Research Interests

​In the last few years, I have extensively been involved in the field of inverse modelling with focus on large scale systems. My recent projects include developing common data assimilation tools for hydrological and related communities and involve several research partners within Europe. My work at KAUST as a Postdoctoral Fellow was mainly developing a real time forecasting system to monitor storm surges from hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico, while collaborating with researchers at the Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences (ICES) at the University of Texas at Austin. Another important aspect of my research is the development and application of model order reduction methods within the optimization framework by avoiding complex adjoint model derivations.

Selected Publications

  • A study of reduced-order 4DVAR with a finite element shallow water model
    M.U. Altaf, M. Ambrozic, M.F. McCabe, I. Hoteit
    International Journal for Numerical Methods in Fluids, 80, pp. 631-647, (2016)
  • Visualizing uncertainties in a storm surge ensemble data assimilation and forecasting system
    T. Hollt, M. U. Altaf, K. T. Mandli, M. Hadwiger, C. Dawson, and I. Hoteit
    Natural Hazards, Volume 77 Issue 1, 317-336, (2015)
  • A Comparison of Ensemble Kalman Filters for Storm Surge Assimilation
    M. U. Altaf, T. Butler, T. Mayo, X. Luo, C. Dawson, A. W. Heemink, and I. Hoteit
    Monthly Weather Review, Volume 142, Issue 8, 2899 - 2914, (2014)
  • A reduced adjoint approach to variational data assimilation
    M. U. Altaf, M. El-Gharamth, A. W. Heemink, I. Hoteit
    Computer Methods in Applied Mechanics, Volume 254, 1-13, (2013)
  • Data assimilation within the advanced circulation (ADCIRC) modeling framework for Hurricane storm surge forecasting
    T. Butler, M. U. Altaf, C. Dawson, I. Hoteit, X. Lou, T. L. Mayo
    Monthly Weather Review, Volume 140 Issue 7, 2215-2231, (2012)

Education Profile

  • Ph.D., Applied Mathematics, Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands, 2011
  • M.Sc., Applied Mathematics, Quaid e-Azam University, Pakistan, 1997

Professional Profile

  • 2014-Present: Research Scientist, KAUST, Saudi Arabia
  • 2012-2014: Research Associate, Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands
  • 2010-2012: Postdoctoral Fellow, KAUST, Saudi Arabia

Scientific and Professional Memberships

  • Americal Geophysical Union
  • Dutch Institute of System and Control


  • Best Poster Award, SIAM Conference on Mathematical & Computational Issues in Earth Sciences, Long Beach, USA, 2011
  • Best Poster Award at the Richard Tapia Celebration of Diversity in Computing Conference, San Francisco, USA, 2011

KAUST Affiliations

  • ​Water Desalination and Reuse Center (WDRC)
  • Division of Biological and Environmental Sciences and Engineering (BESE)​