Sciences and Exploration Directorate

Stephen Nicholls



Org Code: 612

Mail Code: 612
Greenbelt, MD 20771



Post-Doctoral Research Associate

Joint Center for Earth Systems Technology/University of Maryland Baltimore County - NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

March 2016 - Present

  • Developed a Python-based algorithm and software framework for automatically detecting and characterizating properties of Saharan-like, dry, well-mixed layers over North Africa.
  • Investigated viability of regional climate models for decadal-scale applications and its capabilities of helping diagnose change in water resources over High Mountain Asia at 4-km resolution. 
  • Application of high-resolution Weather Research and Forecasting model (WRF) to investigate ground clutter region of Global Precipitation Mission (GPM) satellite overpasses, ways estimate data in these regions, and address hydrometeor particle drift into the vertical column during the IPHEx and OLYMPEX field campaigns.

Post-Doctoral Researcher

NASA Posdoctoral Program (NPP) - NASA-Goddard, Greenbelt, MD

March 2013 - February 2016

• Studied potential impact of future climate change on the wet season precipitation characteristics of the Central Andes.
• Evaluated the effectiveness of a coupled ocean-atmosphere mesoscale modeling system in simulating South American wet season dynamics.
• Evaluated the capability of the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) to detect Saharan air layers over Northern Africa.

Graduate Assistant

Rutgers University - New Brunswick, NJ

September 2008 - October 2012

• Investigated the impact of model version, radio occultation assimilation, microphysics parameterizations, and ocean-atmosphere coupling on Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model forecasts of intense, mid-latitude winter cyclones.

Graduate Assistant

The State University of New York, University at Albany - Albany, NY

September 2006 - August 2008

• Quantified the pre-storm environment of intense organized convection in West Africa using satellite, ground, and model reanalysis data.

Meteorological Consultant

Avenge Inc. - Dulles, VA

January 2006 - August 2006

• Compared prognostic weather model forecast accuracy of US Army’s Meteorological Measuring Set – Profiler (MMS-P) system to existing Joint Air Force-Army Weather Information Network (JAAWIN) system for artillery guidance applications.


Ph.D. in Atmospheric Science, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ – 2012
M.S. in Atmospheric Science, The State University of New York, University at Albany, Albany, NY – 2008
B.S. in Meteorology, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA – 2005

Professional Societies

American Meteorological Society


2005 - Present

American Geophysical Union


2012 - Present

European Geophysical Union


2016 - Present


  • 2017 Group Achievement Award by NASA (NASA Adminstration)
  • 2016 Outstanding Performance Outreach by Earth Science Division-Atmospheres at NASA GSFC (Code 610)
  • 2015 Exceptional Scientific Achievement by Mesoscale Processes Laboratory at NASA GSFC (Code 612)

Special Experience

Extensive expertise with ocean and atmosphere numerical prediction models, proficient in multiple scientific programming languages, and experienced with analyzing large space-based and in-situ datasets in the GIS environment. Models used and adapted for weather and regional climate modeling include the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model, Regional Ocean Modelling System (ROMS), the Coupled-Ocean-Atmosphere-Wave-Sedimentation Transport (COAWST) modeling system, and Hybrid Single Particle Lagrangian Integrated Trajectory (HYSPLIT) Model. Programming languages applied in my research include: Python, Matlab, IDL, Fortran, BASH and C-shell.



Nicholls, S. D., S. G. Decker, W.-K. Tao, et al. S. E. Lang, J. J. Shi, and K. I. Mohr. 2017. Influence of bulk microphysics schemes upon Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) version 3.6.1 nor'easter simulations Geoscientific Model Development 10 (2): 1033-1049 [10.5194/gmd-10-1033-2017]

Nicholls, S., and S. G. Decker. 2015. Impact of coupling an ocean model to WRF nor’easter simulations Monthly Weather Review 143 (12): 4997–5016 [10.1175/mwr-d-15-0017.1]

Wang, Z., D. Wu, X. Song, X. Chen, and S. Nicholls. 2012. Sun-Moon gravitation-induced wave characteristics and climate variation Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres 117 (D7): [10.1029/2011jd016967]

Nicholls, S., and K. I. Mohr. 2010. An analysis of the environments of intense convective systems in West Africa in 2003 Monthly Weather Review 138 (10): 3721-3739 [10.1175/2010MWR3321.1]

Nicholls, S. D., and G. S. Young. 2007. Dendritic Patterns in Tropical Cumulus: An Observational Analysis Monthly Weather Review 135 (5): 1994-2005 [10.1175/mwr3379.1]