Research - Steven Sherwood


My research group is using a variety of tools to address outstanding questions related to climate change and the behavior of the various forms of water in the climate system. These tools include the analysis of global satellite datasets capable of characterizing cloud properties, including their heights attained, water content, solar reflectance and particle sizes and shapes; the simulations of individual clouds and statistical properties of cloud populations using numerical, cloud-resolving models; careful analysis of large datasets, including temperature and moisture variations in radiosondes as well as satellite radiances, using better statistical techniques (possibly including "machine learning"); simulations of global climate using numerical general circulation models; and the development of more idealized or simple models/theories of climate and climate-relevant processes. Some of the questions we are now studying using the above tools are:

    • What fundamentally limits the amount of precipitation that can fall in a given period of time?
    • Why are there such large regional variations in the severity of storms, especially in the tropics?
    • How will rainfall and storm properties change as climate warms, particularly in mid- and high-latitudes? What changes are needed in climate models so they can predict this more reliably?
    • What effects are the observed shifts in the atmosphere's general circulation having on Australian rainfall, and will they continue?
    • What effects will higher humidity in a warmer climate have on human heat stress and other impacts?
    • Are there ways of observing natural variability in the climate that will reveal its sensitivity to external forcings such as increases in greenhouse gases?
    • Are prehistoric climate changes suggested by geologic evidence consistent with our current understanding of how the atmosphere and oceans work? Going the other way, can past continental and orographic reconstructions be constrained meteorologically?

Each of these general questions has many aspects, the investigation of any one of which could consitute a substantial research project. The broad scope of our investigations is aided by collaboration with others in the CCRC and with colleagues at overseas institutions in the United States and Europe.

Last updated 10/2010.