Be There: The Kuo-Nan Liou Symposium

Highlighting Key Sessions at AMS 2024

The Kuo-Nan Liou Symposium at the 104th AMS Annual Meeting will celebrate Dr. Kuo-Nan Liou (1943-2021), a giant in the field of atmospheric physics who made crucial contributions in the areas of atmospheric radiation, remote sensing, and the greenhouse impacts of clouds and aerosols. Liou (pictured at right, image courtesy of Penny Jennings), received numerous accolades during his career, including the AMS’s Carl-Gustaf Rossby Research Medal and Charney Award, and he was part of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change team who received the Nobel Peace Price in 2007.

We asked Symposium Co-Chair Ping Yang, University Distinguished Professor and David Bullock Harris Chair in Geosciences at Texas A&M University, about the Symposium and Dr. Liou’s impact. Here are some of his answers:

Dr. Kuo-Nan Liou (image credit: Penny Jennings)

Why are the areas of Dr. Liou’s research so important to understand right now?

As one of the most accomplished atmospheric scientists in the world, Dr. Liou made seminal contributions to atmospheric and climate sciences in many areas, particularly in atmospheric radiation. His radiative transfer model has been widely used in weather and climate models and satellite remote sensing implementations, and thus plays a central role in determining the radiation budget of the earth-atmosphere system and cloud-aerosol-radiation interactions and feedback in a changing world.

Radiative transfer is important because almost all the energy that drives the Earth’s atmosphere and ocean currents originates from the sun. Therefore, the climate of the Earth-atmosphere system is mainly determined by the radiation balance at the top of the atmosphere and the surface since radiation is the only mechanism by which the Earth-atmosphere system gains or loses energy.

What can attendees expect from the Symposium?

This symposium honors the legacy of Dr. Kuo-Nan Liou by bringing together researchers to share knowledge, foster collaborations and address current challenges in the fields where Dr. Kuo-Nan Liou left a lasting impact. Attendees, both in-person and virtual, can benefit from gaining insights into the latest research and advancements in these areas. Session topics include “Interactions Among Climate, Radiation, Clouds, Aerosols, and Surface”, “Radiative Transfer Theory & Spectroscopy,” “Remote Sensing of Clouds, Aerosols, and Surface Properties,” and “Light Scattering and Applications.” The Symposium will provide a platform for networking and engaging with experts and a forum for disseminating cutting-edge research findings.

The Symposium will delve into the forefront issues within these research areas. Noteworthy presentation topics include the lidar remote sensing of snow depth and density, sub-millimeter-wave remote sensing of ice clouds, Tibetan Plateau snowpack loss and its connection to extreme events, and more.

The first session aligns with the central focus of the 2024 AMS Annual Meeting, “Living in a Changing Environment.” It features invited speakers Drs. Ruby Leung, Dennis Hartmann, V. Ramaswamy, Zhanqing Li, Jonathan Jiang, and Yongkang Xue. 

How did Dr. Liou influence the fields of atmospheric and climate science?

Dr. Liou’s work left a profound mark on the atmospheric and climate sciences due to his seminal contributions to radiative transfer, atmospheric optics, cloud-aerosol-radiation-climate interactions, and remote sensing. He was a pioneering researcher who demonstrated that atmospheric radiation should no longer be consigned to the fringes of meteorology, but instead should take a central place in the new world of climate science.

His book, “An Introduction to Atmospheric Radiation,” now in its second edition (with the first edition published in 1980), has been an invaluable resource for students and researchers around the world studying atmospheric radiation and its applications in climate science and remote sensing. Accepting the Rossby Medal in 2018, Prof. Liou talked about how his own early-career exposure to books like Chandrasekhar’s “Radiative Transfer” and Born & Wolf’s “Principles of Optics” spurred his innovations. For example, his simplified solutions for understanding solar and heat energy transfer problems, and his application of geometric optics to understand the scattering, absorption, and polarization properties of soot aerosols and irregular ice crystals.

He also humbly thanked his graduate students at the University of Utah and UCLA, saying, “They deserve to share, in equal measure, any recognition I have received, including this great honor from AMS.” We, the organizers of the Symposium, in turn are grateful to Dr. Liou. Along with his exceptional impact on the atmospheric sciences, he was a true role model as a leader and educator.

Kuo-Nan Liou receiving the Carl-Gustaf Rossby Research Medal at the 2018 AMS Annual Meeting and celebrating with his family, students, and colleagues. Photos provided by Liou Symposium co-chairs.

The Kuo-Nan Liou Symposium will be held Tuesday, 30 January, 2024 at the AMS 104th Annual Meeting, in Baltimore and online; it will feature invited presentations and a poster session, along with a special luncheon. Learn more about the Symposium and view the program.

