About the Department of Atmospheric Sciences

At the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa

Thank you for your interest in our department. We are always seeking to recruit excellent students for both our undergraduate and graduate programs. Atmospheric Sciences has been an academic discipline at University of Hawai‘i at Manoa for over 50 years. The department has built an enviable national and international reputation for research and education, offering both undergraduate (B.S.) and graduate (M.S. and Ph.D.) degree programs. Since 1965 the University has been a member of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research.

SOEST

Image placeholder for slideshow. The department is part of one of the world’s most active schools in the geosciences: the University of Hawai‘i School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST). SOEST has about 200 faculty members who study a wide variety of phenomena related to the physics, chemistry and biology of the solid earth, the ocean, and the atmosphere. Atmospheric Sciences faculty and student offices are located in the Hawai‘i Institute of Geophysics (HIG) building and the adjacent Pacific Ocean Sciences and Technology (POST) building.

Research: In the Laboratory…

Research has been central to the department’s activities since its inception. Despite the department’s modest size, an impressive array of research projects are being pursued. Projects involving experimental work as well as computer modeling and theoretical calculations are being undertaken by our faculty and students. Our students now have thesis topics that involve study of a variety of atmospheric phenomena on a wide range of space and time scales. However, our unique situation as the only world-class university located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean has kept our main focus on issues relating to the weather and climate of the tropical Pacific and the Asian-Pacific regions.

…and in the Field

Department faculty have participated in field experiments in Hawai‘i, the greater Pacific, and elsewhere. These experiments have generally emphasized investigations of cloud physics, and more recently, of convective and mesoscale phenomena. Many graduate students find thesis topics in the analysis of results of such specialized field campaigns, or in related modeling activities.

In early February 2011, several graduate students from the University of Hawaii Atmospheric Sciences Department, including David Hitzl who was working with Professor Yi-Leng Chen, joined the Hawaii Group for Environmental Aerosol Research (HiGEAR) on board the Navy-owned research vessel Kilo Moana for a joint research cruise around the Hawaiian Islands.  They measured aerosol distribution in the marine boundary layer near and within the largest of the Hawaiian ocean channels, the ʻAlenuihāhā Channel.  They launched a total of 26 radiosondes to gather data for research of gap winds, channel accelerations and their associated vorticities, mountain waves, and a sinking of the inversion and possible hydraulic jump within the channel. The data has also been used for verification of the horizontal and vertical fields produced by a mesoscale model (Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF)) run for the same location and date as the channel ship passage.

A three-week educational deployment of a polarimetric Doppler on Wheels (DOW) radar was conducted by Professor Michael Bell at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa (UHM) from 22 October - 13 November 2013. The educational deployment of a mobile radar was the first of its kind in Hawai'i and on the island of O'ahu. The central focus of the Hawaiian Educational Radar Opportunity (HERO) was to give undergraduate and graduate students at UHM an opportunity for an intensive, hands-on radar education period. The deployment coincided with the first UHM offering of MET 628 \Radar Meteorology", which had an enrollment of 12 graduate students who led 16 intensive observing periods (IOPs) with the DOW. A total of approximately 50 participants including graduate students, undergraduate students, and National Weather Service (NWS) forecasters participated in radar training, forecasting, weather balloon launches, and radar deployments around the island. Three special course lectures and two Department seminars from renowned radar experts helped to augment the educational impact of the project. Extensive outreach to the community was also conducted, including a School of Ocean Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) Open House event with over 7,500 visitors from local K-12 schools and the public, a deployment visit from a school for students with learning disabilities, and positive radio, television, and newspaper media coverage.

In July 2014, Professor Nugent worked in New Zealand on an NSF funded aircraft field campaign called DEEPWAVE. The purpose was to collect observations of gravity waves propagating deep into the atmosphere over the South Island. As air flows over the high mountains of NZ, wave disturbances are initiated which travel vertically and can be measured by aircraft and remote sensing lidars. These vertically propagating waves can break and deposit momentum which help to drive global atmospheric circulation.

