera

Undergraduate Lab: I-Kuan Hu

Graduate Course: Bruce Pholot

“There were many nominees for these awards this year, and the competition was tough,” said Amy Clement, Rosenstiel School professor and associate dean for graduate studies. “Thanks to all the TAs and faculty for the hard work. We look forward to continuing to make it a very valuable experience for all involved in the coming years!”

Alumni News

Rosenstiel School alumna Dr. Linda Duguay

Rosenstiel School alumna Dr. Linda Duguay

Rosenstiel School alumna Linda Duguay has been elected president of the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography (ASLO), the largest international organization devoted to the aquatic sciences. She has been elected for the 2016-2018 term.

Duguay received her M.S. degree in 1973 from the Rosenstiel School where she focused her studies on the ecology of the ctenophore Mnemiopsis mccradyi in Biscayne Bay followed by a Ph.D. in Biological Oceanography for her research on calcium metabolism and photosynthetic carbon fixation in benthic Foraminifera symbiotic with microalgae.

Duguay is director of the University of Southern California (USC) Sea Grant Program and director of research for the Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies at USC.

 

Student and Alumni: Award Winners

UM Rosenstiel School Awards

Honghai Zhang, recipient of the Frank J. Millero Prize with UM Rosenstiel School Professor Amy Clement.

Honghai Zhang, recipient of the Frank J. Millero Prize with UM Rosenstiel School Professor Amy Clement.

Honghai Zhang is the recipient of the Frank J. Millero Prize. In honor of long-serving Rosenstiel School Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Frank Millero, the Millero Prize is awarded annually to a Rosenstiel School Ph.D. student whose single or first-authored peer-reviewed publication is original and significant enough to merit special recognition (best student publication). Zhang was awarded the prize for the 2013 paper, titled ‘South Pacific Meridional Mode: A Mechanism for ENSO-like Variability,’ published in the Journal of Climate.

Robert Letscher, Postdoctorate researcher at the University of California, Irvine is the recipient of the F.G. Walton Smith Prize for his research of “Controls on dissolved organic matter distribution and fate in the ocean.”

MPO graduate Falko Judt and MBF graduate student Andrew Kempsell are the most recent recipients of the Koczy Prize. In honor of the late Dr. Fritz Koczy, this prize is intended to provide support for a doctoral candidate in his/her final year.

Judt joined the UM Rosenstiel School as an undergrad in meteorology in 2006 and as a MPO grad student in 2008. He is currently a PhD student in MPO under Shuyi Chen and serves as president of the local Chapter of the American Meteorological Society.  Kempsell received his B.S. in biology in 2009 from the University of California, Los Angeles and is currently a Ph.D. candidate studying aging-related changes in the nervous system of Aplysia californica under Lynne Fieber.

MPO graduate student Elizabeth Wong received the Dean’s Prize in recognition of her achievement at the master’s level for the outstanding thesis in marine and atmospheric science. Wong is currently a Ph.D. student in MPO with Peter Minnett studying “Retrieval of the Skin Sea Surface Temperature Using Hyperspectral Measurements From the Marine-Atmospheric Emitted Radiance Interferometer.”

Alumni Awards

UM Rosenstiel School Alumnus Doug Capone

UM Rosenstiel School Alumnus Doug Capone

UM Rosenstiel School Alumnus Douglas G. Capone is the winner of the 2014 DuPont Industrial Biosciences Award in Applied and Environmental Microbiology from the American Society for Microbiology for his outstanding accomplishments as a marine microbiologist. Capone received his Ph.D. from the UM Rosenstiel School in 1978 and is currently a faculty member at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles.

“His contributions to our understanding of the factors controlling biological nitrogen fixation in the oceans have strongly influenced numerous researchers and the development of important ideas in biogeochemistry and biological oceanography,” says Bess Ward, Princeton University.

His research focuses on the importance of marine microbes in major biogeochemical cycles, particularly those of nitrogen and carbon, with particular reference to physical, chemical, and biotic controls on key microbial processes. He is a leading expert on the marine N cycle and has produced two highly regarded edited volumes on the topic. Capone has studied diverse ecosystems at remote field stations and on over 30 oceanographic expeditions. He has also made a major contribution to the development of human resources in oceanography and environmental science by mentoring students of all levels.

CSTARS Study Evaluates Oil Spill Detection Tool

Scientists led by the Center for Southeastern Tropical Advanced Remote Sensing (CSTARS) of the University of Miami recently published an overview of synthetic aperture radar (SAR) as a tool to identify oil slicks on the ocean surface using satellite imagery.

SAR images were used to trace the areal extent of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

SAR images were used to trace the areal extent of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The researchers outlined the “capabilities and shortcomings” of SAR to identify oil slicks that enter the marine environment through seeps, leaks, illegal discharge, and other industrial, transportation, or drilling accidents. They summarized the techniques used for identifying oil with SAR, the advanced capabilities of the newer programs and instruments, and the advancing potential for SAR to be used to monitor oceans for natural and illegal spills. The team published their findings in the June 2013 issue of OceanographyOil Spills and Slicks Imaged by Synthetic Aperture Radar.