The Services Response to the Tōhoku Disaster a Focus of the 2012 AMS Meeting

The science ministry in Japan reported last week that more than 30,000 square km–eight percent of the country–is contaminated by radioactive caesium from the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster that stemmed from the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in March. The radiation was washed out of the skies by rain and snow. As much as four-fifths of the caesium ended up in the ocean–much of it having blown northeastward toward Alaska–and currents carried it to the U.S. coastal waters within a week of reactor releases. By one week later some of the micron-sized particles had traveled around the world.
Because the geophysical dimensions of the earthquake-tsunami-meltdown last March are evident in so many ways, so are the demands it placed on scientific services–from the warnings of giant waves to forecasts of tainted precipitation and groundwater to modeling global ocean currents. Not surprisingly, the disaster literally redefined the job of the Japanese Meteorological Agency.
On the first day of full sessions at the upcoming 2012 AMS Annual Meeting in New Orleans, the epic Tōhoku cataclysm will be discussed from numerous angles, particularly the premium it put on enhanced operational response. “The earthquake and tsunami increased vulnerabilities to meteorological disasters such as sediment disasters, flood, and inundations, in the affected area, by shaking and loosening the soils and damaging the embankments and drainage facilities,” notes JMA’s Junichi Ishida.
Ishida’s presentation is the special keynote address of the Interactive Information Processing Systems (IIPS) conference (11 a.m. Monday, 23 January, Room 356). Ishida will talk about how JMA took increased vulnerabilities into account, by

  • changing criteria for heavy rain warnings to account for runoff and landslide vulnerabilties
  • lowering criteria for coastal inundation warnings (the earthquake actually lowered coastal ground levels, changing tidal configurations)
  • introduced extreme temperature warnings to account for reduced electricity capacity
  • enhanced aviation support (in particular due to traffic for relief flights) because of flight dangers including radioactive clouds

11 March Tsunami sweeps through Sendai Airport, where waters reached the second level of buildings, destroying key operations equipment, scattering mud and debris, and stranding more than a thousand people for two days. The airport eventually reopened as a hub of relief work. Photos copyright Japan Meteorological Agency, with thanks to Junichi Ishida, who will deliver the IIPS conference keynote at the 2012 AMS Annual Meeting.

At the same time (11 a.m. Monday, in Room 338) Yukio Masumoto of the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology will kick off a session devoted to the March 2011 disaster as part of the Coastal Environment symposium. Masumoto will speak about ocean dispersion of radioactive Caesium-137 and Iodine-131 after the Fukushima releases, including relationships with tides, surface winds and, in one case study, atmospheric fallout. In his abstract, Masumoto reports, “In the near-shore region, the wind forcing is a dominant factor that controls the flow field, while large-scale currents and eddies advect the radionuclides in the off-shore region.”
Several other Monday morning presentations in the Coastal Environment session feature rapid American responses last spring to adapt and construct viable modeling systems to depict Japan’s waterborne radiation hazards–speakers include Ronald Meris of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, William Samuels of Science Applications International Corp (SAIC), and  Matthew Ward of Applied Science Associates.
After lunch, in the same session (2 p.m., Room 338) Gayle Sugiyama of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory will talk about how the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Atmospheric Release Advisory Center provided analyses and predictions of the radioactive plume, estimating the exposure in both Japan and the United States. Guido Cervone of George Mason University (2:15 p.m., Room 338) will show how dispersion modeling helped reconstruct the otherwise unknown sequence of radioactive releases at the Fukushima nuclear plant. Masayuki Takigawa  (1:45 p.m., Room 338) will discuss results from regional transport modeling of the radioactivity dispersion on land and ocean, while Teddy R. Holt of the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory will show passive tracer modeling capabilities with the Fukushima events in a coupled ocean-atmosphere mesoscale modeling system (1:30 p.m., Room 338).
In a parallel session of the Coastal Environment Conference next door (1:45 p.m., Room 337) Nathan Becker of NOAA/NWS will discuss calculations of detection times for various configurations of the sensors for the Pacific tsunami warning system, concluding that, “for global tsunami hazard mitigation the installation of about 100 additional carefully-selected coastal sea-level gauges could greatly improve the speed of tsunami detection and characterization.”
Interestingly, Monday’s Space Weather posters (2:30 p.m.-4 p.m., Hall E) include a presentation by Tak Cheung of the ionospheric disruptions caused by the great Japanese earthquake last March. Forecasts of ionospheric disturbances affect yet another service in the wake of the disaster: the communications provided by shortwave radio operators. And that will be a topic for Kent Tobiska (Utah State Univ.) in the Space Weather session at 5 p.m. (Room 252/253