The Center for Atmospheric Sciences | » Nicholas G. Heavens

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    • Ph.D., M.S., Planetary Science, California Institute of Technology, 2010, 2007

    • S.B., Geophysical Sciences, University of Chicago, 2005

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      myfirstname mylastname hamptonu edu

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  • News

      Recent News:

      May 19, 2015 : HU-Led Team Finds Mars’s Volcano-Based Dust Storms Can Fly Twice As High
      Destination: Mars.

      Mars has some of the highest mountains in the Solar System, including its highest peak, the shield volcano of Olympus Mons. Mars’s weather is also shaped by dust storms. And it thus should be no surprise that dust storms have been observed on or near these volcanoes for more than a decade. These storms were […]


      February 23, 2015 : Dr. Nicholas Heavens interviewed by the BBC
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      On 17 February 2015, Dr. Nicholas Heavens, Research Assistant Professor of Planetary Science, was interviewed on BBC Radio 5’s Up All Night program about a recent discovery of mysterious Martian clouds made by Spanish-led team of professional and amateur astronomers. An archived recording of the interview will be available on the BBC’s web site until […]


      May 14, 2013 : Studying and Projecting Global Change with Earth System Models
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      “A model organizes what we think we know about something in order to predict how it might behave in the present, future, or past as well as how it might respond to external influence. Models are especially useful when direct, controlled experiments are difficult or impossible. A model can be a simple concept, for instance: […]


  • Nicholas G. Heavens

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    I study the role of aerosols and clouds in the weather and in past and present climates of planetary bodies in our Solar System (particularly Mars). To do so, I synthesize atmospheric modeling, a suite of remote sensing techniques, and analyses of rock strata in outcrop and drill core. Please consult my curriculum vitae for the most current information. I currently tweet (as @WeatherOnMars ) on climate and space sciences. This page contains a short account of the kinds of research I do and have done in the past.

    From 1 January 2014 to 31 December 2017, I am on the Board of Directors of STEPPE (Sedimentary Geology, Time, Environment, Paleontology, Paleoclimate, and Energy), an NSF -funded research and education coordination and communications office representing deep-sedimentary crust research.

    Dust storm in Noctis Labyrinthus during October of 2006 as imaged by the Mars Color Imager on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Raw image data was obtained from the Planetary Data System and processed by USGS ISIS software.

    Student and Postdoctoral Opportunities

    I often receive inquiries about opportunities for graduate study or postdoctoral research under my supervision.

    I am not able to support postdoctoral scholars at this time.

    As part of the Living Breathing Planet project (see bottom of the page), students may have the opportunity to work with me on understanding the early evolution of the atmospheres of terrestrial planets.

    I always encourage early career scientists to study at institutions where there are multiple faculty members with complementary research interests. The good news is that the Department of Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences has a variety of opportunities for research and education at all levels. Please check out the Department’s page for more information. I may be able to create undergraduate research projects for the CREST Undergraduate Research Experience (CURE) at Hampton University. I strongly encourage any undergraduate interested in atmospheric or planetary science to investigate this program and apply.

    I also am asked about what kind of graduate students we are seeking in our department. I am hesitant to answer, because my views may not represent the faculty as a whole. However, I have enough experience with our admissions process to say: we are a department that mainly solves complex physics problems with complex mathematics. We are looking for students interested in the atmospheric and planetary sciences with a strong background in physics and mathematics. Ideally, prospective students should be familiar and comfortable with mathematics to the level of linear algebra, multivariable calculus, and ordinary differential equations. Ideally, they also should be familiar and comfortable with physics to the level of Lagrangian and Hamiltonian mechanics, Maxwell’s equations, and the solutions to Schrodinger’s equation. Some tradeoff between atmospheric and planetary science-specific knowledge and physics background is possible, for example, high grades in a good meteorology program with equally good grades in introductory physics and chemistry. If such as these can write concisely, precisely, and succinctly about their research interests and the imperfections of their academic records, we will be overjoyed.

     

    Current Projects

    Project: Dust in the Year Before Curiosity

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    Mars Climate Sounder's nominal observational pattern, in which it observes near the same track on the dayside approximately twelve hours after it observes on the nightside and vice versa. This pattern allows diurnal variability to be isolated at a particular point.

    This project closed in late 2015. But work on Martian dust continues… The Mars Year before the landing of the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity was a year of excellent observational coverage by the Mars Climate Sounder on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter as the result of quiet weather and good instrument and spacecraft health. Focusing on changes in […]

    Project: Dust in the Late Paleozoic Ice Age

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    Alternating loess-paleosol couplets in the Early Permian Maroon Formation, Colorado, USA. Deposits like this provide important information about the ultimate sources of dust in the deep past.

    Background Between 2010 and 2012, Dr. Nicholas Heavens was a Postdoctoral Associate in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Cornell University. While there, he explored the climate of the Earth during a putative minimum in atmospheric carbon dioxide and maximum in glaciation around 300 million years ago (the Late Paleozoic Ice Age). He […]

    Project: Polar Turbulence of the Giant Planets

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    Jupiter's south pole as imaged by NASA's Cassini spacecraft in 2000. The Great Red Spot is in northwest of the image. Credit: NASA/JPL/SSI

    As you can see in the images below, the visible weather layers of Jupiter and Saturn have vastly different regimes of turbulence near each pole. I am currently working with Dr. Kunio M. Sayanagi to determine why.

    Project: The Structural and Dynamical Role of Deep Convection in Martian Dust Storms

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    A team led by Dr. Nicholas G. Heavens at HU has been funded by NASA to study the role that convection may play in the structure and organization of Martian dust storms. Convection has been identified in imagery of Martian dust storms for 40 years, but there has been little systematic study in how it […]

    Project: HBCU-RISE Hampton University: Advanced Physical Modeling and Simulation for 21st Century Scientists

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    3D Torus

    From weather prediction to medical imaging to nuclear physics, numerical modeling and simulation have become central to the way we investigate and manipulate the physical world. Building on Hampton University’s expertise in Atmospheric Remote Sensing and Planetary Physics, the objective of the proposed project is to develop a complementary modeling and data analysis capability through […]

    Project: The Living, Breathing Planet

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    The Living, Breathing Planet

    Graduate student opportunities available now! More information here. Hampton University Department of Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences has been selected to lead a team within the Nexus for Exoplanet Systems Science (NExSS). As one of 17 teams, we work to advance NASA’s search for life by bringing together Planetary Science, Heliophysics, Astrophysics, and Astrobiology to deepen […]

    Project: Modeling Dust Injection and Vertical Mixing for the Next Generation of Martian Exploration

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    Output from a large eddy simulation with the MarsWRF model, showing the horizontal thermal structure associated with cellular convection in Mars's planetary boundary layer.

    From August 2015, HU is leading an effort in cooperation with Ashima Research and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology (both in Pasadena, California) to better represent the formation of dust clouds above Mars’s planetary boundary layer in planetary-scale simulations of Mars’s atmosphere.