Lenticular clouds behind Mt. Rainer. Photo taken from the roof of our building by Reid Wolcott.
Atmospheric dynamics involves observational and theoretical analysis of all motion systems of meteorological significance, including such diverse phenomena as thunderstorms, tornadoes, gravity waves,tropical hurricanes, extratropical cyclones, jet streams, and global-scale circulations. The immediate goal of dynamical studies is to explain the observed circulations on the basis of fundamental physical principles. The practical objectives of such studies include improving weather prediction, developing methods for prediction of short-term (seasonal and interannual) climate fluctuations, and understanding the implications of human-induced perturbations (e.g., increased carbon dioxide concentrations or depletion of the ozone layer) on the global climate.
The Department has active research programs studying problems on the global scale, the synoptic scale, and the mesoscale. Research on global-scale problems includes many topics related to climate change and climate variability, stratospheric dynamics, and the general circulation. Research on the synoptic scale focuses on the development of extratropical cyclones, the dynamical influence of the tropopause, rotating stratified turbulence, and data assimilation. On the mesoscale our efforts are concentrated on topographically induced flows, orographic precipitation, gravity waves and stratospheric-troposphere exchange through mixing at the top of deep cumulonimbus clouds. These problems are attacked with a combination of theory, numerical simulation and observational analysis.