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Meet Dr. Robert Atlas: Modeling Hurricane Formation, Movement and Intensification
Photo of Dr. Atlas Dr. Robert Atlas is the former Chief Meteorologist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC), and is currently the Director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory in Miami, Fla. Some of the areas he focuses his current research on include the prediction, movement and strengthening of hurricanes. Atlas has worked with both satellite data and computer models as a means to study these hurricane behaviors.

Robert Atlas received his Ph.D. in Meteorology and Oceanography in 1976 from New York University. Prior to receiving the doctorate, he was a weather forecaster in the U.S. Air Force where he maintained a greater than 95 percent forecast accuracy. He was also a summer intern at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and an instructor of physics for the State University of New York (SUNY).

From 1976 to 1978, Dr. Atlas was a National Research Council Research Associate at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York, an Assistant Professor of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science for SUNY and Chief Consulting Meteorologist for the ABC television network.

In 1978, Dr. Atlas joined NASA as a research scientist. Since that time, he has served as Project Scientist for the First Global Atmospheric Research Experiment (FGGE) Special Effort for Satellite Data Enhancement. He also served as a Principal Investigator for Simulation Studies of Advanced Observing Systems, Numerical-Diagnostic Studies of Major Weather Events, Interactive Satellite Data Enhancement, Satellite Data Assimilation and Initialization, and Scatterometer Applications to Ocean Surface and Analysis and Numerical Weather prediction.

He served as head of the NASA Data Assimilation Office from 1998-2003, and as Chief meteorologist at NASA GSFC from 2003-2005.

Dr. Atlas has performed research to assess and improve the impact of satellite temperature sounding and wind data since 1973. He was the first person to demonstrate the beneficial impact of quantitative satellite data on weather prediction, for both satellite temperature soundings and satellite surface winds.

He served as a member of the Satellite Surface Stress Working Group, the NASA Scatterometer (NSCAT) Science Team, the ERS Science Team, the SeaWinds Satellite Team and the Working Group for Space-based Laser Winds. He is also a member of the Scientific Steering Group for GEWEX (the Global Energy and Water Cycle Experiment), Chairman of the U.S. World Ocean Circulation Experiment (WOCE) Advisory Group for model-based air-sea fluxes, and is a past member of the Council of the American Meteorological Society. Dr. Atlas' research on air-sea-land interaction began in 1973.

From 1974-1976, he developed a global upper-ocean model and studied oceanic response to atmospheric wind forcing as well as large-scale atmospheric response to sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies (unusual events). In more recent years, his research concentrated on the role of how the air and sea interacts in the development of cyclones, the role of soil moisture and unusual SST events in the initiation, maintenance and decay of prolonged heat waves and drought, and most recently on the modeling and prediction of hurricane formation, movement and intensification.

Atlas was one of the principal investigators along with co-investigators on a new hurricane computer model called the "Finite Volume General Circulation Model" (fvGCM), being run at NASA's GSFC and Ames Research Center, Moffitt Field, Calif. The co-investigators include Dr. Shian-Jiann Lin at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (NOAA/GFDL), and Dr. Bo-Wen Shen, Dr. Jiundar Chern and Dr. Oreste Reale all of NASA's GSFC. The model provides a more realistic representation of hurricanes and their behaviors, which is enhancing the state of hurricane forecasting.

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Rob Gutro
Goddard Space Flight Center