Telling my story (in 3 minutes)

On April 2, 2018, Sudarshana was awarded the second position in CCEE Departmental 3 Minute Thesis (3MT) competition.  Full news on the event is here. 

Check out her presentation and full transcript below.

3 MT presentation

How do we prepare for a world where extremes are the new normal? –  Where extreme weather events, like hurricanes and droughts, are occurring more frequently.  Where we see city of Cape Town counting down its days till it becomes world’s first major city to go completely water less. Within next 30 years, 70 percent of U.S. counties could face water shortage because of climate change. Thus, understanding water resources system behavior under severe climate conditions is imperative for our survival.  

And for that engineers need reliable climate forecasts. Depending on the operational decisions they want to make, they need these forecasts over different time span – which is called forecast lead time. Now the scientific tools at hand are excellent for short range forecast – like cyclones and hurricanes. They also perform well for seasonal prediction – like what the average temperature or rainfall might be over next 3 – 6 months. In between these two, for sub-seasonal time scale – spanning 2 – 12 weeks – current forecasting techniques are not at all reliable.  This is because we are not yet able to understand those complex global climate conditions that are dominant at this time scale.

And this is where my research comes in. I am trying to bridge this gap by using a statistical model that looks at probability of getting different amounts of water in a region depending on various combinations of climate conditions that play a key role at 2 – 12 weeks’ timescale.  By considering this, I am trying to identify those complex climate processes and most importantly their interaction – which cause sub-seasonal weather prediction so challenging. Using this knowledge, one can comment on which climate conditions needs to be addressed for which month and for what time scale. 

This study will be highly beneficial for various sectors where operational decisions must be taken over 2 -12 weeks window – like agricultural water supply, water allocation during drought, flood control, plan for spikes in energy demand, preventing spread of an epidemic and so on. Better management plans in these sectors directly translates into better preparedness for severe conditions under climate change. Thus, through my research, I strongly believe, I am helping the world to be prepared for a future when ‘extremes’ are likely to become the new normal.


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