CSU Tropical Meteorology Project has new co-author, Michael Bell

Colorado State University’s Tropical Meteorology Project welcomes a new face to its longtime seasonal hurricane forecasts: Michael Bell, associate professor in CSU’s Department of Atmospheric Science.

Michael Bell
Michael Bell, CSU associate professor of atmospheric science

Bell has entered into a research partnership with Philip Klotzbach, the primary author of the seasonal forecasts and verifications, to become the reports’ co-author. Klotzbach is formally a research scientist in Bell’s group at CSU.

Different expertise

Klotzbach and Bell bring different areas of expertise to the prediction and analysis of hurricane phenomena in the Atlantic basin. “Most of the work I have done has been on the weather scale and mesoscale, focusing on intensity and structural changes,” said Bell, who joined the CSU faculty in summer 2016. “Phil’s expertise is on the seasonal and climate timescales; hopefully by working together, we will bridge some gaps and ultimately help advance the science of tropical cyclones.”

Bell holds an M.S. in atmospheric science from CSU and a Ph.D. from the Naval Postgraduate School. He studies the dynamics of tropical cyclones (another word for hurricanes) using Doppler radar and dropsondes, devices that collect high-density data as they fall from aircraft. He has flown into many tropical cyclones as part of his research. Bell’s first flight into a hurricane was Katrina in 2005 as part of a National Science Foundation-sponsored field project, and he flew into several Pacific typhoons during a U.S. Office of Naval Research-sponsored project in 2008. Much of Bell’s work has focused in the Pacific, home to some of the world’s strongest tropical cyclones. He was recently honored with a Presidential Early Career Award to support his research efforts.

Since CSU started issuing seasonal hurricane forecasts more than 30 years ago, the discipline of tropical meteorology has tended toward specialization, Klotzbach said. “By partnering together, we can hopefully cover time scales of what will happen in the next hour to what will happen during the next hurricane season and beyond,” Klotzbach said. “It’s very exciting to have Michael’s expertise on board as an integral part of our work.”

Longtime colleagues

Phil Klotzbach
Research scientist Phil Klotzbach

The two hurricane experts have been colleagues and friends for more than 15 years. They were both atmospheric science graduate students at CSU during the mid-2000s. Klotzbach studied under the late William Gray, the originator of the Atlantic seasonal hurricane forecasts, and Bell under Michael Montgomery, formerly of the CSU Department of Atmospheric Science and, since 2006, a professor at the Naval Postgraduate School.

With Klotzbach officially a part of Bell’s research group, they hope to continue a legacy of strong expertise in tropical meteorology at CSU. This is built upon the shoulders of Gray, Montgomery and Professor Wayne Schubert, recently named to emeritus status, all three of whom have been “very influential in tropical meteorology,” Bell said.

Bell and Klotzbach’s collaboration is not limited to the seasonal forecasts; they are already working on several projects together, studying various aspects of tropical cyclones in their larger meteorological context.

“Our studies are interrelated, and advances in one area lead to advances in other areas,” Bell said. “It is a broader collaboration that goes back to the legacy of Bill Gray, especially, who was widely known for seasonal forecasts but also made tremendous contributions to tropical meteorology in general. Hopefully we can continue in that same tradition.”

The initial 2017 Atlantic Basin seasonal hurricane forecast will be released April 6 during the National Tropical Weather Conference in South Padre Island, Texas.