Discover Your Island

Dr. Chuntao Liu

An Outstanding Islander

Outline photo of Dr. Chuntao Liu

Satellite of the Future

A Science Team Member on the NASA Global Precipitation Mission, Dr. Chuntao Liu’s atmospheric research has recently soared to new heights. Liu, an Assistant Professor of Atmospheric Science, validates data and develops formulas that determine the amount of precipitation hitting the ground. Remote-sensing instruments aboard a newly-launched NASA satellite will help Liu understand the global water cycle, severe weather, and climate change.

“Currently, all weather forecasts rely on certain models that share one big uncertainty and that is how big or small the hydrometeors, including raindrops, are,” said Liu. “This has not been accurately described, especially in the core of the storm, which is still a mystery.”

Through NASA’s new satellite, not only will Liu be able to uncover the mysteries of how raindrop size affects the strength of a storm, but he may be able to help solve the climate-change puzzle. Liu will analyze how aerosols influence raindrop size and affect the formation of clouds, which could possibly vary global heat balance. Liu says this type of phenomenon motivates his research.

“It seems relatively small, a water droplet, but it ties to everything.” Liu said. “I am eager to know, understand, and share my findings. That’s my motivation.”

The satellite replaced an older model that has been functioning since 1997. Liu said the new one has advanced instrumentation and improved global coverage.

“First we have to check the data and make sure that everything is working correctly,” he said. “Then, we can open the data to the scientific community so everyone can look at it.”

Validating the data from the satellite is just the first step in Liu’s research. He plans to spend the next decade using the data to fuel his passion for understanding atmospheric phenomenon, including severe weather patterns and rare lightning phenomenon that occur over water.

“The main goal of the satellite is global precipitation measurement and it will allow us to learn a lot of new things,” said Liu. “This satellite will be the future.”