When it hits, it becomes a blockbuster. Why?
Michaela BiasuttiResearcher at Columbia Climatology Institute Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatoryfocusing on rainfall changes across multiple time scales around the world, The effect of monsoon, and the effects of climate change.She recently joined Environmental Science and Policy Program Professor of Climatology at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. Biasutti introduced students to how the atmosphere and oceans work, their complex interactions, and how they collectively and individually affect climate. Biasutti recently discussed her professional experiences and research interests, and offered some career advice. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Can you tell me a bit about your research?
I’m particularly interested in the frequency and intensity of rainfall, what determines the timing of monsoons, when rainfall arrives somewhere and when it recedes. Of course, I’m also very interested in climate change. What would happen in a warmer world? Where do we see more dramatic changes in frequency and intensity and why? We find some interesting results that distinguish core areas of wetter regions from peripheral areas where the rainy season is likely to be shorter and more variable. If we can trust the models that make these predictions, this may have some implications for how you deal with expected changes in rainfall.
I also worked to understand the origins of drought in the Sahel region of Africa in the 1970s and 1980s. I looked specifically at how much of this is due to the large amounts of sulfate aerosols emitted by industrialized countries.When you burn fossil fuels, you not only get carbon dioxide2 From that, you also get particulate matter. What impact does this pollution have on drought in Africa?
If I’m lucky and some of the proposals we submit get funded, I’d also like to learn more about deeper past climates.
What sparked your curiosity about weather and precipitation? How did you first become interested in climate?
I started out studying physics, but as I completed my degree in elementary particles, I realized that to make progress on this frontier of research, especially as a young researcher, I had to be part of these huge collaborative groups, Each of these small groups works on something very small. I was already interested in the environment and wanted to do something with practical applications. I happened to meet the right people who guided me into climate work, and there was still room for small groups to contribute a lot.
This is a very interesting subject once you get started.At that time, in the mid-1990s, we thought Kyoto Protocol Everything is on the way and it feels like we are ready to tick the box on climate change – it will be solved. So the question is more: “Now that we can predict El Niño, we can really try to predict it on an annual time scale, or a decadal time scale. What do we know about natural variability?” Instead, climate change becomes this crisis , allowing the air to be sucked out of most other research rooms. It’s important to be part of the solution. But that wasn’t the original motivation.
Do you have any ideas on how to communicate the science behind climate change to skeptics?
From my personal experience, information alone cannot convince everyone. I think it’s important at this time to say, “We all can build a better future by doing the right things.” We can create jobs that are competitive on a global scale, we can build wind turbines and Solar panels. We can reinvest in our infrastructure. I was recently invited to speak with the Italian Minister of Environment and Energy Security at the Italian Consulate. This is a right-wing government that is dragging its feet. But even in that conversation, I got the sense that the rationale for the slow move was “we don’t want to hurt the economy,” not “the science is unreliable.” I sense the discussion has shifted.
Tell me about your teaching situation.
Professor Lamont doesn’t usually teach because most of our time is spent on research, but over the past few years I have begun Climate and Society Programme. Before that, I taught for a year at M.S. Sustainable Development Science Program. In a way, I’m looking through all the master’s programs related to climate school that address things like, “What is a natural system? How do we adapt to it? How do we limit the damage we cause?” At their core, they are very similar. program.
Do you have any personal or professional advice for current, past, or future students?
This may sound obvious, but build a network. It will give you the knowledge you need to solve complex system problems without anyone knowing everything you need to know. We need to persevere in the long run, so find ways to not lose faith. I often go back and read about the American Civil Rights Movement and its continued growth. You don’t have to do it because you want to win that battle that year. That’s how I want to live and that’s how I want to lead to the best of my ability. I try to have fun while practicing. To me, it might just be a wonder of the natural world. As much as I worry about the climate, I’m still fascinated by it and there’s a sense of discovery that still brings you joy. Learning and connecting are the most important to me.
Vanessa Lincoln is an associate in the Environmental Science and Policy Program and an alumna.