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Dr Abnil Prasad


Abhnil Prasad graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Physics with a gold medal from The University of South Pacific (Fiji) in 2006. After completing a Master of Science in Physics from Jawaharlal Nehru University (India) in 2008, he commenced his Doctor of Philosophy studies in the Department of Physics at the University of Auckland. His PhD research was supervised by Professor Roger Davies, and was supported by a Scholarship from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and UniServices. Abhnil investigated the decadal fluctuations in tropical thin cirrus clouds after detection with an oblique stereo technique using the MISR instrument on NASA’s Terra satellite.

Thin, high cirrus clouds warm the climate system due to their strong greenhouse effect and low albedo. These clouds are often missed by nadir-viewing satellites due to low contrast in the images. However, they are widespread features of the tropical atmosphere at altitudes of 12–14 km. Abhnil used the oblique cameras on MISR to improve detection of thin cirrus clouds in the tropics. The additional cirrus detected by MISR was useful in understanding its climatology and distribution in the tropics. Current trends suggest a consistent reduction in cirrus cloud heights allowing the earth to cool more efficiently. This result agreed with trends of thick cloud heights from MISR. His results showed the net effect of thin and thick clouds may potentially slow the rate of global warming if the current trends continue into subsequent decades.

During his doctoral studies Abhnil developed a strong interest in satellite remote sensing of clouds. He is currently employed as a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of New South Wales, developing algorithms for detecting cloud motion vectors using geostationary satellites to improve short-term solar irradiance forecasts in Australia.

Later he joined the Physical Meteorology and Atmospheric Climate Dynamics Group led by Prof. Steven Sherwood at the Climate Change Research Centre. Currently, he investigates triggering of convection in the tropics using models and observations.