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|Georgia Institute of Technology graduate student Agudelo wins DRI's Peter B. Wagner Memorial Award|
Research on the relationship between the air and ocean in the Indo-Pacific warm pool to help improve modeling and forecasting predictions
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 31, 2007
Reno, Nev. -- A Georgia Institute of Technology graduate student, Paula Agudelo, has won the Desert Research Institute's Peter B. Wagner Memorial Award for Women in Atmospheric Sciences for her study of tropical climate and dynamics and the role of ocean-atmosphere coupling in the development of deep convection and cyclones. Agudelo received the Wagner Award's $1,500 prize at DRI in Reno, following a presentation of her winning paper, entitled "Transition between suppressed and active phases of intraseasonal oscillations in the Indo-Pacific warm pool."
The Peter B. Wagner Award, given annually, was established in 1998 by Nevada Gaming Commission member and former Nevada Lt. Gov. Sue Wagner in memory of her late husband, Peter, a DRI scientist who died in the 1980 crash of a DRI research aircraft. This national award is intended to encourage women graduate students in the atmospheric sciences.
Agudelo's winning paper recently was published in the Journal of Climate, a publication of the American Meteorological Society. Her study targets the interaction between the atmosphere and the ocean, specifically in the Indo-Pacific warm pool, a body of water that spans the western waters of the equatorial Pacific to the eastern Indian Ocean. The origin of the oscillating precipitation anomaly remains something of a mystery to scientists and modeling the events has proved difficult. The intraseasonal oscillation (ISO), or the variability that occurs in this warm pool every 30-60 days, has global effects: it has been linked to the Asian-Australian monsoon system, development of persistent North Pacific circulation anomalies during North Hemisphere winter and rainfall variability along the western United States, over Mexico and South America as well as to wintertime circulation anomalies over the Pacific-South American sector.
Among all the impacts of the ISO, perhaps the most frequent and important in terms of the amount of people directly affected is the modulation of the summer Southeast Asian monsoon, which generates wet and dry spells. The effects can be catastrophic to agriculture, and a better understanding of ISO can help farmers plan for planting crops. Today, numerical climate models are unable to accurately reproduce this particular oscillation. Simultaneously, prediction and forecasting of the phenomenon and its effects in different regions faces numerous problems. Through diagnostic and numerical evaluation of one specific phase of the ISO, the transition from suppressed to active convection, Agudelo identifies this as a key development in the oscillation. Study results demonstrated the importance of this phase in the development of deep convection and the inability of current models to simulate it. The study also presents some possible reasons for the deficiency of the models in reproducing the fundamental features of the oscillation.
BACKGROUND OF THE INDO-PACIFIC WARM POOL: Tropical convection, especially over this area, plays a significant role in global redistribution of heat, moisture and momentum. This region has not only the warmest sea surface temperature in the open oceans, but also the largest annual rainfall and latent heat release in the atmosphere, driving global-scale atmospheric circulations.
Agudelo is a Ph.D. student at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta and plans to graduate this summer.
"I was very curious about how understanding the ISO can be applied to the real needs of people globally," Agudelo said. "Hopefully we can use this knowledge to help forecast the lifecycle of this oscillation to get better at modeling and predicting these events before they occur."
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