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Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences

Earth, Air, & Water

Merlin Lawson


Professor Emeritus, Dean Emeritus


Ph.D., 1973, Clark


Climate change and variability, Remote sensing


Contact Information


214 Bessey Hall
402-472-2663
mlawson1@unl.edu

I have returned to the professorate to resume my teaching and research after 18 years in administration. One of my newly acquired responsibilities is chief undergraduate adviser to meteorology/climatology majors. My teaching responsibilities include the introductory course in Weather and Climate and advanced courses in climate change.

Prior to my stint with administration, my research emphasized the reconstruction of past climates, dendroclimatology (the use of tree-rings in studying past climates), and the analysis of seasonal climate forecasts. Formerly, my graduate students worked on a variety of research interests, including: energy balance theory using a global climate model; rock glacier mechanics and chronologies; simulation of dry spell frequencies; empirically derived probability estimates of drought parameters; climatic reconstructions derived from tree-ring characteristics, and ice core data in southern Greenland.

My interests continue along these paths, but an important new direction that my research now pursues is the investigation of the impact of global warming on the coral community. This research is in collaboration with colleagues at the Center for Advanced Land Management Information Technologies (CALMIT), under the direction of Dr. Donald Rundquist. Newly acquired analytical tools to assist with this research include in-situ spectroscopic analysis of coral (Roatan, Honduras), satellite monitoring of coral community health, and bathymetric mapping and the detection and classification of coral reef and associated benthic habitats, using high-resolution airborne and satellite imagery. Future research interests have brought me full-circle to my earlier work on precipitation parameters such as seasonal, interannual and mulit-decadal variability in the central United States. Finally, my interest in impacts associated with recent global warming trends has led me and my graduate student, Ryan Rughe, to investigate changes in winter snowfall/precipitation ratios in the northern circumpolar region.


Selected Publications



  • Merlin P. Lawson, Randall Cerveny and Cary Mock, 2010, Zebulon Pike: Great American Explorer or Climate Spy?, Weathewise, 63 (1), 26-33.

  • Rundquist, D., A. Gitelson, M. Lawson, G. Keydan, B. Leavitt, R. Perk, J. Keck, D. Mishra, and S. Narumalani, 2009, Proximal sensing of coral features: spectral characterization of sidastrea siderea, GIScience and Remote Sensing, 46(2), 139-160.

  • Mishra, D., Narumalani, S., Rundquist, D., and Lawson, M., 2007, Enhancing the detection and classification of coral reef and associated benthic habitats: A hyperspectral remote sensing approach, Journal of Geophysical Research, 112, C08014, doi:10.1029/2006JC003892.

  • Lawson, M., Leavitt, B., Rundquist, D., Emanuel, N., Perk, R., Keck, J., and Hauschild, M., 2006, Compensating for irradiance fluxes when measuring the spectral reflectance of corals in situ, GIScience & Remote Sensing, 43(2), 181-197.

  • Mishra, D., Narumalani, S., Rundquist, D. and Lawson, M., 2006, Benthic Habitat Mapping in Tropical Marine Environments Using QuickBird Multispectral Data, Photogrammetric Engineering and Remote Sensing, 72 (9), 1037-1048.

  • Mishra, D. R., Narumalani, S., Bahl, R., Rundquist, D., and Lawson, M. P., 2005, Predicting the percent cover of corals: an in situ remote sensing approach, Geophysical Research Letters, 33, L06603, doi:10.1029/2005GL025056.

  • Mishra, D. R., Narumalani, S., Rundquist, D. and Lawson, M., 2005, High resolution ocean color remote sensing of benthic habitats: A case study at the Roatan Island, Honduras, IEEE Transactions in Geosciences and Remote Sensing, 43(7), 1592-1604.