Kelsey DiPietro Makes Computer Models of Climate Change
Updated: Dec 18, 2021
Meet Kelsey DiPietro
Sandia National Laboratories
This Project: Making Computer Models of Rain and Clouds
We depend on rain to grow our food and quench our thirst. All land plants and animals need rain to survive. Too little water and our crops die. Our forests burn. If we get too much rain the rivers flood. Everything is washed away. Kelsey DiPietro works to predict rainfall, but not the weather. Weather tells us what is likely to happen tomorrow or next week. But Kelsey uses math to make models that predict how much rain is coming next year. And the following year. And the year after that. Where will it fall? She is helping us understand how climate change will affect rainfall. How will it affect the world?
“You have to just chip away at a big problem, one piece at a time.”
Climate change is a complex problem. Scientists are collecting tons of data to understand it. Kelsey programs a super computer to analyze some of that data. Then she must explain what she learns to others. For example, we know that clouds affect how much sun hits a solar panel. We know that clouds affect the wind. Kelsey used data about clouds to build a model of how they move. Now engineers and scientists use Kelsey’s cloud models to design and build better solar panels and wind turbines.
Kelsey always loved doing math with her sisters on their grandfather’s chalkboard. But in high school, other kids thought girls shouldn’t like math and science. Kelsey didn’t let that stop her. She didn’t stop when she had trouble with geometry. Biology was a disaster. Her brain just wasn’t wired that way. That’s okay. She says, “Don’t think you have to be good at all science and math to become a scientist. Find what you love.” She’s glad she didn’t let other people change her. Now she works on fun, interesting projects with fun, interesting people.
Kelsey loves her job. She gets to use math that is thousands of years old to help solve today’s problems. But slowing climate change is a long-term project. Kelsey says, “You have to just chip away at a big problem, one piece at a time.” She tries to make better and better models, so we can build better and better fixes for our planet.
Kelsey DiPietro Profile Photo: Courtesy of Kelsey DiPietro
NOAA Satellite image of clouds over Texas: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Image of Girl and Math Chalkboard: Creative Commons
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