Laura Hinkelman

Research Scientist

Laura with research posterDr. Laura Hinkelman joined JISAO in the fall of 2007 as a research scientist. She studies the transport of solar and infrared radiation through the atmosphere, including the global energy budget and its variability, the interaction of clouds and solar radiation, satellite retrievals of cloud and aerosol properties, and comparisons of solar radiation measurements from satellites and the ground.

Before studying atmospheric science, Laura spent six years performing research in medical ultrasound at the University of Rochester in upstate New York. Her work there focused on the distortion of ultrasonic waves used in medical imaging by tissues such as the abdominal and chest wall. She performed measurements on human tissue specimens to characterize the distortion and investigate its causes. One of the primary problems she encountered in the biomedical engineering community was the false perception that fat and muscle in the body wall have no small-scale structure, resembling a uniform butter-like substance. It was this realization of the error in representations of the body wall that lead directly to her choice of Ph.D. dissertation topics.

In 1996, Laura entered the Ph.D. program in Meteorology at the Pennsylvania State University. For her Master's research project, she compared outputs from the National Weather Service's Eta forecast model to measurements at the DOE's Atmospheric Radiation Measurement program's site in Oklahoma. This work showed that there were large errors in the model's computation of surface radiative and turbulent fluxes and in its treatment of cloud development.

During her coursework on atmospheric radiative transfer, Laura recognized that the assumptions used in treating propagation of radiation through clouds were very similar to those she had encountered working with ultrasound and human tissues: Clouds were modeled as being horizontally and vertically uniform with flat bases Laura snow shoeingand tops even though casual observation shows that cloud shapes are irregular. (To be fair, this representation was originally employed because computational resources were too limited to treat the details of cloud structure.) At this point, she began to investigate anisotropy (asymmetry) in cloud structures and its effect on the transport of solar radiation through the atmosphere and completed a Ph.D. dissertation on this subject.

Since graduating, Dr. Hinkelman has continued to study the interaction of clouds and electromagnetic radiation, first as a NASA contractor and more recently at JISAO. Her most recent papers describe an evaluation of cloud motion estimates made from satellite images and trends in the amount of solar radiation reaching the Earth's surface over the past 20+ years.

Laura's hobbies include cycling, hiking, and playing contradance music on the guitar. She also enjoys visiting her family, especially watching her niece and nephew grow.