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Meet Bjorn Lambrigtsen: A Microwave Instrument Scientist On NASA's NAMMA Hurricane Mission
Picture of Bjorn LambrigtsenBjorn Lambrigtsen is the microwave instrument scientist for the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) mission on NASA's Aqua spacecraft and is the supervisor of the AIRS Atmospheric Science Group at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., where he has been since 1982. This year, he'll bring his expertise to the NASA African Monsoon Multidisciplinary Activities (NAMMA) field campaign, which will study tropical cyclones.

Lambrigtsen is also the principal investigator for a number of large and small research projects related to microwave remote sensing of the atmosphere, from the development of new sensors to hurricane research. In addition, he is a member of the NASA science team for the National Polar-Orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System Preparatory Project – a pathfinder for the next generation of U.S. weather satellites. In this capacity, he provides expertise on microwave sounders and related science topics.

Bjorn has been active in NASA hurricane research since 1993, when he participated in the first Convection and Moisture Experiment (CAMEX-1) as a representative of AIRS. In 2001 he participated in the CAMEX-4 hurricane field campaign based in Jacksonville, Fla., as an instrument principal investigator, with the newly developed High-Altitude MMIC Sounding Radiometer (HAMSR) instrument as one of the payloads on the NASA high-altitude ER-2 aircraft. That campaign was interrupted by the September 11, 2001 attacks but still produced a wealth of new information about hurricanes.

Bjorn also participated with HAMSR in the 2005 Tropical Cloud Systems and Processes (TCSP) hurricane campaign based in Costa Rica. In that campaign, the focus was on cyclogenesis – i.e. the early stages of the life cycle of the atmospheric disturbances that may or may not develop into full-fledged hurricanes. The plan was to study storms being formed off Central America in the Eastern Pacific, but the 2005 season was such that there was little activity in the Eastern Pacific during July (but much activity in the Caribbean, which was then studied instead).

This year, he will again provide HAMSR for the NASA African Monsoon Multidisciplinary Activities (NAMMA) field campaign that is to be based in Cape Verde – this time flying it on the NASA DC-8 aircraft. The NAMMA campaign is also designed to study cyclogenesis and factors that influence it and this time will be based in the Eastern Atlantic, where most of the United States and Caribbean storms originate.

HAMSR was developed in 1998-2001 under the NASA Instrument Incubator Program, with Bjorn as the principal investigator. It represents the most advanced sensor of its kind, using newly developed technology to make it both more accurate and much more compact than previous sensors. It is ideal for hurricane field campaigns, since it can look through thick clouds and probe into the interior of the storms, but it is also used to demonstrate the capabilities of the new technology and act as a pathfinder for future satellite systems. Bjorn also leads the development of a new microwave sounder for geostationary satellites, GeoSTAR, which will make it possible to monitor the interior of hurricanes continuously without having to wait for a satellite to pass overhead.

Bjorn’s research interests center around the characterization and analysis of the dynamics of the atmosphere in relation to severe storms. He is particularly interested in developing a reliable method to estimate storm intensity from remote sensing instruments like HAMSR (and instruments like HAMSR that are part of satellite systems, both current and planned), which could be used both to improve hurricane forecasts and to investigate trends in storm activity due to possible climate changes.

Bjorn was educated as a physicist, first at the Norwegian Institute of Technology (in experimental solid state physics under Dr. Ivar Svare) and later at the University of Southern California (in theoretical and computational physics under Dr. John Marburger). He was awarded the NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal in 2004.