Professor Hamish McGowan


School of Earth and Environmental Sciences
Faculty of Science
+61 7 336 56651


Dr Hamish McGowan is a Geographer with research interests in: Local and Regional Scale Windfields (Atmospheric boundary layer energetics in complex terrain), Water (sea and lake) breeze circulations, Fohn winds, Severe weather (meteorological hazards), and Aeolian Dust Transport (Meteorological controls on wind erosion and dust transport, The role of atmospheric dust in local, regional and global climate dynamics; Palaeoclimate reconstruction using aeolian landforms and deposits).

Hamish McGowan 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 land surface – atmosphere interactions over complex terrain in coastal, mountain and desert environments. Collectively, this research aims to shed new light on thermodynamic behavior 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 and the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, USA. 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, 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. 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 in journals of the American Meteorological Society and the American Geophysical Union publication Geophysical Research Letters. Research in this thematic area is expanding further with new 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 the surface energy balance of continental (USA) snow packs associated with surface hoar formation.
  • Climate Variability
    Research I lead under this theme focuses on unpacking the relevant drivers of climate variability and their associated scales of effects which can be used to develop new climate forecasting tools. I have led research in this area 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), 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 10 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, while research is currently underway to develop the first snowmelt model for the Australian Alps. This research involves substantial collaboration with UWA-Perth including co-supervision of PhD candidates.
  • Severe Weather
    This is a new field of research which I’m developing in response to strong student interest in severe weather – in particular thunderstorm and bushfire meteorology. The research is based in eastern Australia making use of the ideal natural thunderstorm hotspot of southeast Queensland, and the bushfire prone states of NSW and Victoria. It is supported by research partners the Bureau of Meteorology, NSW Rural Fire Service, Victoria Country Fire Authority and Queensland Fire and Emergency Services. The severe weather research is distinguished internationally by the novel use of our group’s portable dual polarised x-band 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 international application as we develop mobile radar specifically designed for real-time wildfire observation and nowcasting of pyro-convective plume dynamics and atmosphere-ground coupling in fire grounds.


  • BSc, University of Canterbury
  • MSc, University of Canterbury
  • Doctor of Philosophy, 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.

  • 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

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

Completed Supervision