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CCU physics professor receives major NASA grant to study polar atmosphere

September 20, 2007

Varavut Limpasuvan, associate professor of physics at Coastal Carolina University, recently received a $282,000 award from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to study the physical properties of small-scale atmospheric waves (known as "gravity waves") over the wintertime polar region.

According to Limpasuvan, these waves can have tremendous impact on near-surface weather and the polar vortex in the stratosphere. Understanding their behaviors and influence will improve the ability of scientists to assess climate variability.

The proposed study is part of NASA's participation in "The International Polar Year" (IPY), a program that focuses on the Arctic and the Antarctic from March 2007 to March 2009. The program is organized jointly by the International Council for Science and the World Meteorological Organization.

Limpasuvan, principal investigator of the grant, and co-investigator Dong Wu of the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab will collaborate with scientists at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and the Norwegian Institute of Air Research to simulate these waves using computer models and compare the simulations with various IPY observations.

"I am excited to represent CCU as a participant in this large international effort to further our understanding of the rapidly changing polar region," said Limpasuvan. "This collaboration includes an extended research visit to Norway and sharing data with other IPY scientists. We intend to include our physics students in this project."

Prior to joining the Coastal faculty in 2000, Limpasuvan earned bachelor's degrees in physics and mechanical engineering from Occidental College and the California Institute of Technology, respectively. He earned a doctorate degree in atmospheric sciences from the University of Washington and was appointed to a research associate position at the Joint Institute for Study for the Atmosphere and Ocean in Seattle, Wash. He was CCU's Teacher of the Year in 2000-2001 and South Carolina's Distinguished Professor in 2001. Recently, he was awarded the 2007 South Carolina Governor's Young Scientist Award for Excellence in Scientific Research.