UA Home | SBS College | School of Geography & Development

  Andrew Comrie
    Andrew C. Comrie

Recent & Ongoing Research Projects



Brief CV



Lab Group




PLEASE NOTE: Unfortunately, at this time I am unable to take on new students or postdocs -- my administrative commitments as Provost mean that I do not have sufficient time or flexibility to provide the appropriate level of mentoring. The information below on applying to the lab remains for historic reasons only.

My lab members and I are always involved in a variety of funded and unfunded research projects relating to climate and environmental topics. Many of these are carried out in collaboration with colleagues on campus and elsewhere, and I must give credit to the truly wonderful group of students and postdocs with whom I continue to have the privilege of working. Below are brief summaries of ongoing or recently completed projects that have reached a stage where there is something for us to show on a web page. See my online bio/CV for a more standard list of research publications and abstracts.

Many of my research projects have some broader crosscutting themes in common, reflecting my roots as a geographer interested in geographic and applied aspects of atmospheric environmental issues.

  • Climate and Health/Air Quality
    • I have broad applied climatology interests. A major current research interest is to better understand and predict relationships between climate and human health, especially certain environmentally-mediated infectious diseases. I have also been involved with air pollution research since my earliest days in graduate school, which similarly connects several aspects of our atmospheric environment with climate processes and human interactions.
  • Regional and Local Climate Variability
    • A number of projects examine the nature and causes of climatic variability in and around the Southwest USA and neighboring regions. Naturally, many aspects of my research touch upon our distinctive summer monsoon circulation, which has many complex controls, and on our winter climate variability which has strong links to ENSO & PDO.
  • Methods and Techniques
    • Much of my climatological research utilizes multivariate statistics and related numerical tools to better diagnose and predict climate and environmental links. I have extensive experience in the techniques of synoptic climatology, and I also use spatial modeling approaches, dynamic simulation, and other advanced methods.
Applying to join the lab
Prospective graduate students interested in working with me and joining our lab should study this and the other pages on this site carefully. Please pay close attention to the broad research emphases outlined above, as well as to the specific nature of the projects below and on the lab group page. Following that, should you have specific questions please feel free to contact me. I am unlikely to respond to emails that do not show due diligence to the above, and note therefore that I do not take on students focusing primarily on GIS, remote sensing and geospatial techniques as our lab does not concentrate on those topics.

Students working with me will develop their own research topic and specialty focus, as the examples below illustrate.
The core research question almost always focuses on understanding the specific links between the atmosphere and a natural or social phenomenon. Typically, student projects include quantitative analysis of climate and environmental data, often integrated into a social or interdisciplinary context. This reflects the strong emphasis of our program on working across the discipline and between disciplines, something we enjoy making as pervasive as we can while emphasizing fundamentals.

Because admission and funding decisions are made at the program level, I am not able to say whether or not you will be accepted into a graduate program, or if there will be funding support. For that, you will need to apply, following the application procedures for the program.

Unfortunately, at this time I am unable to take on new students or postdocs -- my administrative commitments as Provost mean that I do not have sufficient time or flexibility to provide the appropriate level of mentoring. The information above on applying to the lab remains for historic reasons only. .

Dynamic Mosquito Simulation Model (DyMSiM)
  • DyMSiM website
  • Dynamic simulation modeling of mosquito populations driven by climate data
  • Enables estimation of mosquito populations for locations with daily temperature and precipitation
  • Developed to overcome inherent limitations of statistical models
  • With graduate student Cory Morin
  • Funded by NOAA/CLIMAS and NSF
Figure: Schematic of DyMSiM (click to enlarge)

Valley Fever (Coccidioidomycosis)
  • Caused by the soil-dwelling fungi Coccidioides spp.
  • Cocci is endemic to arid regions in the western hemisphere
  • Incidence is linked in part to seasonal precipitation and temperature cycles
  • Project description
  • With graduate students Korine Kolivras & James Tamerius, and postdoc Mary Glueck
  • Funded by NOAA/CLIMAS and by EPA/STAR
Figure: Valley Fever endemic region in North America (click to enlarge)

Mosquito Disease Vector Mapping
  • Modeling the ecological niche of West Nile virus vector mosquito habitat
  • Project description
  • With graduate student Chris Uejio
  • Funded by NOAA/CLIMAS and by NSF
Figure: Potential habitat of Culex quinquefasciatus (click to enlarge)

Drought in the Southwest
  • Analysis and explanation of drought patterns over time and space aimed at decision-makers
  • Project description
  • With graduate student Jenna McPhee Meyers
Figure: Water-year precipitation for Arizona climate divisions (click for interactive map)

Downscaling Seasonal Climate Predictions
  • Extends NWS/CPC downscaling methods for large-scale probabilistic climate forecasts of temperature and precipitation to the local station level 
  • In collaboration with NOAA Climate Services Division and NWS Western Region Headquarters
  • Jenna McPhee Meyers, graduate student
  • Funded in part by NOAA/CLIMAS 
Figure: Example of long-lead seasonal temperature forecast downscaled to Tucson (click to enlarge)

Trends in Southwest Urban Air Quality
  • What are the underlying trends in air quality with climate variability removed?
  • Project description
  • Erika Wise, graduate student
  • Funded by NOAA/CLIMAS
Figure: Four examples of long-term ozone trends

