Tim Michaels

Tim Michaels
Research Scientist
Curriculum Vitae: 
Research Scientist, Scientific Programmer

Tim Michaels' passion is to explore and understand the important (but largely unseen and invisible) motions and interactions that occur between the atmospheres and surfaces of many worlds.  How can someone explore what is largely invisible?  Tim programs and uses computer physics simulations ("models") to fill in many of the gaps between any measurements and clues that do exist -- much like the way computer models and weather measurements are used together on Earth to forecast the weather a few days in advance for your home town.

Atmosphere-surface interactions on Mars and Pluto are currently his main areas of research, but Earth, Venus, Titan, Triton, and exoplanets are also of great interest to him.  Tim Michaels makes use of a diverse range of atmospheric modeling, from the global scale all the way down to the local scale (to study dust devils and sand dunes, for example).

Substances that change phase (like water melting or freezing) are an important part of his work, such as the CO2-ice and H2O-ice clouds and seasonal polar caps on Mars, and Pluto's nitrogen and methane surface ice and atmosphere.

With the help of computer processing and graphics software, Tim renders huge amounts of high-resolution atmospheric simulation output into forms suitable to compare to measurements (from orbiting or landed spacecraft, telescopes, and in the case of Earth, from people, weather stations, and balloons).  He finds it fascinating and humbling to simply watch on the computer screen as a vast "ocean" of air and/or clouds surges and swirls, sometimes violently, across the landscape -- a brief insight into what slowly, but surely, alters the surface of that distant world forever.

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An Investigation of the Feedbacks between Pluto's Atmosphere and Surface

This proposal would directly investigate the global character of Pluto's atmosphere and its two-way feedbacks with N2 ice on the surface by combining a state-of-the-art three-dimensional atmospheric model with a detailed surface/subsurface thermal model.

Characterizing the Current Aeolian Transport Environment for Sediment in Greater Meridiani Planum

The overall goals of the proposed Mars research are to identify locations, areas, seasons, and times-of-day within a 10x10 degree study area (greater Meridiani Planum) where/when sand-sized particle transport by the wind (aeolian saltation) has occurred (may have occurred, is probable) within the contemporary era, and to initially characterize the atmospheric and/or geologic forcing mechanism(s) that create such aeolian-effective conditions near the surface. In order to achieve these goals, the proposed work will utilize both the analysis of high-resolution orbital imagery (e.g., HiRISE, CTX, MOC-NA; including any available repeat imaging of relevant locations) and high-resolution atmospheric modeling output (mesoscale and microscale; seasonally- and diurnally-resolved 3-D winds and atmospheric state information). The proposed effort would significantly advance the detailed understanding of the dominant non-catastrophic contemporary surface erosion process on Mars.