Weather Channel's Dr. Forbes at Weather Fest event this week

Weather Fest

Dr. Greg Forbes, severe weather expert at The Weather Channel, joins Greg Carbin, warning coordination meteorologist at the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., and Bob Baron, president and CEO of Baron Services Inc., to headline the fourth Rocket City Weather Fest on Saturday, Feb. 22.

The trio will join other local, regional and national weather experts at the free event, which will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at UAH's Shelby Center for Technology. The festival is open to weather enthusiasts of all ages.

"The purpose of the event is to bring the community together to learn about weather and weather preparedness," says Elise Schultz, Weather Fest co-chair and president of the Huntsville Area Professional Chapter of the American Meteorological Society/National Weather Association (AMS/NWA), which is assisting with the event and hopes to become a joint sponsor in future years.


Charger Rocket Works designing new rocket for NASA competition

Charger Rocket Works

A completely redesigned rocket will soar aloft when The University of Alabama in Huntsville's Charger Rocket Works team competes in the NASA Student Launch this spring at Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah.

Prometheus, the moniker bestowed upon the craft by the team, is bigger and all new, said Systems Integration Project Lead Ken Le Blanc.

"Everything is completely redone in the team's rocket design this year because we are involved in two projects at the same time," Le Blanc said. Under the supervision of Dr. Robert Frederick Jr., Dr. David Lineberry and Jason Winningham, the team is currently in the design finalization and early testing portion of the build.

Prometheus is being developed for the NASA Student Launch and as part of a multi-year NASA program for Nano Launch 1200, Marshall Space Flight Center's vision for smaller, lower-cost launch vehicles to deploy cube satellites. The idea is to arrive at designs that will provide lower-risk, faster access to space. The program allows several universities to enter into a competition of ideas with concepts they devise, which if shown to be viable, will be incorporated into the Nano Launch 1200 design.


Five technologies get UAH commercialization grant funds

Kannan Grant

Five technology proposals at UAH have been awarded nearly $50,000 total in Charger Innovation Fund (CIF) grant support to stimulate efforts to commercialize intellectual property developed at the university.

Winners, their proposal titles and their grant awards are:

Dr. Junpeng Guo, "A Novel Surface Plasmon Enhanced Absorption Spectrometer Chemical Sensor," $10,000. This sensor measures small amounts of trace chemicals. Its enhanced sensitivity, smaller size and lower cost will have significant advantages for disease diagnosis, chemical analysis and homeland security.

Dr. Philip Kovacs, "Complexity Engine," $10,000. Powered by a sophisticated algorithm, Complexity Engine searches websites for content and delivers free, customized and age-appropriate reading materials to a user's computer. It will give teachers, parents and students an efficient, affordable way to promote self-directed reading.


UAH gets planning money for industrial research center effort

Dr. Gang Wang

Stronger research ties between UAH and local industry partners would result if an effort to establish an Industry & University Cooperative Research Center (I/UCRC) site at UAH succeeds.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has funded a UAH planning proposal for the project. In collaboration with lead organization Mississippi State University (MSU), the planned UAH research center would focus on advanced composites in transportation vehicles. Each I/UCRC requires membership of multiple universities and multiple industry partners. In addition to being a research site, UAH would act as a co-equal partner with MSU to perform the related research.

"The ultimate goal that our team is focusing on now is successfully gaining the NSF approval for an I/UCRC," said Dr. Gang Wang, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering who is a principal investigator in the effort along with UAH Research Institute principal research engineer Chris Sautter, associate director for reliability in the Research Institute, and Dr. Houssam Toutanji, professor and chair of civil and environmental engineering. The planning proposal funds will support UAH's center planning workshop in summer 2014, Dr. Wang said.



Lightning jump might give warning of violent weather before radar can

Dr. Themis Chronis

A sudden increase in lightning strikes inside a thunderstorm might one day soon give forecasters five to 20 minutes of additional warning that a storm cell is about to produce violent weather.

"The current severe storms warning system is based on radar reflectivity," said Dr. Themis Chronis, a research associate in UAH's Earth System Science Center. "But this lightning jump typically precedes the trigger point for reflectivity by from five to 20 minutes, so we could have that much more time to issue warnings."

Several oral presentations and a poster on related lightning research in UAH's ESSC will be presented this week during the American Meteorological Society's annual meeting at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta.