In August 2014, Professor Christina Karamperidou, then a researcher with the Atmospheric Sciences Department, visited Kiritimati Island. The purpose of this trip was to obtain lake sediment cores which can provide records of past precipitation variability in the central Pacific region. Precipitation on Kiritimati is associated with ENSO variability, as well as multidecadal variability of mean tropical Pacific climate. The lead investigator of this project was Prof. Jessica Conroy of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

In March 2015, Professor Karamperidou also visited the "Big Island" of Hawai‘i. The purpose of this trip was to conduct tree-ring research on Mamane trees on the Big Island. The lead investigators of this project were Prof. Patrick Hart of UH Hilo, and Ed Cook of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

In July 2015, Professor Nugent worked on another NSF funded aircraft field campaign called Cloud System Evolution in the Trades (CSET). Flights flown between California and Hawaii tracked air masses and observed the change in cloud and atmospheric properties from the stratocumulus clouds off the coast of California to the trade cumulus clouds we experience here in Hawaii.

Professor Jennifer Small Griswold and her student, Ashley Heikkila, conducted a field project, ObseRvations of Aerosols above CLouds and their intEractionS (ORACLES), in Namibia Africa during the Summer and Fall of 2016. Additional information can be found in this Science Magazine article. There will be follow-up trips in 2017 and 2018.

In 2016, the Jonathan Merage Foundation embarked on a long-term partnership with the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) to explore how long-range lightning data can potentially improve storm forecasting. "Through the ingest of lightning and storm balloon data, this project aims to increase our ability to map water vapor and heat associated with condensation of water in hurricane storm clouds in the core of the storm," said Professor Steven Businger, chair of the SOEST Atmospheric Sciences Department and project lead. "In the process, details of the initial storm circulation in the hurricane model will be improved." The project began this summer in Colorado with the launch of the first storm balloon. The balloons for this experiment were produced in collaboration with Smith & Williamson, an engineering firm specializing in developing custom prototypes for atmospheric and oceanographic exploration.

Photo of undergrads at NWS office.

Undergraduate meteorology students visiting the National Weather Service (NWS) Honolulu Forecast Office at UH looked over the shoulder of lead forecaster Pete Donaldson as he studied the monitor. The NWS Honolulu Forecast Office moved to the UH-Manoa campus from the airport in 1995. The Honolulu office is one of only 13 nationally that is located on a university campus and in our case it actually shares the HIG building with the Atmospheric Sciences Department.

Forecasting and Practical Applications

We are fortunate that the National Weather Service Honolulu Forecast Office is located in the HIG building, providing access to real time weather data and allowing interactions with the operational forecasters. Several of our students have actually worked part-time at the forecast office. Some of the department’s research activities are directly related to improving short-term weather forecasts for the Hawaiian Islands, including specialized forecasts for the use of astronomers operating the world renowned observatories on Mauna Kea on the island of Hawai‘i.

Support for practical application of weather and climate information in Hawai‘i is provided by the Hawai‘i State Climate Office, which is directed by Prof. Pao-Shin Chu in our department. We also provide important practical support for the local office of the U.S. Forest Service.

Longer Timescales and Climate Studies

Studies of the basic physics of tropical atmospheric circulations on seasonal and longer timescales, notably the El Niño phenomenon and the Asian monsoon circulations, have a long and distinguished history in the department and in our sister Oceanography department. In 1997, our endeavors in climate studies were significantly enhanced by the advent of the International Pacific Research Center (IPRC), now located in the POST building. The IPRC is a joint Japan-US research center for the study of climate variations and long-term climate change in the Asian-Pacific region. Several Atmospheric Sciences department faculty members also have appointments in the IPRC.

Facilities

Modeling and data analysis in the department is facilitated by a network of desktop workstations and personal computers. Individual faculty have access to powerful computing resources through their own facilities or collaborations with other institutions.

With funds from the Unidata Equipment Award Program and a generous cost match from SOEST, the department has recently undertaken an upgrade of its VisionLab instructional computer facility. The workstations in the VisionLab are also used for research.

For field work the department has recently acquired a new InterMet 3000 portable radiosonde system. This provides balloon-borne measurements of temperature, pressure, water vapor, and GPS-determined position (from which winds can be derived).

More information for students

You can download our brochures (as PDFs) presenting details of our undergraduate and graduate programs here, or follow the links to lists of our faculty and courses, descriptions of undergraduate and graduate degree programs, and information on how to apply for graduate studies.

The Weather Server

The Department also maintains a Weather Server page displaying real time weather observations and forecasts for Hawai‘i, the central Pacific region and the US Mainland.

 

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