Experts available to discuss atmospheric rivers

Scientists looking into improved short-term forecasts, climate change impacts

Feb 28, 2024 - by David Hosansky

Atmospheric rivers that transport large amounts of moisture from the tropics are bringing highly destructive storms and flooding to the West Coast this winter. Experts at the U.S. National Science Foundation National Center for Atmospheric Research (NSF NCAR) are available to talk with reporters about such issues as:

  • Efforts to increase offshore observations in order to generate better forecasts
  • Research into how atmospheric rivers are likely to change in a warming climate
  • Strategies for improved communication of the risks to the public
  • The growing threat of catastrophic flooding along the West Coast

Chris Davis
NSF NCAR Senior Scientist and Deputy Director, Education, Engagement and Early-Career Development;

Davis’s research concentrates on severe weather, including hurricanes and other tropical cyclones, thunderstorm systems, and storms in mountainous terrain. He is working to improve one to five-day prediction of atmospheric rivers and their impacts through the development of airborne and buoy observations of offshore conditions in collaboration with the Atmospheric River Reconnaissance program in the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes at Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Erin Dougherty
NSF NCAR scientist,

Dougherty is an expert in how a future warmer climate will affect precipitation and hydrologic extremes. She uses high-resolution atmospheric and hydrologic models to study how climate change will impact precipitation, snowfall, runoff, and streamflow to gain a holistic view of how the water cycle is changing. Her research encompasses future changes to atmospheric rivers and related rainfall and flooding.

Xingying Huang
NSF NCAR Scientist,

Huang researches the intensifying water cycle and climate extremes, with an emphasis on atmospheric rivers and associated storms over the U.S. West Coast. She focuses on computer modeling of atmospheric rivers, including how they are changing and posing new risks such as potential megafloods. Her work bridges global and regional climate studies into the intensification of the hydrological cycle and its impacts on mountainous hydrology and vulnerable communities.

Gerald Meehl
NSF NCAR Senior Scientist,

The head of NSF NCAR’s Climate Change Research Section, Meehl uses climate models to better understand Earth’s climate system, how it is changing, and what the implications are for weather patterns around the globe. His research interests include identifying the effects of both human activities and natural events on global climate and understanding and predicting decadal climate variability. He also works to quantify how a warmer climate will affect weather and climate extremes, including such events as atmospheric rivers.

Robert Prestley
NSF NCAR Scientist,

A social scientist, Prestley studies how forecasts of atmospheric rivers and other severe weather events can be better communicated to the public. He analyzes the communication techniques of authoritative sources of information, such as the National Weather Service, broadcast meteorologists, and emergency managers, with a focus on how they use risk visualizations on platforms like social media to encourage people in at-risk areas to take protective actions.

Christine Shields
NSF NCAR Scientist,

Shields uses climate modeling to advance knowledge of Earth’s hydrological cycle in the context of climate change, with particular emphasis on atmospheric rivers, monsoons, moisture transport, cyclones, and weather extremes. Much of her research focuses on atmospheric rivers, and she is helping to lead a major research effort to better understand how their frequency and intensity will change in a warming world.

Isla Simpson
NSF NCAR scientist,

Simpson is an expert in large-scale atmospheric dynamics, which affect such processes as jet streams and play a role in major weather systems, including winter storms, hurricanes, heat waves, and atmospheric rivers. Using a hierarchy of climate modeling approaches, she works to determine the extent to which models successfully capture relevant processes in the atmosphere and how they can be improved to better project future changes in global and regional climate.

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