Chad Higgins

NEWAg Head, Assistant Professor

Chad Higgins
NEWAg Team Member
Gilmore Hall, Room 200
Office Phone: 

Chad founded the Nexus of Energy, Water and Agriculture Laboratory (NEWAG Lab) to study the physical, operational and geospatial tradeoffs in the energy, water food nexus in 2012 just after he joined the faculty at Oregon State University.  He holds degrees in Biological Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and Environmental Engineering, and has broad research interests that cover topics from turbulence to precision agriculture to snow science.  Using a blend of cutting edge instrumentation, simulation techniques and mathematical approaches, he seeks to understand the theoretical underpinnings of each.  He has performed field experiments in a myriad of environments, from deserts to glaciers, within the USA and internationally.  Recent work has focused on Precision Irrigation, Mountain Meteorology, Atmospheric Turbulence and Hydrology.

Chad Teaches BEE 311 Ecological Fluid Mechanics, BEE 322 Thermodynamics and Transport Processes, and BEE 361 Environmental Monitoring at the Undergraduate level.  He also teaches graduate classes on a rotating basis.  Most recently he taught a class on environmental data analysis.

Chad is also the associate Director of Water Resources Engineering at Oregon State University.  Sometimes he likes to play ‘guess the function’ and usually predicts that any effort could be completed in ‘a couple of hours’.  Come visit 200 Gilmore for a ‘science high five’.

Research Interests/Specializations: 
  • Environmental Fluid Mechanics with special interest in applications to atmospheric flows and hydrology
  • Measurement and modelling of fluxes through the soil-plant-atmosphere continuum
  • Optimum water management in agriculture
  • Spatial variability of the land surface and its effect on transport
  • Large Eddy Simulations
  • Raman Lidar (light detection and ranging) of atmospheric water vapor
  • Development of novel measurement techniques for atmospheric fluxes
Current Research: 
  • Probing the spatial characteristics of atmospheric water vapour.   Advancements in laser technology and optical detection have made high resolution Raman Lidar a reality.  Here we use high powered lasers to excite water vapour molecules in the atmosphere, these molecules then release small amounts of energy that, in turn, can be detected and used to determine the water vapour concentration in the atmosphere at high spatial (1.25m) and temporal (1s) resolution.  This high resolution information allows research into atmospheric structure that was not possible previously, and has been used to investigate some of the most fundamental assumptions made about atmospheric structure.
  • Effects of land surface Variability.  State of the art numerical modelling is used in conjunction with field experiments to determine the effects of land surface variability on fluxes through the soil-plant-atmosphere continuum.  Large Eddy Simulation (LES) is used to disentangle the complex relationships between atmospheric transport and land use, while field experimentation gives ground truth.  This interdisciplinary activity has applications in water resource management, pollutant transport, urban planning, and risk assessment.
  • Instrument development.  Instrument development plays a central role in the research effort.  Currently, a path averaged water vapour sensor is under development.  This instrument will ultimately be used to determine the average evaporation from a single agricultural field, and will provide information critical to irrigation scheduling