Read more

Story reprinted courtesy of the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiaitve

Faculty and Student Honors & Awards

Professor Eberli Receives Distinguished Educator Award

UM Rosenstiel School Professor of Marine Geology and Geophysics Gregor Eberli is the recipient of the 2014 American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) Grover E. Murray Memorial Distinguished Educator Award “for being a superb teacher and mentor to young geoscientists and an educator to the industry and for his insightful and scholarly publications.”

UM Rosenstiel School Professor Gregor Eberli

UM Rosenstiel School Professor Gregor Eberli

A native of Switzerland, Dr. Eberli received his doctorate from the Swiss Institute of Technology (ETH) Zürich in 1985. In 1991 he joined the faculty of the UM Rosenstiel School, where he has been a principal advisor to over 20 doctoral and masters students and 12 post-doctoral students, as well as being associated with numerous other students through his teaching and as a research advisor. He is currently director of the CSL – Center for Carbonate Research, an association between oil companies and the University of Miami, which has been a model copied by numerous other universities. The mission of the Center is to conduct fundamental research in carbonates and to disseminate the results of this integrated research not only through academic journals but also directly to geoscientists working in companies.

Together with colleagues he leads high-quality field trips and short courses to industry geologists and engineers working for various companies from around the world. He co-led an AAPG Field Seminar to Great Bahama Bank for over a decade; the seminar is still run through the University of Miami and since its inception nearly 400 industry “students” have been introduced to carbonates with a major focus on stratigraphy and heterogeneity issues in carbonate reservoirs. He has been a distinguished lecturer for AAPG in 1996/97, JOI/USSAC in 1998/99, and the European Association of Geoscientists and Engineers in 2005-2006.

The AAPG Grover E. Murray Memorial Distinguished Educator Award is given in recognition of distinguished and outstanding contributions to geological education, including the teaching and counseling of students at the university level, and contributions to the education of the public, and management of educational programs. The award is presented at the AAPG annual meeting.

2013 Delcroix Prize in Oceans and Human Health

UM Rosenstiel School Professor Emerita Lora Fleming has been awarded the 2013 Delcroix Prize for her outstanding research in the field of oceans and human health.The prize will be awarded in Oostende, Belgium in June 2014, including a presentation from the laureate on her prize-winning research.

UM Professor Emerita Lora Fleming

UM Professor Emerita Lora Fleming

Prior to retiring from UM and joining the European Centre for Environment and Human Health at the University of Exeter, Fleming held a joint appointment at the UM Rosenstiel School and the UM Medical School and was co-director of the NSF-NIEHS Oceans and Human Health Center. She has created outreach and educational materials on the human health effects of marine and freshwater natural toxins, and performed research in Ciguatera Fish Poisoning, Florida Red Tides (Brevetoxins) and cyanobacterial toxins.

The Dr. Edouard Delcroix Prize is an international scientific prize awarded to a researcher or a research team for a scientific study on the links between oceans and human health. The prize was established in honor of Dr. Edouard Delcroix (1891-1973), Belgian orthopaedic surgeon and pioneer in thalassotherapy.

Rosenstiel School Student Goldwater Scholarship Honorable Mention

Joaquin Nunez received Honorable Mention from the Goldwater Scholarship Selection Committee. Nunez transferred to the Marine Science/Biology program in the Rosenstiel School in fall 2013, after earning an Associate’s degree in biology from Miami-Dade College – where he was involved with the National Science Foundation-funded STEM FYE program, which provides academic services to under-represented students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

During his first semester at UM, Nunez joined the UM Rosenstiel School Laboratory of Marine Genomics, where he studies how genomes in the mummichog fish respond to changes in temperature. His work has implications for climate change and the global distribution of fish populations.

Associate Professor of Marine Biology Marjorie Oleksiak, who leads the marine genomics lab, wrote, “Mr. Nunez has proven to be responsible and dedicated, but also enthusiastic and curious.” She said that this “dedicated scholar” has an innate “ability to see a need or opportunity and act on it,” adding, “Often, what he does is above and beyond the call of duty.”

The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program was established by Congress in 1986 to honor Senator Barry M. Goldwater, who served his country for 56 years as a soldier and statesman, including 30 years of service in the U.S. Senate.  The purpose of the foundation is to provide a continuing source of highly qualified scientists, mathematicians, and engineers by awarding scholarships to college students who intend to pursue careers in these fields. For more information, visit: www.act.org/goldwater 

The MPO Best Paper Award Goes To…

UM Rosenstiel School Ph.D. student Katinka Bellomo received the Best Paper Award from the Division of Meteorology and Physical Oceanography (MPO) for her research paper recently published in the American Meteorology Society’s Journal of Climate.

“Receiving the MPO best paper award is a huge personal satisfaction,” said Katinka. “This is the first paper of my dissertation and of my life.”

Addu Atoll lagoon at sunset

The paper, titled “Observational and Model Estimates of Cloud Amount Feedback over the Indian and Pacific Oceans,” addressed the largest uncertainty in climate models – cloud feedback – by examining observations of cloud cover taken from ships and satellites from 1954 to 2005. The results of this paper represent the first observational long-term estimate of cloud feedback.

In response to greenhouse gas forcing, the Earth would naturally cool off by emitting more radiation back into space. However, feedback mechanisms, from clouds, can increase or reduce this cooling rate.

“I am satisfied that the paper shows how to handle the uncertainties in observations and provides a methodology to estimate cloud feedbacks from these observations,” said Katinka.

Congrats Katinka!