Campus News

John Knox of UGA department of geography wins national award

Athens, Ga. – John Knox, an assistant professor in the department of geography at the University of Georgia, has been named winner of the T. Theodore FujitaResearch Achievement Award from the National Weather Association.

The NWA is one of the two main professional organizations in meteorology in the United States.This annual award was first presented in 1978 to Fujita of the University of Chicago, after whom the Fujita Scale, used to rank the strength of tornadoes, was named.

This award is presented to a NWA member whose research has made a significant contribution to operational meteorology. Knox is being honored for his clear-air turbulence forecasting research.

“I’m thrilled,” said Knox.”This award validates what I teach my students about the role of serendipity in science.Ibeganstudyingturbulence forecasting 15 years ago because of a chance encounter at a research conference on a completely different topic.Today, the work I’m doing with students at UGA and colleagues around the world is leading toward improved forecasts for pilots and safer flights for passengers. It’s highly unusual for someone in a teaching-intensiveposition such as myself to win a national researchaward.”

The award will be presented to Knox at the NWA Annual Meeting in Tucson, Ariz., on Oct. 6.

Knox received his Ph.D. in atmospheric sciences from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1996. He began his career at UGA in 2001 as a lecturer in the department of geography in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and the department of biological and agricultural engineering in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. He was then an associate research scientist on the UGA Faculty of Engineering and is now an assistant professor in the department of geography.

He is co-author of the award-winning textbook Meteorology: Understanding the Atmosphere, which will be published in its third edition in 2011. Since fall 2008, he has been the local manager for, and member of, the UGA weather forecasting team that competes in the WxChallenge weather forecasting contest. This competition involves more than 1,500 students, faculty, staff and alumni forecasters at more than 50 institutions throughout North America. The UGA forecasting team has garnered national recognition by placing third in 2008-2009 and sixth in 2009-2010 in the WxChallenge competition.

Knox’s research efforts at UGA have been supported by the National Science Foundation, NASA, NOAA and U.S. Department of Energy.

The National Weather Association began its annual awards program in 1977 to provide recognition to those individuals involved in operational activities and to promote excellence in operational meteorology and related activities. The NWA Annual Awards Program recognizes the professional as well as the volunteer. The emphasis is on the people who perform the day-to-day tasks of providing meteorological information and support services to the public. The Fujita is the NWA’s only award specifically designed for research activities.

Knox is being honored for his work with clear air turbulence, which includes the new forecasting method he and colleagues published in 2008 in the Journal of Atmospheric Sciences. The research could help pilots chart new courses around these patches of rough but clear air that can turn an otherwise unremarkable flight into a nightmare. For this work, Knox and two colleagues received one of only two “Highly Commend” citations in the first-ever Royal Meteorological Society/IBM Awards for Meteorological Innovation That Matters international competition in 2009.

“Our new method allows superior forecasts for CAT beyond the tools that have been in use,” said Knox. “Commercial aircraft encounter severe-or-greater turbulence about 5,000 times each year, and the majority of these occur 10,000 feet above the Earth’s surface. This new method gives pilots a way to avoid turbulence that’s not associated with nearby thunderstorms or significant cloudiness.”