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Meet Dr. Gerald Heymsfield: Cloud Radar Expert and Research Meteorologist
May 23, 2012

gerald heymsfield Dr. Gerald Heymsfield is a research Meteorologist in the Goddard Mesoscale Atmospheric Processes Branch at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) in Greenbelt, Md. One of the areas he focuses his research on is hurricane intensification.

He is the Principal Investigator for the High-Altitude Imaging Wind & Rain Airborne Profiler (HIWRAP) instrument that will fly on the Global Hawk aircraft during the five year Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel (HS3) mission.

He received his undergraduate degree in Physics and Mathematics at the State University of New York in 1971, and then received his M.S. degree at the University of Chicago in Geophysical Sciences in 1972. His major area was Radar Meteorology and he was involved with one of the first Doppler weather radars. He then received his Ph.D. from the University of Oklahoma in Meteorology in 1976. His dissertation dealt with one of first dual-Doppler analyses of the three-dimensional wind structure of a tornadic supercell storm. Heymsfield then worked as a Research Associate at the University of Chicago from 1976-1979, where he was involved in radar studies of winter storms.

From 1979 to the present, Heymsfield has been at Goddard where he has conducted research on Radar and Satellite Meteorology. He initiated the 9.6 GHz ER-2 Aircraft Doppler Radar in the late 1980s.

He has remained Principal Investigator for this instrument that has been used in numerous ER-2 field campaigns studying convection and hurricanes. Heymsfield is also Principal Investigator on a second radar, the 94 GHz Cloud Radar System for the ER-2 that is used to study clouds such as cirrus (high clouds). His current activities are focused on process studies dealing with mesoscale convective systems and tropical storms using the two ER-2 radar systems.

A mesoscale convective system (MCS) is a large organized weather system comprised of a number of individual thunderstorms. The size of an MCS can be 100 times larger than an individual thunderstorm. The area of an MCS can range from areas between 10 and several hundred kilometers or 5 miles to a couple of hundred miles, and may cross a couple of state boundaries.

Previous tropical storm-related studies by Heymsfield have dealt observational studies of the role of convective bursts and vertical wind shear (a rapid change in wind speed or direction with height) on hurricane intensification. In addition, Heymsfield has been involved in the obtaining microphysical information from the two radars. Recent studies involved Hurricane Bonnie and Tropical Storm Chantal in 2001. In HS3, HIWRAP will provide vertical structure of these storms from the ocean surface to the top of the storm.

Heymsfield was one of the mission scientists in the Tropical Cloud Systems and Processes field campaign in the summer of 2005, NASA African Monsoon Multidisciplinary Analyses (NAMMA) in 2006, and Genesis and Rapid Intensification Processes (GRIP) in 2010 that dealt with how tropical storms initiate and intensify. He will be one of the mission scientists in the upcoming HS3 mission.

Related Web sites:

For NASA's High-Altitude Radar (HAR) web site, visit:
http://har.gsfc.nasa.gov/ Dr. Gerald Heymsfield's Web site and Research Papers

Tropical Cloud Systems and Processes mission

NASA's ER-2 Aircraft

NASA ER-2 Radars


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Page Last Updated: July 28th, 2013
Page Editor: NASA Administrator