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UC researcher awarded prestigious Rutherford Fellowship

UC researcher awarded prestigious Rutherford Discovery Fellowship

A University of Canterbury meteorology academic is delighted to be named among the next generation of research leaders in the 2017 Rutherford Discovery Fellowships, announced today by the Royal Society Te Apārangi.

College of Science lecturer in Atmospheric Dynamics Dr Marwan Katurji received his PhD from the University of Canterbury and specialises in atmospheric boundary-layer science, a branch of meteorology that aims to understand how the lower atmosphere interacts with Earth’s surfaces.

Dr Katurji has been awarded a five-year fellowship for his research titled: The invisible realm of atmospheric coherent turbulent structures: Resolving their dynamics and interaction with Earth's surface.

He says he is delighted to be recognised as a rising New Zealand researcher with the awarding of the Rutherford Discovery Fellowship.

“I feel very lucky, privileged and thankful to be awarded this prestigious fellowship,” Dr Katurji says.

“I am also excited about this unique opportunity to produce new knowledge in my scientific discipline with my students and collaborators. There are five years of discovery ahead of me and I plan to embrace them with pleasure and success.”

Dr Katurji’s research revolves around measuring, modelling, simulating and analysing surface-atmospheric energy and moisture flux that control Earth’s microclimates. Before his PhD, Dr Katurji’s undergraduate and graduate academic background was in mechanical engineering, during which his core academic training was in thermal and fluid sciences at the American University of Beirut.

He is particularly interested in developing new approaches to tackle fundamental research questions in the field of atmospheric boundary-layer turbulence that leverages on a multidisciplinary approach of engineering and science.

Dr Katurji has undertaken numerous research projects in New Zealand, Antarctica, and the United States and has developed peer reviewed publications contributing to the fields of numerical weather and climate modelling, agricultural and forest meteorology, renewable wind energy and mountain meteorology.

The fellowships seek to attract, retain and grow New Zealand’s up-and-coming talent by helping highly-promising researchers establish a track record for future research leadership.

Chief Executive of Royal Society Te Apārangi, Dr Andrew Cleland FRSNZ, says these high potential individuals have a great opportunity to be part of the next generation of research leaders for New Zealand.

“We are excited to follow the career path of these researchers and to hear what they discover and how they develop over the next five years, whilst supported by their fellowship.

“The fellowships allow them to build on their skills and networks to establish themselves as world class research leaders based in New Zealand.”

The invisible realm of atmospheric coherent turbulent structures: Resolving their dynamics and interaction with Earth's surface – Dr Marwan Katurji, research summary:

Global, regional, and local climate and weather models provide vital information to keep our communities safe from weather hazards, maintain high water and energy eciency for food production and predict our renewable energy resource. It is therefore important to develop reliable and accurate models that give better estimates of surface-atmosphere thermodynamic fluxes, which are essential components for accurate surface wind, temperature and humidity predictions that define our microclimates. The dynamics of the lowest 2 kilometres of Earth’s atmosphere, or the atmospheric boundary-layer, are poorly represented in weather and climate models due to inadequate representation of process, such as turbulence, or rapid air fluctuations controlling energy and moisture exchanges at the surface-atmosphere interface. This lack of knowledge is mainly due to the complex and unpredictable nature of turbulence and the limitations of our observational systems that hinder a comprehensive dynamic representation of the physical processes, which results in poor model performance. This research programme will address the principles behind surface-atmosphere interactions by critically reassessing current measurement techniques and designing new measurement methods for near-surface atmospheric turbulence, thereby testing and developing both existing and new theoretical formulations of land-atmosphere turbulent interactions. It is critical to develop a comprehensive approach to investigating coherent turbulence structures that involves tracking their downward propagation towards the surface, and then observing their impacts on surface temperature and velocity fields. Our approach will be based on utilising state-of-the-art far- infrared cameras employed in field experiments and lab-based physical models to develop a new improved spatial model of surface-atmospheric turbulent interactions.


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