EAPS student, Qin Jiang, awarded NASA FINESST fellowship for work with tornadoes and their environments in a changing climate
Qin Jiang was awarded a NASA FINESST fellowship for 2021. The Future Investigators in NASA Earth and Space Science and Technology (FINESST) Program provides research grants to graduate students who are designing and performing research projects relevant to interests of the NASA Science Mission Directorate (SMD) in Earth Sciences. Jiang is a Ph.D. student in Purdue University Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences (EAPS).
Jiang, who considers himself a stormchaser and has studied tornadoes up close, proposed research with a goal of understanding how changing environmental conditions, including atmospheric conditions associated with climate change and land surfaces, may help explain a recently-observed eastward shift in tornado activity over North America.
“Recent studies have illustrated the maximum tornado frequency has been shifting from the traditional ‘tornado alley’, the Great Plains, to the Southeast United States,” says Jiang. “While the favorable environments for tornadoes are still unclear and hence are very hard to predict, the current shifting tendency did offer a great opportunity to identify the key environmental factors. We seek to address those key factors by quantifying the potential change in environmental conditions through various observations and reanalysis datasets, and then using high-resolution simulations to illustrate their impacts on the dynamics of tornadic storms. Outcomes from the project would provide a thorough understanding of changes in environments and associated storm-scale physical mechanisms of tornadic storms in response to present changes in climate, which will aid our understanding and prediction capability of severe weather events in a future climate.”
Jiang earned his master’s degree from Sun Yat-sen University in China and then worked as a research associate at Shanghai Meteorological Service. While there, he worked on developing the operational model of Regional High-Resolution Numerical Weather Prediction. He then came to Purdue to pursue his Ph.D. where he is advised by Dr. Daniel Dawson, Assistant Professor of Purdue EAPS.
“My academic and working experience raised my interest in high resolution simulation of severe weather,” says Jiang. “After several field trips, I realize the accuracy of numerical prediction are more than research outcomes but also save people’s lives. Studying in virtual simulation and then reflecting on real world hence became my career’s passion. Dan’s research as modeler and stormchaser perfectly match my interest.”
For future students thinking of pursuing a FINESST fellowship, Jiang has some advice. “The documents in FINESST’s NSPIRES page lists all of the requirements and needs to be carefully studied throughout the application. More significantly, the expected achievements must match at least one of NASA Strategic Goals and Objectives. The significance and innovation of research targets would hence raise reviewers’ interest. I also obtained lots of good advice from previous applicants; the proper usage of datasets from NASA are always preferred. One of the challenges was the selection and interpretation of the datasets. Since data are theoretically never enough to address all the questions, we needed to carefully demonstrate how each dataset and method are applicable to the proposed work. Making a balance between big scope of targets and detailed processes is challenging in this short proposal but essential.”
Written by: Cheryl Pierce