Tropical Meteorology

One of our main interests is furthering our understanding of tropical meteorology. Why should we study the tropics? If you look at the satellite image on the right (and infrared image from a geostationary satellite), you can see that the tropics cover a very large area of the globe. This also happens to be the region that gets the biggest amount of annual insolation. Other regions of the globe receive far less solar energy, and instead receive some of that energy from the tropics. That is, the tropics donate some of that energy to the higher latitudes. If it weren't for the tropics, the mid and polar latitudes would be a colder. Thus, the tropical latitudes play a huge role in maintaining the Earth's climate.

But that's not the only interesting thing about the tropical latitudes. If you inspect the satellite image again, you would notice that tropical clouds are organized in a different way than the midlatitudes. Actually, it is not clear from that picture if the tropics are organized at all! But they really are! The contours in the animation show different wave types in the tropics. Notice how well they correspond with rainfall. On a day to day basis there are all sorts of waves and other disturbances like tropical cyclones that are helping to shape up the image that you see. There is much ongoing research to try to answer these two questions: (1) How do the tropics shape the planet's climate? and (2) How are weather patterns around the tropics are organized?

Areas of research in tropical meteorology:

  • Tropical Atmospheric Dynamics

  • Tropical Thermodynamics

  • Climate Change

  • Tropical waves

  • The Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO)

  • El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO)

Each topic can be accessed through links above. My research in these topics includes development of novel mathematical and statistical techniques, analyzing model simulations,  and development of theoretical models that can capture some crucial elements of the tropical atmosphere.

 
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Theory of the atmospheric circulation

We also seek to further our understanding our theoretical understanding of the atmosphere. This includes understanding processes such as wave propagation, interactions between convection and waves, and developing conceptual models that can represent our atmosphere. These novel theories are then compared to model simulations and observations which, in turn, helps us elaborate our theory further.

Future research directions

Dynamics of other planets: The last decade has seen unprecedented advances in exoplanet research. Thousands of planets have been discovered by astronomers around the world, many exhibiting exotic orbits. With the upcoming deployment of the James Webb telescope, astronomers will finally be able to characterize the atmosphere of many exoplanets, bringing us closer to understanding planetary habitability. Of the many possibilities for habitable planets, a few are of particular interest to our group. These are rocky planets with thick atmospheres and slow rotation speeds (some tidally locked) with respect to their stars. Such planets are expected to exhibit global atmospheric dynamics much like those observed in the terrestrial tropics. Thus, many of the tools developed to understand the tropics on Earth can be used to understand the atmosphere of these planets.