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Air Quality, Weather & Climate Research

We provide high-quality evaluations of air quality, weather and climate change through advanced meteorological assessments.

ORAU works in partnership with NOAA's Atmospheric Turbulence & Diffusion Division (ATDD) to perform advanced weather and climate research. This may involve activities such as flying drones to better understand patterns of unpredictable weather or engineering and maintaining the U.S. Climate Reference Network.

As a part of NOAA’s Air Resources Laboratory, ORAU’s atmospheric scientists at ATDD provide engineering expertise on the development and deployment of instrumentation and data analysis for short intensive campaigns to multi-decade, nationwide climate monitoring stations and systems. These innovative systems, such as the Best Airborne Turbulence (BAT) Probe and the U.S. Climate Reference Network, offer insight into the implications of climate change and air quality on a nationwide scale.

If you’ve ever questioned why tornadoes are disproportionately deadly in the Southeast, how pollutants affect local air quality, or how to continually improve monitoring and prediction of climate change, then you’re asking the questions ATDD experts are actively seeking answers to in their research.

What is the Climate Reference Network?

The U.S. Climate Reference Network is a system of 114 climate monitoring stations scattered throughout the continental United States, with an additional 21 stations in Alaska and two in Hawaii. All of the stations have sensors with the capabilities to read air temperature, precipitation, relative humidity, wind speed and solar radiation. Additionally, most of these stations also have sensors to read soil moisture and soil temperature. The data collected through the U.S. Climate Reference Network is used to monitor trends in the nation's climate and support climate-impact research, while supporting water resource management.

  • Atmospheric Modeling Map

    Areas of Expertise

    Air Quality
    • Atmospheric Modeling
    • Reactive Nitrogen
    • Surface-Atmosphere Exchange
  • Weather station in desert location

    Areas of Expertise

    • U.S. Climate Reference Network
    • Snow Measurements
    • Surface Energy Budget Network
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    Areas of Expertise

    Boundary Layer Processes
    • Surface-Layer Meteorology
    • Hydrometeorology
    • Severe Weather Information
    • Uncrewed Aircraft
ORAU atmospheric scientists help take uncrewed aircraft to new heights in hurricane research

ORAU atmospheric scientists help take uncrewed aircraft to new heights in hurricane research

Did you know that uncrewed aircraft serve as a missing link for hurricane research? NOAA has three new aircraft that are designed with slim, tubular bodies and have the wingspan of a vulture, measuring about four feet. These aircraft are similar in size to drones that would be used to deliver packages or capture aerial photos; not the type one would imagine flying into a hurricane.

These aircraft, built by BlackSwift Technologies, Barron Associates, and Area-I, will be used to monitor the growth and movement of hurricanes while they are still far away from land. Their goal is to collect data that can be used to better predict how the storm's track and intensity will vary over time. NOAA's WP-3 aircraft will be used to deploy these expendable, uncrewed aircraft at a safe distance from the hurricane,  while it is still far offshore, then receive data radioed from the drones as they fly into the eyewall and other critical parts of the storm. In near real-time, the data are then sent to forecasters at the National Hurricane Center to better predict the hurricane's track and intensity, as well as improve computer models used for predictions of future hurricanes.

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Our Expert

Randy White

Randy White

Research Group Manager, ATDD

Expertise: Wind tunnel modeling, atmospheric and soil measurement in tornado research, wind energy studies, air pollutant measurement
  • Investigator: Environmental and atmospheric experiments for DOE, National Weather Service, National Park Service, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • Presenter: Environmental sciences programs for K-12 students
  • Project Manager: East Tennessee 2017 Total Solar Eclipse atmospheric testing and measurement


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)/Air Resources Laboratory (ARL)/Atmospheric Turbulence and Diffusion Division (ATDD) performs vital research and development in air chemistry, weather and climate change. ORAU has managed and provided scientific and technical staff for the ATDD program for more than 40 years. 

Download the NOAA Atmospheric Turbulence and Diffusion Division card (.pdf, 2.1 MB). 

Contact us

For more information about contracting with ORAU, contact Kathy Rollow at 865.574.4390 or