Seminar Abstract

DATE:  Friday, March 27, 2020
TIME:  2:30 pm (refreshments at 2:15 pm)
PLACE: ENR building, room 223
       14 College Farm Road, New Brunswick, NJ

Marie-Claire ten Veldhuis
Delft University of Technology

When comes the rain again? A story of cloud tops, plastic and mini-meters, understanding climate variability to support adaptive response

Among the consequences of population growth, rising individual wealth and uncontrolled climate change are the hazards of more frequent and intense floods and droughts across the world. Changing temperatures and rainfall patterns progressively affect where populations and crops can thrive, which feeds back into the changing ecosystems. While predicting climatic hazards is more important than ever, hydrometeorological models routinely fail to predict rainfall and hydrological response. Particularly problematic is the scarcity of ground observations at small scales in farming and undeveloped regions. In this seminar I will address two questions: .How can we obtain reliable weather information in data-scarce environments such as Sub-Sahara Africa?. And .What are the critical space- and time-scales that enable us to predict response to climate variables at the local scales of farms and urban neighbourhoods?.

Satellite-based rainfall estimates or those retrieved from Numerical Weather Predictions match ground observations at monthly scales at best and fail to capture day-to-day or even weekly variability of rainfall and drought. Our findings from rainfall observations in Africa show that precipitation regimes can reliably identified from cloud-top-temperatures and can be used to develop regime-specific rainfall estimates that are more reliable and with shorter latency better serve the information need of farmers and cities. I will show how citizen observations have helped to quantify the impact of plastic accumulation on urban flood risk. Local observations in farm fields using recent advances in autonomous distributed sensor networks and Distributed Temperature Sensing enable us to observe about sub-meter scale variability in the water and heat balance. From clouds to crop fields to lichens, this story will take us on a journey across scales to better understand how field conditions shape hydrological response at larger scale.