UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — When Matthew Kumjian, associate professor of meteorology at Penn State, looks at radar observations, he drills down to the fundamentals of what each piece of the puzzle is telling him. And then he builds that puzzle — piece by piece — until a clear picture emerges from the storm.
It’s this approach that earned Kumjian the Henry G. Houghton Early Career Award from the American Meteorological Society (AMS).
Kumjian was honored for the “novel use and application of dual-polarization radar observations to advance our understanding of precipitation physics,” according to the AMS.
“To me, interpreting radar observations is like a puzzle," Kumjian said. “I start by drilling down to the fundamentals of what the observations are telling us, no matter how simple a piece of information. Then I synthesize this piece of the puzzle with an understanding of precipitation physics and ask, ‘how would certain processes appear in the radar observations, ideally.' This approach relies on investigating multiple facets of the problem, including cloud physics, electromagnetic scattering and mesoscale meteorology.”
Kumjian said he begins by applying fundamental knowledge of precipitation and tries to squeeze out all that he can from radar measurements, often in indirect ways using unique approaches.
Meteorologists often rely on radar data to show them the areas of rain or snow, but a more creative approach could glean the microphysical information about, for example, the rate of change of raindrop size owing to evaporation or the rate at which ice crystals clump together to make snowflakes, said Kumjian.
“My approach involves developing new ways to extract this information more effectively and better understand how the variations in the observed fields are related to the useful microphysical information we want,” Kumjian said. “By working with the experts who design and build model microphysics parameterization schemes, I can better understand what is needed and potentially how to apply the radar data to a given problem.”