Josh Aikins

Graduate Student
University of Colorado at Boulder
Department of Atmospheric & Oceanic Sciences (ATOC)

Lumpy Ridge - The Needles

I am currently enrolled as a graduate student at the University of Colorado at Boulder (CU Boulder) in the Department of Atmospheric & Oceanic Sciences (ATOC), where I am on the Atmospheric Science PhD track. I received funding for my first year of graduate school through the AMS Graduate Fellowship Program. I received subsequent funding through a Research Assistantship (RA) with Professor Katja Friedrich in ATOC, and I am now funded through the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES). When I am not working on schoolwork or research I enjoy hiking, skiing, weather forecasting, and traveling. I consider myself a radar meteorologist and feel I have merged my passions in life with my career.

ASCII 2012
As part of my research at CU Boulder, I have analyzed observational data from a multitude of surface-based and airborne radar, remote sensing, and in-situ instruments designed to observe precipitation and other meteorological variables
for the AgI Seeding Cloud Impact Investigation (ASCII) 2012 field project. This project has allowed me to work with top scientists from the Center for Severe Weather Research (CSWR), National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), and the University of Wyoming. The focus of my research with the ASCII 2012 project is understanding small-scale dynamical mechanisms and their impact on cloud microphysics in winter orographic precipitation systems. My first journal article on this ASCII research was published in Monthly Weather Review (an AMS journal).

CalWater2 (2014/15)
In August 2014, I started working with Rob Cifelli, David Kingsmill, and Paul Neiman in the Physical Sciences Division (PSD)
at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Earth Systems Research Laboratory (ESRL). One part of my work with NOAA has focused on analyzing Doppler radar data from a tail-mounted radar aboard the NOAA G-IV aircraft collected during research flights over the Pacific Ocean in February 2014 and January 2015. The research flights are part of the CalWater2 experiment that aims to increase our understanding of Atmospheric Rivers off the Pacific US West Coast and how they impact precipitation in California and other states along the US Pacific Coast. My airborne radar analysis has being incorporated into a co-authored research paper published in Monthly Weather Review (March 2016), and analysis from a second case has been incorporated into a second co-authored research paper accepted for publication in Monthly Weather Review. The G-IV tail Doppler radar analysis is the first of its kind and provides a rare view of precipitation processes within a poorly observed part of the world.

IPHEx 2014
Since July 2015, I have started working on analyzing radar and precipitation data from the Integrated Precipitation & Hydrology Experiment (IPHEx) that took place in the Southern Appalachian mountains. The NOAA X-POL (NOXP) mobile X-band dual-polarimetric radar and the NASA S-band dual-polarimetric (NPOL) radar were deployed during IPHEx along with numerous rain gauges, PARSIVEL disdrometers, and vertically-pointing Micro Rain Radars (MRRs). My research will focus on understanding small-scale dynamical and microphysical mechanisms within the poorly-observed Pigeon River Basin region of western North Carolina. Specifically, I am interested in the orographic impacts of the southern Appalachian mountains on mesoscale convective systems (MCSs) passing through the IPHEx target area, an area of very little previous research. This research will be the focus of my second research paper towards my PhD.

From January into March 2017 I assisted with the Seeded and Natural Orographic Wintertime Clouds: The Idaho Experiment (SNOWIE 2017) field project in the mountains of western Idaho. The goals of the SNOWIE project are to 1) understand the natural dynamical and microphysical processes by which precipitation forms and evolves within orographic winter storms and 2) determine the physical processes by which cloud seeding with silver iodide (AgI), either from ground generators or aircraft, impacts the amount and spatial distribution of snow falling across a river basin. My role as a graduate student on the project was to maintain the CU Boulder instruments that were deployed in the mountains north of Boise, ID as well as operate the Doppler On Wheels (DOW) radar that was positioned on the top of Packer John Mountain (7,000 ft elevation). We had to snowmobile to and from the DOW location during the project and stayed on the mountain in campers between intensive observational periods (IOPs). Data collected during this project have documented the best ever evidence of enhanced snowfall through airborne cloud seeding, something that has never directly been observed before. Preliminary analysis from SNOWIE will be coming out later in 2017 documenting these extraordinary observations.

Volunteer Work
As a graduate student, I have also had the opportunity to volunteer my time to chase tornadoes and hurricanes with the Center for Severe Weather Research (CSWR). My wife and I chased Hurricane Isaac in 2012 and collected mobile mesonet data (wind, temperature, pressure) from a 14 ft tall levy as the eye of the storm sat over us for several hours. Luckily, the storm surge was 13 ft. However, we were left stranded for a day as the levy North of us broke and flooded homes and businesses. We had to evacuate the area by driving along the levy to a ferry that took us across the Mississippi River. Hurricane chases like this have lead to research on small-scale boundary layer structures within hurricanes (e.g., Kosiba and Wurman 2014). It has also opened up my eyes to just how destructive hurricanes and tropical storms can be, as well as how it impacts the local populations. I also assisted in two 5-day tornado chase deployments in May 2013, which included the Moore, OK tornado (20 May 2013) and the El Reno, OK tornado (31 May 2013). The El Reno tornado is famous for being the widest tornado ever observed and killing 3 well-known and respected researchers/storm chasers (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2013_El_Reno_tornado). The data collected by the CSWR Doppler On Wheels (DOW) radars lead to an in-depth analysis published in BAMS on how the multi-vortex characteristics of the El Reno tornado lead to the storm chaser fatalities (Wurman et al. 2014). Additionally, I was able to assist CSWR during the Plains Elevated Convection At Night (PECAN) field project in May 2015 to collect radar and mesonet data on elevated convective nocturnal thunderstorms on the US Midwestern Plains. Most recently, I was deployed to the mountains of western Idaho to operate the DOW radars from mountaintop locations as part of the Seeded and Natural Orographic Wintertime Clouds: The Idaho Experiment (SNOWIE 2017) from January to March 2017. All of these volunteer experiences have increased my understanding of the atmospheric science field and have allowed me to see the world.

Check out the Research tab to learn more about my research.