The rapid jump in cloud-to-cloud lightning inside thunderstorm cells is related to horizontal rotation in a storm being tilted on-end upward inside a storm cell, according to Dr. Larry Carey, an associate professor of atmospheric science and one of the leaders in UAH's lightning research team.


Raindrop research dials in satellite forecasting accuracy

Patrick Gatlin

Dialing in the accuracy of satellite weather forecasting is the goal behind basic research into raindrop size and shape being done at UAH by a UAH doctoral student who is also an atmospheric scientist in the NASA Pathways Intern Employment Program.

Patrick Gatlin says his work measuring the height and width of raindrops using ground instruments provides an accuracy baseline that is then scaled up to ground radar and then to satellite measurements. He is co-author of a paper on the topic (Tokay, Ali, Walter A. Petersen, Patrick Gatlin, Matthew Wingo, 2013: Comparison of Raindrop Size Distribution Measurements by Collocated Disdrometers. J. Atmos. Oceanic Technol., 30, 1672–1690;

"That's really the whole purpose of measuring raindrops, is for remote sensing purposes," Gatlin says. Scaling up accuracy from a small sensor on the ground to large sections of the Earth being observed from space requires very accurately calibrated instruments. "Our ability to correctly depict rainfall using a sensor in space is closely tied to knowing how precipitation varies, right down to the individual raindrop and snowflake size."


Baron Services to provide UAH students with internships

President Robert Altenkirch and Bob Baron

Students at UAH will gain real-world experience through internships and the university will do cooperative research with meteorological company Baron Services Inc. following the signing of a memorandum of understanding on Friday.

"This is an excellent opportunity for UAH students to work with Baron Services, a world leader in radar remote sensing," said Dr. Sundar Christopher, professor and chairman of the UAH Dept. of Atmospheric Science
and associate director of the Earth System Science Center. "This will further strengthen research collaborations between our two organizations."

UAH internship candidates will be selected by a faculty liaison in cooperation with Baron Services, and faculty may participate as resource persons in the internship on a limited basis. Select Baron Services employees will collaborate in developing student assignments and training activities and will instruct, evaluate and supervise the student. Baron Services will report student progress and performance to UAH.


UAH plans to 'storm' AMS meeting in Atlanta


UAH will have a major presence at the 2014 American Meteorological Society (AMS) annual meeting in Atlanta during the first week of February.

About 50 UAH faculty members, scientists and students are scheduled to participate in the conference, presenting 50 talks and posters on research in UAH's Earth System Science Center (ESSC) and the Department of Atmospheric Science, and with research collaborators.

Research topics to be presented range from using lightning counts for forecasting severe weather to air pollution monitoring, climate change and developing specialized computer applications for tracking weather events.

"This is an excellent opportunity for the department and ESSC to show the work we are doing here at UAH," said Dr. Sundar Christopher, chairman of UAH's Atmospheric Science Department.


New lab offers students chance at more research diversity


A new laboratory in UAH's Earth System Science Center is giving students opportunities to gain research experience in areas as diverse as archaeology from space, and learning which biological samples might try to take over the world if the power to their hermetically sealed freezer goes off for several days.

About a dozen students in Earth system science and atmospheric science are working on research projects this semester through the new Human Dimensions, Discovery and Decision Making (HD3) lab.

Amanda Weigel, for instance, is using satellite data and information about hurricanes from the past 150 years to study archaeological sites in Mexico's Yucatan peninsula to determine which sites might be at greatest risk from storm-related damage.


UAH team searches treetops for Maya secrets


Beneath the Guatemalan rainforests, hidden from mankind for more than a millennium, lie remains of the once vast kingdom of the Maya.

A pair of scientists from The University of Alabama in Huntsville will be in Guatemala next week to test whether a camera carried aloft by a tiny, battery-powered helicopter might one day help uncover lost Maya ruins.

Dr. Robert Griffin, an assistant professor of Earth system science at UAH, and graduate student Casey Calamaio will spend three days testing a multi-spectral camera during brief flights of a radio-controlled helicopter over Maya ruins at Tikal and Yaxha. They will use the images - similar to those from Landsat but in much higher resolution - to look for signs of the types of plant stress frequently seen in trees growing over archaeological sites in Central America.