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Kelsey DiPietro Makes Computer Models of Climate Change

Updated: Dec 18, 2021

Meet Kelsey DiPietro

Computational Scientist

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.

Girl working math problem on chalkboard
It's okay for girls to like math!

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.

Photo Credits

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


Read these books to learn more . . .


Some of the most renowned climate activists are children and teens. This important guide enlightens kids about why climate change is real, why it’s serious, what’s causing it, and how we can fix it. It explains why grownups aren’t doing enough, why one group of people alone can’t solve it, and what the roadblocks are, from wealth disparity to our dependence on air travel. Using brief, focused text, every colorfully illustrated page presents the debate surrounding the crucial issues; dialogue balloons, bursts, and problem boxes help make the climate crisis more understandable to young people so they can become problem solvers and leaders in creating a better world.


by Sheena Vaidyanathan

Creative Coding in Python teaches the fundamentals of computer programming and demonstrates how to code 30+ fun, creative projects using Python, a free, intuitive, open-source programming language. Computer science educator Sheena Vaidyanathan helps kids understand the fundamental ideas of computer programming and the process of computational thinking using illustrations, flowcharts, and pseudocode, then shows how to apply those essentials to code exciting projects in Python.

  • Chatbots: Discover variables, strings, integers, and more to design conversational programs.

  • Geometric art: Use turtle graphics to create original masterpieces.

  • Interactive fiction: Explore booleans and conditionals to invent "create your own adventure" games.

  • Dice games: Reuse code to devise games of chance.

  • Arcade games and apps: Understand GUI (graphical user interfaces) and create your own arcade games and apps.

What's next? Look at exciting ways to use your powerful new skills and expand your knowledge of coding in Python.


by Reshma Suajani

Since 2012, the organization Girls Who Code has taught computing skills to and inspired over 40,000 girls across America. Now its founder, and author Brave Not Perfect, Reshma Saujani, wants to inspire you to be a girl who codes! Bursting with dynamic artwork, down-to-earth explanations of coding principles, and real-life stories of girls and women working at places like Pixar and NASA, this graphically animated book shows what a huge role computer science plays in our lives and how much fun it can be. No matter your interest—sports, the arts, baking, student government, social justice—coding can help you do what you love and make your dreams come true. Whether you’re a girl who’s never coded before, a girl who codes, or a parent raising one, this entertaining book, printed in bold two-color and featuring art on every page, will have you itching to create your own apps, games, and robots to make the world a better place.


. . . and visit these fun websites.


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