Robert A. Houze, Jr.
Professor of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Washington
Laboratory Fellow of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory


Olympic Mountains
Field Project

Pacific Northwest
National Laboratory

group photo
Houze Group at UW

Houze receives
Symons Gold Medal

2nd Ed. of Cloud Dynamics
  Highly revised and updated

GPM launch
Launch of GPM Satellite

Global Hawk flies
over hurricanes

S-PolKa Radar in
the Maldives

TRMM satellite

Pakistan Flood Study

CloudSat satellite

Rossby Group
Houze receives Rossby

Mountain Wave Cloud
in the Alps

NOAA Hurricane Hunter

Flying in the eye
of Katrina 2005 


Professor Houze received his B.S. in Meteorology from Texas A&M University in 1967. He received his Master's and Ph.D. degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He joined the faculty of the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Washington in 1972. In 1988-89 he was Guest Professor in the Laboratory of Atmospheric Physics at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich.  As of 2015, Professor Houze holds an additional appointment as a Laboratory Fellow of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Washington. 


He has published about 200 research articles and has written a comprehensive book on the physics and dynamics of all types of clouds in the atmosphere. It is entitled Cloud Dynamics.


Professor Houze has received several prestigious honors and awards. Most recently he was awarded the 2014 Symons Gold Medal of the Royal Meteorological Society, the premier honor of that Society, and he delivered the Symons Lecture to the Society in 2015. In 2006, he received the American Meteorological Society's Carl-Gustaf Rossby Research Medal, which is the highest honor that Society can bestow on an atmospheric scientist. In 2002, he was designated as a “Highly Cited Researcher” by the Institute of Scientific Information (his ISI h-index is presently 61, his Google Scholar h-index is 74). In 1989 he was a co-winner (with F. Marks) of the NOAA Environmental Research Laboratories' Distinguished Authorship Award, and in 1982, he was awarded both the American Meteorological Society's Clarence Leroy Meisinger Award for his research and the Society's Editor's Award for his reviews of papers for the Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences. 


As a result of his research, Professor Houze has been honored as a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society, the Royal Meteorological Society, the American Geophysical Union, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.


Professor Houze has presented numerous special lectures such as the  Bjerknes Memorial Lecture at the American Geophysical Union's 2012 Annual Meeting, was Thompson Lecturer at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in 2006, and was Houghton Lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1996.  


At the UW Professor Houze teaches classes on cloud physics and dynamics, thermodynamics, and general meteorology. His research interests are mesoscale meteorology, radar meteorology, tropical meteorology, precipitation processes, cloud dynamics, cloud microphysics, and storm dynamics.

Professor Houze leads a research team at the UW called the Mesoscale Group. He and his group participate in international field projects and satellite programs employing weather radar and aircraft in the tropics and midlatitudes. These projects have been sponsored by NSF, NASA, DOE, and NOAA. His approach integrates observations, models, and theory. He has specialized in studying convective clouds over oceans and land, tropical cyclones, midlatitude frontal systems, and monsoons.

His first major field project was in 1974, when he took part in the historic GATE project. There he collected groundbreaking data on tropical squall lines. In 1978 he led a radar experiment to study clouds in the winter monsoon over Malaysia as part of the international Monsoon Experiment (MONEX). In 1987, he investigated the convection over the ocean north of Australia with airborne radar data in the Equatorial Mesoscale Experiment (EMEX). In 1992-1993 he participated in the tropical western Pacific TOGA COARE experiment operating out of the Solomon Islands. From October 2011-January 2012, he led a radar experiment on Addu Atoll in the Maldives as part of the Dynamics of the MJO (DYNAMO) and DOE ARM MJO Experiment (AMIE). Professor Houze is currently organizing a ground validation campaign for the newly launched Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) satellite. This project, called OLYMPEX, will take place in the Olympic Mountains of Washington State in the fall/winter of 2015-16.

Professor Houze has also worked for many years on satellite radar observations of tropical cloud systems. Since 1985, he has served on the Science Team for the U.S. (NASA)-Japan (NASDA) Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission Satellite (TRMM). Launched in 1997, TRMM was the first satellite to use an on-board radar, and it orbited over the tropics until 2014, acquiring a paradigm-changing data set on precipitating clouds in the atmosphere. He is also on the NASA Science Teams for CloudSat and GPM satellites, which are newer satellites that continue to use on-board radars to study clouds and precipitation. Using these radar-equipped satellites, he and his group have studied large and small cloud systems over all of the tropics. These studies focus on the nature of raining cloud systems over both the oceans and land masses of the tropics, and on how the Himalayan and Andes mountain ranges affect the nature of the cloud systems that occur at low latitudes. 


Another area of Professor Houze's research is understanding how mountains influence precipitating cloud systems. In the 1970s and 80s, he studied fronts passing over the Cascade Mountains in Washington. In 1999, he was a leader of the Mesoscale Alpine Programme, in which he investigated the storms that produce heavy rains and floods in the European Alps. In 2001 he returned to the Cascades in a project called IMPROVE II, which studied winter storms passing over the Oregon Cascades. He has also used satellite data and modeling to study clouds and storms near the Andes and Himalayas. Some of these studies have important practical application, especially for severe weather and floods in mountainous regions. Professor Houze's group's paper on floods in India and Pakistan in a 2011 was a cover story of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. In 2015/16 he will lead the OLYMPEX project to study fronts passing over the mountains of the Pacific Northwest.

Professor Houze and his group at the University of Washington have participated in several studies of the airborne radar data collected in research flights through hurricanes. In 2005, his Hurricane Rainband and Intensity Change Experiment (RAINEX) directed flights into Hurricanes Katrina, Ophelia, and Rita. He was interviewed by NPR and the BBC speaker about results of his RAINEX study of Hurricane Rita. Results of this study were published in Science Magazine in March 2007. In 2010 he participated in the NASA's hurricane Genesis and Rapid Intensification flight program (GRIP), using the NASA DC-8 and other instrumented aircraft. In 2012-2014, his group participated in NASA's Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel (HS3) program, which conducts flights of the NASA Global Hawk aircraft over Atlantic hurricanes. This project is historic as a transition to hurricane research from traditional aircraft such as the NOAA Hurricane Hunters to autonomous (unmanned) aircraft. The Global Hawk flies at 55,000-60,000 feet, over the tops of storms and drops soundings and makes remote measurements of the storms as directed by pilots and scientists on the ground.

Professor Houze's group at the University of Washington continues to study tropical cyclones, midlatitude fronts, ocean and land convection in the tropics, and the orographic effects of mountain ranges on all of the storms that are the atmosphere's major precipitation producers. OLYMPEX in 2015/16 will be the group's next major field effort to study the effects of mountains on clouds and precipitation.


on the

Department of Atmospheric Sciences
Room 604, ATG Bldg.
Box 351640, University of Washington
Seattle, WA 98195
Tel: 206 543-6922, Fax: 206 543-0308
email: houze(at)
Office hours: by appointment