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Brad Barrett

FACULTY SPOTLIGHT: USNA Instructor’s Research Brings Quicker Forecasts for Extreme Weather

  POSTED ON: Thursday, August 20, 2020 8:40 AM by

Faculty Spotlight: Professor Bradford Barrett, who has a PhD in meteorology, is currently researching capabilities that will lead to longer warning times before extreme weather occurs.

Barrett, who has taught in the USNA Oceanography Department for the past 11 years, is recognized by his peers in the meteorology community as a leader in observational meteorological studies. He and his student researchers are among the first to discover how tornado and hail activity in the U.S. vary on a sub-seasonal time scale, which is the measurement of weather and climate changes that take place over a 30 to 60-day period. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is currently utilizing Barrett’s research to develop forecasts for severe weather beyond the current levels, which currently only extend to eight days. 


MIDN 1/C Aspen Bess (right) presents her research on Antarctic sea ice variability at the 100th Annual Meeting of the American Meteorological Society in Boston, MA in January 2020. MIDN Jackson was advised by Professor Bradford S. Barrett (left) of the U.S. Naval Academy Oceanography Department. (Photo courtesy of Brad Barrett)

"The research I lead on the sub-seasonal time scale is transforming how we make weather and climate forecasts,” said Barrett. “The work my midshipmen and I have done will lead to better forecasts of a variety of extreme events, including tornadoes and poor air quality and help Naval and maritime operations in both the Arctic and Antarctic anticipate changes in sea ice and snow cover."

Barrett is presently working on understanding sub-seasonal variability in the Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal, and in December 2019 was invited to present his research at a special symposium at the University of Dhaka in Bangladesh. He is presently leading research sponsored by the DoD's Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program to understand the impacts of climate variability on high-latitude U.S. bases, including Thule Air Base in Greenland. 

He is looking forward to mentoring two first class (senior) midshipmen in the upcoming 2020-2021 academic year whose research will focus on the study of sea ice variability around Antarctica.

One of those students is Midshipman first class (senior) Mick Zimmerman, a Bowman Scholar and an honors oceanography major. 

“My research project title is ‘Connecting Antarctica to the Tropics: Understanding and Predicting the Antarctic Cryosphere through Observations and Modeling of the Madden Julian Oscillation’,” said Zimmerman. “Under the advisorship and mentorship of Dr. Barrett, I will investigate the impact of upper atmospheric waves caused by the Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO) on Antarctic sea ice. The goal of my research is to contribute to the development of new technologies that will accurately model sea ice based on atmospheric conditions alone.” 

Barrett has brought over $1.4 million in funding to the Naval Academy by the National Science Foundation (NSF), Office of Naval Research (ONR) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to study sea ice, snow, severe weather, hurricanes and ocean currents. 

He has published 54 peer-reviewed journal articles in leading journals not only in meteorology and oceanography, but also in multidisciplinary fields, exploring the intersection of science teaching and foreign language (Spanish) learning. He has co-authored articles with 34 midshipmen research students, including two Trident Scholars and nine faculty colleagues, across all three USNA Schools (School of Mathematics and Science, School of Engineering and Weapons, and School of Humanities and Social Science). 


Professor Barrett (center) presents an invited symposium on subseasonal atmospheric variability at the University of Dhaka in Bangladesh in December 2019. (Photo courtesy of Brad Barrett)

The Naval Academy faculty is an integrated group of nearly 600 officers and civilians in roughly equal numbers. This composition is unique among service academies, and dates from the earliest days of the Naval School when three civilian teachers joined four Navy officers in the first faculty in 1845. Officers typically rotate to the Academy for two-to-three-year assignments, bringing fresh ideas and experiences from operational units of the Navy and Marine Corps. They can also explain how studies at the Academy apply in the fleet and the field. A cadre of officer faculty with doctorates adds another dimension to the teaching staff as Permanent Military Professors. The Academy’s civilian faculty members give continuity and further scholarly depth to the educational program and form a core of professional scholarship and teaching experience. All career civilian faculty members have doctoral degrees, and many of them are leading scholars in their fields. Working together, our military and civilian instructors form one of the strongest and most dedicated teaching faculties of any college or university in the United States.

Click here to learn more about Barrett’s scholarship and research in the Oceanography Department:

Category: Academics, General Interest, Research, People