System for Management, Observation and GIS Modeling of Air Pollution (SMOGMAP)
  • Development of an extensive geo-referenced emissions inventory for the Tucson region (anthropogenic VOCs, NOx, biogenic emissions, etc.)
  • Statistical/empirical spatial modeling of ozone and other pollutants
  • Created as a planning tool for assessment/evaluation of air pollution emissions and air quality mapping
  • With graduate student Jeremy Diem
  • Funded by PAG 
Figures: 1995-97 Ozone "design" values; Annual NOx emissions (click to enlarge)

Western Climate Mapping Initiative (WestMap)
  • Fine-scale climate data and user analysis tools, with educational resources
  • Project website
  • With postdoc Mary Glueck and collaborators at WRCC
  • Funded by NOAA/TRACS 
Figure: Screenshot of WestMap interactive mapping tool

Fine-Scale Climate Mapping
Figure: Example showing modeled data, regular interpolation, and anomalies from average precipitation for 1975 (click to enlarge)

Sub-Regional Winter Precipitation Anomalies
  • Why do certain small areas of the Southwest sometimes experience winter precipitation patterns opposite to their neighbors?
  • Development of a regionalization and climate diagnostics for key sub-regions
  • With graduate student James Tamerius
  • Funded by NOAA/CLIMAS
  • Figure: The least-correlated adjacent precipitation sub-regions in the Southwest US (click to enlarge)

Reconstructing Past Southwest Climate
  • Assess the utility of linear regression and neural networks for developing climate reconstructions
  • Summarize past drought with respect to conditions during the 20th century, and downscale paleoclimate information
  • Project description
  • Online interactive tool
  • With postdoc Teresa Cavazos and LTRR colleagues
  • Funded by NOAA/CLIMAS
Figure: Linear regression vs. neural network reconstructions

Climate of the Southwest
  • A "Southwest Climate 101" overview and review for a wide range of users
  • Online Slideshow
  • With graduate students Greg Packin & Kurt Angersbach, and LTRR colleagues
  • Funded by NOAA/CLIMAS
Figure: First slide (click for slideshow)

Precipitation Variability in Cabeza Prieta NWR and SW Arizona
  • Analyze the nature and causes of seasonal precipitation variability in this remote part of the Southwest, where there are almost no routine climate records
  • Used data from a network of storage gauges (low-tech precip gauges that need only be checked infrequently)
Figure: Example of modeled winter precipitation anomalies (click to enlarge)

Real-Time Air Quality Maps
  • Develop algorithms suitable for real-time mapping of ozone with only 5-10 sampling sites across the domain
  • Models had to work with minimal inputs, but still had to produce realistic ozone maps
  • Part of a bigger project for public, educational and health outreach in collaboration with Pima DEQ, PAG and UA health colleagues
  • With graduate student Joe Abraham
  • See the Tucson realtime data and maps at
  • Funded by the EPA EMPACT program
Figure: Example of the ozone maps (Click to animate)

Variability of the North American Monsoon
  • Questions about the monsoon are tantalizing and endless...
    • How does it work?
    • What are the causes of monsoon variability?
    • Are there seasonal predictors of the monsoon?
    • What determines spatial precipitation variability?
  • Monsoon projects have included a major review, a regionalization and variability study, and collaboration on moisture sources identified via isotopes (with LTRR colleagues)
  • A further project examined SST-related controls using neural network techniques
  • With graduate student Erik Glenn and postdoc Teresa Cavazos
  • Funded by NOAA/CLIMAS
Figures: Monsoon region based on precipitation variability; correlations between winter SST and AZ monsoon precipitation (click to enlarge)

Tucson Heat Island
  • Quantify urban warming in Tucson
  • Map examples of temperature patterns over the city and examine related aspects of the local scale atmospheric circulation
  • Integrate research into an introductory undergraduate climatology class via active learning

Figures: Newspaper graphic on the heat island project; Trends in annual minimum temperature for Tucson versus surrounding rural sites (click to enlarge)

Human Environment Research Observatory (HERO)
  • Established of the Southwest and Mexico Border Region HERO (SOMBRHERO) site, to evaluate how  changing land useand climate variation/change affect the vulnerabilities of people and places
  • Develop protocols for long-term monitoring of human-environment relationships in MA, PA, KS and AZ/Mexico
  • The HERO consortium webpage
  • With postdoc Cindy Sorrensen
  • Funded by NSF GRS
Figure: SOMBRHERO study area, with focus on Ambos Nogales & surrounding region (click to enlarge)

Climatological Return Periods for Dust Events in Arizona
  • Climatological analysis of wind and precipitation conditions associated with exceedances of EPA standards for particulate matter <10 microns (PM10 )
  • Flags PM10 exceedances caused by exceptional natural conditions, such as high winds and drought
  • Identified natural exceptional events (defined as a recurrence interval of 1 in 1000 days, or the 99.9th percentile of observations), either for wind conditions alone, or for winds >= 97th percentile of observations occurring jointly with short-or-long-term precipitation conditions <= 4th percentile of observations
  • With postdoc Gregg Garfin
  • Funded by ADEQ Air Quality Division

Figure: Example of 4th percentile return period for 60-day precip totals across Arizona (click to enlarge)

Wildfire and Climate
  • Understanding links between climate variability and wildfire
  • Collaboration with the WALTER Wildfire Alternatives project
  • Interactive online climate-wildfire tool
  • With graduate student Mike Crimmins

Figure: Example of model results for area burned by wildfire (click to enlarge)