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July 2020 Highlight- Grant Petty

July 31, 2020

In a partial return to a more traditional faculty highlight, July’s Highlight comes from Professor Grant Petty. COVID-19 has disrupted many of the normal functions on campus, including the ability for many researchers to conduct experiments as they did before. This interview with Professor Petty is meant to shine light on how one of our professors at the AOS department is handling this transition.

What are you currently researching?

I’m working on several completely unrelated research topics almost in parallel. First, I just submitted a paper to Atmospheric Measurement Techniques on sampling error in aircraft measurement of turbulent fluxes. Second, I have nearly completed a paper, soon to be submitted to Geophysical Research Letters, on long-term trends in ocean precipitation based on ship weather reports. Third, I’m reprocessing the full six-year record of microwave data from the Global Precipitation Mission satellite data to obtain improved estimates of surface precipitation over most of the globe, and this will hopefully lead to two or more publications later this summer. Finally, I’m resuming work (as time and social distancing permits) on repairing the UW-Madison ultralight airplane in the hope of having that airworthy again by the end of summer.

What difficulties have you run into with campus being shut down?

I am actually able to work more efficiently than usual on theoretical and data analysis problems that I have long been itching to get to because of the near-total lack of distractions from travel and other normal summer activities. However, the ultralight aircraft work requires access to tools and resources both on an off campus, and I would normally be working together with someone on the mechanical work and possibly already flying again by now. This has not yet been possible due to COVID restrictions.

How much of your experiments or research had to be changed due to working remotely?

In my own case, I would say that the impact has been largely positive in that I’m doing things that I probably wouldn’t have had time to do otherwise.

What would you have done differently knowing what you know now?

Perhaps surprisingly, not much! The biggest adaptation so far has really been in the teaching arena, and I already worked through some of those challenges last semester.

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