Professor Hamish McGowan


School of the Environment
Faculty of Science
+61 7 336 56651


Professor Hamish McGowan is a Geographer and Professor of Atmospheric and Climate Sciences with research interests in: Local and regional scale windfields in complex terrain, Severe weather (thunderstorms, bushfire meteorology), Earth surface – atmosphere energy and trace gas exchanges, Aeolian dust transport (meteorological controls on wind erosion, dust transport and the impacts on regional and global climate dynamics), Palaeoclimate reconstructions, Mountain meteorology and hydroclimate. He leads the Atmospheric Observations Research Group

Hamish received his PhD from the University of Canterbury in 1995. His research interests are in the fields of:

  • Meteorological hazards
  • Earth surface - atmosphere interactions and energetics
  • The Weather and Climates of Alpine and Mountainous Regions
  • Long Range Dust Transport and Climate Impacts
  • Climate dynamics
  • Palaeoclimate reconstruction

Research Interests

  • Earth surface – atmosphere energetics
    This field of research investigates Earth surface – atmosphere interactions over complex terrain in marine, coastal, mountain and desert environments. Collectively, this research aims to shed new light on thermodynamic behaviour of the lower atmosphere under different weather patterns, teleconnection variability, and the effects of land use heterogeneity. The research has involved significant collaborations with the Centre for Atmospheric Research, University of Canterbury, NZ; the Byrd Polar Research Centre, Ohio State University; Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, USA and the Geological Survey of Israel. At UQ collaboration has been with the School of Civil Engineering and Advanced Water Management Centre. Notable research in this field has resulted in fundamental advances in understanding of Earth-surface – atmosphere interactions in the McMurdo Dry Valleys (MDV), Antarctica including identification of foehn winds as the cause of air temperature increases > 50°C in 3 to 4 hours. The origin of these winds had remained a mystery since Scott’s exploration of the MDVs almost 100 years ago. On the Great Barrier Reef, Australia, a multi-year investigation that I initiated and led quantified for the first time by direct measurement energy and trace gas fluxes over coral reefs using eddy covariance. Results include first direct measurements of reef-water-atmosphere energy exchanges including during a coral bleaching event, and the first direct measurements of CO2 exchanges. This research has been published widely in journals of the American Meteorological Society and the American Geophysical Union [see:]. Research in this thematic area is expanding further with research initiatives investigating the atmospheric boundary layer energetics of severe thunderstorms and bushfires in eastern Australia. New projects in this area are also seeking to quantify the energy balance of the Australian seasonal snow pack and energy and trace gas exchanges over coral reefs in the Red Sea.
  • Climate Variability
    Research I lead under this theme focuses on identifying and unpacking the relevant drivers of climate variability and their associated scales of effect, which are used to develop new climate forecasting tools. I have led research that has improved accuracy and confidence of predictions of future climate which has shown for the first time terrestrial impacts in Australia of Northern Hemisphere climate reversals, and confirmed the causes of inter-annual to inter-centennial drought in eastern Australia. Research in this theme area using peat cores from the remote Kimberley of northwest Australia showed El Niño as the likely cause of catastrophe change in Aboriginal culture during the past 6000 years and confirmed that breakdown of deep water circulation in the North Atlantic under a warming world would likely result in severe and devastating drought in eastern Australia. Collaborations in this area have been with researchers in Australia (Griffith University; NSW Office of Environment and Heritage; CSIRO; University of Wollongong; Kimberley Foundation of Australia), and with international researcher partners at the Planetary Science Institute, USA; Oxford of University; Trinity College, Dublin and United States Geological Survey. A very significant applied aspect of this research theme over the past 15 years has been on identifying cause(s) of variability in the hydrometeorology of south-eastern Australia and the application of this knowledge to enhance water management in the catchments of the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Scheme, where releases of water underwrite > $3 billion of agricultural product annually. Research in this area has grown significantly and has led to the development of new interannual hydrometeorological forecasting tools. This research involves substantial collaboration with UWA-Perth including co-supervision of PhD candidates.
  • Severe Weather
    This field of research is focused on thunderstorm and bushfire meteorology in eastern Australia - an ideal natural thunderstorm hotspot, and the bushfire prone states of Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. It involves substantial collaborations with research partners including the Bureau of Meteorology, NSW Rural Fire Service, Victoria Country Fire Authority and Queensland Fire and Emergency Services. Our team’s severe weather research is distinguished internationally by the innovative application of our portable dual polarised x-band Doppler radar (UQ-XPOL) as highlighted in the invited article by Soderholm et al (2016) [] published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. Japanese Radar manufacture Furuno is supporting our group’s R&D in this area providing technical support and software upgrades to enable novel radar scanning patterns to observe storm and smoke plume dynamics. We believe this work will have far-reaching application as we develop mobile radar specifically designed for real-time wildfire observation and nowcasting of pyro-convective plume dynamics and atmosphere-fire ground coupling.


  • Doctor of Philosophy, University of Canterbury
  • Masters (Research) of Science, University of Canterbury
  • Bachelor of Science, University of Canterbury


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Book Chapter

  • Sturman, Andrew P. and McGowan, Hamish A. (2013). Climate. The Pacific Islands: Environment and Society. Revised Edition. (pp. 1-18) edited by Moshe Rapaport. Honolulu, HI, USA: University of Hawaiʻi Press.

  • Marx, Samuel K. and McGowan, Hamish A. (2010). Long-distance transport of urban and industrial metals and their incorporation into the environment: Sources, transport pathways and historical trends. Urban airborne particulate matter: Origin, chemistry, fate and health impacts. (pp. 103-124) edited by Fathi Zereini and Clare L. S. Wiseman. Germany: Springer Verlag. doi: 10.1007/978-3-642-12278-1_6

  • McGowan, H. A. (2001). Aeolian processes and landforms. The physical environment: a New Zealand perspective. (pp. xx-xx) edited by Andrew Sturman and Rachel Spronken-Smith. New York, USA: Oxford University Press.

  • Sturman, Andrew P. and McGowan, Hamish A. (1999). Climate. The Pacific islands : environment and society. (pp. 3-18) edited by Moshe Rapaport. Hawaii, Honolulu: Bess Press.

Journal Article

Conference Publication

Edited Outputs

Other Outputs

Grants (Administered at UQ)

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

    Other advisors:

Completed Supervision