PECASE awarded to Hurricane researcher Michael Bell

Colorado State University associate professor Michael Bell has been awarded the highly competitive Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) for his groundbreaking work observing and modeling tropical cyclones.

The Office of Naval Research (ONR), who named Bell an ONR Young Investigator in 2015, nominated him for the award. Bell has a longstanding research collaboration with the ONR on tropical cyclone formation and evolution. “Tropical cyclones are a big problem for the U.S. Navy, but also for the coastal residents of the U.S. and around the globe,” Bell noted.

Bell is also the recipient of a National Science Foundation CAREER award, under which he and his research group are conducting analyses of Doppler radar, dropsonde, satellite, and other observations to better understand the factors that impact tropical cyclone intensification.

“We still have difficulties forecasting them, but we’ve made a lot of progress over the years,” Bell said. “The real frontier of what we’re doing now is combining observations and numerical weather prediction models in really exciting ways. ”

Tropical Meteorology at CSU

The Roger Revelle home of SEA-POL
SEA-POL deployed on the R/V Roger Revelle

Bell’s group is currently in the planning stage for an upcoming ONR-sponsored field study, Propagation of Intra-Seasonal Tropical Oscillations (PISTON), scheduled to take place in late summer 2018. Bell’s co-principal investigators on this international, multi-institutional project include colleagues Eric Maloney, Steven Rutledge, and Susan van den Heever. The group will assist with collecting the observational data as well as conducting modeling studies to interpret observations and advance understanding of tropical atmospheric phenomena. The PISTON study plan includes deployment of the world’s most advanced shipborne radar, SEA-POL (short for “seafaring polarimetric”). SEA-POL was developed through a $1.3 million grant from the National Science Foundation awarded to Rutledge and V. “Chandra” Chandrasekar, University Distinguished Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

CSU’s leadership in PISTON underscores the university’s prominence in tropical meteorology research, dating from the founding of the Department of Atmospheric Science in 1962 by renowned tropical meteorologist Herbert Riehl. Bell and colleague Phil Klotzbach carry on this tradition as co-authors of the Tropical Meteorology Project’s (TPM) Atlantic Basin Hurricane forecast, founded in 1984 by the influential meteorologist and longtime CSU professor William Gray.

The Bell Research group

Bell earned a doctorate in meteorology from the Naval Postgraduate School and served on the faculty of the University of Hawaii before joining the Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University in 2016. He is a co-author of a recent overview of the Office of Naval Research Tropical Cyclone Intensity (TCI) field program that made high-resolution observations of hurricanes Patricia, Joaquin, and Marty: “A View of Tropical Cyclones from Above: The Tropical Cyclone Intensity Experiment,” published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. Bell’s primary research interests are in tropical, mesoscale, and radar meteorology. A central focus is studying the mesoscale structure and intensification of tropical cyclones throughout their life-cycle from genesis to extratropical transition. He and his group are also working to improve mesoscale and radar analysis techniques and open-source software tools.

CSU Researcher Michael Bell
Michael Bell

“The real frontier of what we’re doing now is combining observations and numerical weather prediction models in really exciting ways.

Michael Bell

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Michael Bell
Associate Professor of Atmospheric Science

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