Hydrology and the Atmospheric Environment

A graduate student works on a mobile air-quality lab in Hawaii

Above: A graduate student advised by Mark Zondlo adjusts the settings on a mobile air quality monitoring unit, atop a zero-emissions car on the big island of Hawaii following the eruption of the Kilauea volcano.


A water molecule can travel long distances in its hydrologic cycle, from the top of the stratosphere to the depths of the oceans. Understanding how hydrologic and atmospheric processes interact to shape our environment remains a core challenge for environmental engineers.

Faculty in this department build sensors, apply satellite data, and develop sophisticated numerical simulations of earth systems. We then apply these techniques to understand everything from water transmissivity underground to atmospheric turbulence in wind farms and cities. At the center of our work is the vision that pushing the boundaries of fundamental scientific understanding is a precursor for rapidly improving our engineered systems, mitigating their impact on the natural environment, and making them more resilient to natural extremes. With this vision, we work to understand evaporation and transpiration at the land surface, the precursors of drought, flood and storm surge, the modulation of geophysical turbulence by surface temperature and roughness, the movement of air pollutants in cities and across continents, and the role of ecosystems in the hydrologic cycle.