Dr. Atkinson’s main interest centers around understanding how weather affects an array of human and natural systems, in particular along coastal regions and in the marine environment, using an array of techniques including computer model analysis, work with end-users, and field instrument deployments. His region of specialization is the Arctic and BC.
A major focus concerns the “environmental forcing” of northern coastal zones; this includes wave action, storm surge, or coastal slush-ice berm phenomena. Aspects of this work required direct engagement with Indigenous communities. He has performed work to analyze extreme winds for thousands of weather stations throughout the Pacific Basin. Other efforts have focused on definitions of storm in terms of end-user needs, and work to link local-scale manifestations of weather (e.g. fog) with large-scale weather drivers. Field instrumentation has been deployed to the Bering and Chukchi Seas (wave buoy, Doppler current profilers) and to icefields in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, to measure snowpack response to weather forcing. Other research has focused on data analysis and data-preparation work (e.g. homogenization) and specialized topoclimatic air temperature modeling efforts. Many projects involve partnerships, including Geological Survey of Canada (glaciology), Agriculture and Agrifood Canada, the BC Ministry of Environment (weather drivers of pollution occurrence and their health impacts).