Faculty Research

Tornado out in a field

Even though UNC Asheville is an undergraduate teaching-focused university, faculty remain active scholars and experts in their field.  Atmospheric science faculty at UNC Asheville engage in a diverse set of atmospheric research, from numerical modeling to tornadoes and hurricanes.  Students frequently work with faculty on funded research or set out to investigate their own unique research question.  Findings from faculty and student research are presented in department seminars, university-wide research symposiums, and regional and national professional meetings.  Use the links below to learn more about the specific research interests of the ATMS faculty. 

Dr. Alex Huang's Research Interests

Dr. Huang has a strong interest in meteorological education and incorporating new technologies and techniques, particularly Geographic Information Systems (GIS), into the classroom.  He is also very active in the local and regional Chinese language and science education.

Dr. Douglas Miller's Research Interests

My research interests focus on mesoscale and synoptic weather unique to western North Carolina by using computer weather forecast models to help improve our understanding of and ability to forecast these events. Examples of these types of events are summertime convection and associated rainfall, the interaction of tropical systems with the local mountains, wintertime mixed precipitation events, and northwest flow snowfall events. The challenge in using a computer weather forecast model is to know when to trust what it's telling us about the evolution and structure of the atmosphere. Observations are often useful as a tool to help know whether or not to trust the computer weather forecast model. Unfortunately, observations are often too sparse in location or in time to help assess issues related to mesoscale weather events.

In order to help with the scarcity of data in western North Carolina, a modest field program known as the Sounding-based Experiment on Mixed Precipitation Events (SEMPE) took place recently. SEMPE is devoted to making special weather balloon soundings during weather events that can have snow, sleet, freezing rain, and/or rain fall during passage of the event. A team of students made the balloon launches, recorded the sounding data, and posted the information on a webpage in real-time to allow operational National Weather Service forecasters access to information not normally available in this part of North Carolina. The hope is that the observations will improve our understanding of what happens in three dimensions as these mixed precipitation events pass through western North Carolina. The observations gathered during SEMPE will serve as a valuable database for training current and future National Weather Service forecasters with regards to wintertime mixed precipitation events.

Dr. Christopher Hennon's Research Interests

Early in my career I focused on the prediction of tropical cyclogenesis, the process through which a cluster of tropical thunderstorms transform into a tropical cyclone.  I applied statistical techniques to assign probabilities of formation given a set of initial conditions, such as the temperature of the sea surface, the humidity of the atmosphere, and the vorticity (or spin) of the clouds.  This work sparked an interest in the remote sensing of tropical cyclones.  Since these storms form and spend most of their lives out in the open ocean, almost all of the storm data we record comes from satellites.  Specifically, I worked with scatterometers, which shoot radiation pulses at the ocean surface.  The amount and nature of the energy that bounces back can be used to estimate the surface wind speed and direction from space. 

For the past few years I have been engaged with developing improved tropical cyclone historical records through the use of crowd sourcing.  The Cyclone Center project asks non-experts to answer simple questions about an infrared satellite image of a tropical cyclone, such as the shape of the storm and whether it has an "eye" or not. We collect those answers and feed the data into an algorithm which produces an estimate of the wind speed of the storm at that time.  The goal is to produce a unified record of tropical cyclone "intensity" (wind speed) that resolves discrepencies that currently exist in global records.     

Details and further information can be found on the Tropical Cyclone Research Group website.

Dr. Christopher Godfrey's Research Interests