A Florida State University atmospheric scientist has received funding from NASA to conduct critical research on tropical cyclone development aimed at improving accuracy of storm forecasts.
Allison Wing, assistant professor of meteorology in the Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science, has been selected for a NASA New Investigator (Early Career) Award in Earth Science, which supports the career development of scientists within six years of receiving their doctoral degrees. The program funds innovative research initiatives and seeks to cultivate diverse scientific leadership in Earth system science.
“We don’t have a complete understanding of tropical cyclone development, and in particular, intensity forecasts require improvement,” Wing said. “I’ve been interested in incorporating space-based remote sensing into my research on tropical cyclone development, and NASA’s Earth Science Division emphasizes the use of space-based remote sensing to advance scientific knowledge and supports research to improve weather forecasts, especially of extreme weather events.”
Tropical cyclones, which are among the most devastating of Earth’s natural phenomena, occur over remote ocean areas, making it difficult to observe development of these convective storms before they coalesce into hurricanes and typhoons that impact populated areas.
For the past six years, Wing has studied the role of cloud-radiative feedbacks in tropical cyclone development, and a large part of her work focuses on cyclone formation and intensification.
Her recent work suggests that cloud-radiative feedbacks are crucial to storm development, but current observational analyses of these feedbacks, developed via weather and climate models, are limited.
“Dr. Wing’s research concentrates on convection and its organization, or aggregation, and its role in the formation of hurricanes,” said Vincent Salters, EOAS department chair. “Her research is both theoretical and simulation-based. She is also a sought-after teacher and mentor to our students, as evidenced by the university teaching award she recently received.”
Adding an observational component to her research will provide Wing a better understanding of how cloud-radiation interactions contribute to the development of tropical cyclones and could lead to critical improvements in the prediction of these extreme weather events.
This award provides funding for the analysis of NASA satellite observations of cloud content, moisture and radiative fluxes in the vicinity of tropical cyclones. Data from a space-based cloud radar called CloudSat and other A-Train sensors — constellations of satellites that provide a synergistic view of atmospheric properties — will be used to better understand how these interactions contribute to tropical cyclone development.
Additionally, Wing will attempt to validate tropical cyclone cloud-radiative feedbacks in the NASA global model and examine simulated radiative feedbacks against the observational estimate. This award also allows Wing to support a graduate student in her research on storm development.
“I was thrilled to learn my proposal was selected,” Wing said. “It’s rewarding to know your hard work and effort was worth it and that the expert reviewers are excited about your proposed research. This award is especially meaningful because it is limited to early career scientists and reflects support for this specific research and my growth as a scientist and leader in this field.”
Wing’s proposal was one of 38 selected from 238 applications. During her time at FSU, she has received funding for three research grants from NASA, the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration, and the National Science Foundation.
“Her receipt of a NASA Early Career Award indicates she is a bright star in her discipline,” Salters said. “The recognition of a junior faculty member beyond FSU boundaries by the larger community is an important part of the reputation of the EOAS department and the university.”