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Elizabeth Thompson

Affiliated Research Meterologist





Research Interests

Coupled air-sea interaction processes, Atmospheric and oceanic boundary layers, Precipitation and clouds, Radar and satellite meteorology, Synoptic and mesoscale meteorology, Physical oceanography


Elizabeth Thompson is a Research Meteorologist at the NOAA Physical Sciences Lab in Boulder, CO. She continues to collaborate with APL-UW scientists since her time at APL-UW.


B.S. Meterology, Valparaiso University, 2010

M.S. Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University, 2012

Ph.D. Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University, 2016


2000-present and while at APL-UW

Multiscale measurements of hurricane waves using buoys and airborne radar

Davis, J.R., J. Thomson, B.J. Butterworth, I.A. Houghton, C. Fairall, E.J. Thompson, and G. de Boer, "Multiscale measurements of hurricane waves using buoys and airborne radar," In Proc., IEEE/OES 13th Current, Waves and Turbulence Measurement (CWTM), 18-20 March 2024, Wanchese, NC, doi:10.1109/CWTM61020.2024.10526332 (IEEE, 2024).

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15 May 2024

The processes important to hurricane wave generation cover scales from kilometers to centimeters. Within a storm, waves have complex spatial variations that are sensitive to hurricane size, strength and speed. This makes it challenging to measure the spatial variability of hurricane waves with any single instrument. To obtain both broad spatial coverage and resolve the full range of wave scales, we combine arrays of drifting wave buoys with airborne radar altimetry. The microSWIFT (UW-APL) and Spotter (Sofar) buoys are air-deployed along a given storm track. These buoys resolve the scalar wave frequency spectrum from 0.05 Hz to 0.5 Hz, which is approximately 600 m to 6 m wavelength (in deep water). The Wide Swath Radar Altimeter (WSRA) flies into hurricanes aboard the NOAA Hurricane Hunter P-3 aircraft. The radar altimetry data is processed to produce a 2D directional spectrum from 2.5 km to 80 m wavelength, and the radar backscatter provides an estimate of the mean square slope down to centimeter wavelengths. We introduce a method to use colocated mean square slope observations from each instrument to infer the shape of the spectral tail from 0.5 Hz to almost 3 Hz. The method is able to recover the frequency f–5 tail characteristic of the saturation range expected at these frequencies (based on theory and measurements in lower wind speeds). We also explore the differences between WSRA and buoy mean square slopes, which represent the mean square slope of the intermediate wavelength waves (6 m down to 20 cm). Together, the fusion of these wave measurements provides a multiscale view of the hurricane-generated waves. These ocean surface waves are critical as drivers of the air-sea coupling that controls storm evolution and as drivers of coastal impacts by hurricanes.

Evaluation of the RainFARM statistical downscaling technique applied to IMERG over global oceans using Passive Aquatic Listener in situ rain measurements

Bytheway, J.L., E.J. Thompson, J. Yang, and H. Chenc, "Evaluation of the RainFARM statistical downscaling technique applied to IMERG over global oceans using Passive Aquatic Listener in situ rain measurements," J. Hydrometeorol., 24, 2351-2367, doi:10.1175/JHM-D-23-0090.1, 2023.

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1 Dec 2023

High-resolution oceanic precipitation estimates are needed to increase our understanding of and ability to monitor ocean–atmosphere coupled processes. Satellite multisensor precipitation products such as IMERG provide global precipitation estimates at relatively high resolution (0.1°, 30 min), but the resolution at which IMERG precipitation estimates are considered reliable is coarser than the nominal resolution of the product itself. In this study, we examine the ability of the Rainfall Autoregressive Model (RainFARM) statistical downscaling technique to produce ensembles of precipitation fields at relatively high spatial and temporal resolution when applied to spatially and temporally coarsened precipitation fields from IMERG. The downscaled precipitation ensembles are evaluated against in situ oceanic rain-rate observations collected by passive aquatic listeners (PALs) in 11 different ocean domains. We also evaluate IMERG coarsened to the same resolution as the downscaled fields to determine whether the process of coarsening then downscaling improves precipitation estimates more than averaging IMERG to coarser resolution only. Evaluations were performed on individual months, seasons, by ENSO phase, and based on precipitation characteristics. Results were inconsistent, with downscaling improving precipitation estimates in some domains and time periods and producing worse performance in others. While the results imply that the performance of the downscaled precipitation estimates is related to precipitation characteristics, it is still unclear what characteristics or combinations thereof lead to the most improvement or consistent improvement when applying RainFARM to IMERG.

Saturation of ocean surface wave slopes observed during hurricanes

Davis, J.R., J. Thomson, I.A. Houghton, J.D. Doyle, W.A. Komaromi, C.W. Fairall, E.J. Thompson, and J.R. Moskaitis, "Saturation of ocean surface wave slopes observed during hurricanes," Geophys. Res. Lett., 50, doi:10.1029/2023GL104139, 2023.

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28 Aug 2023

Drifting buoy observations of ocean surface waves in hurricanes are combined with modeled surface wind speeds. The observations include targeted aerial deployments into Hurricane Ian (2022) and opportunistic measurements from the Sofar Ocean Spotter global network in Hurricane Fiona (2022). Analysis focuses on the slope of the waves, as quantified by the spectral mean square slope. At low-to-moderate wind speeds (<15 ms-1), slopes increase linearly with wind speed. At higher winds (>15 ms-1), slopes continue to increase, but at a reduced rate. At extreme winds (>30 ms-1), slopes asymptote. The mean square slopes are directly related to the wave spectral shapes, which over the resolved frequency range (0.03–0.5 Hz) are characterized by an equilibrium tail (f-4) at moderate winds and a saturation tail (f-5) at higher winds. The asymptotic behavior of wave slope as a function of wind speed could contribute to the reduction of surface drag at high wind speeds.

More Publications

Acoustics Air-Sea Interaction & Remote Sensing Center for Environmental & Information Systems Center for Industrial & Medical Ultrasound Electronic & Photonic Systems Ocean Engineering Ocean Physics Polar Science Center