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Predict and Prepare: Severe Weather

December 17, 2015

Extremely intense climate events have increased in frequency in the past few decades. The National Climate Assessment, commissioned by the federal government, finds that extreme weather activity has become more frequent on all levels-- whether that is intensity, duration, or amount. Research into these phenomenons has been relatively unexplored in a rigorous statistical manner, but PhD candidate Lindsey Dietz hopes to be a part of a burgeoning movement that is changing that and helping them prepare.

A Minnesota native, Lindsey grew up about 40 miles from Minneapolis in Elk River. She attended the University of Minnesota–Duluth out of high school and excelled both academically and athletically. She became a Division II All-American basketball player and earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mathematics. After graduating, she worked at US Bank as an analyst and consultant for two years before deciding to pursue her PhD. She was accepted to the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities and in her time here she has conducted research that has the potential for real-life application, focusing on modeling extreme climatic events.

Lindsey’s research focuses on two different extreme climatic events: tropical cyclones and Indian monsoons. A goal of her work on tropical cyclone modeling is to jointly predict frequency, probability of landfall, and estimate damages. She has also worked on models that predict probabilities of rare severe weather occurrences. “There are models that show the probabilities of these events. For example, when people say, ‘This is a 1 in 100 or a 1 in a 1000 year event,’ the models can show that.” she says. “The model's outcomes can provide actionable insight for city and state disaster planning.”

In her research on Indian monsoons, Lindsey’s models help find connections or correlations between different locations’ rainfall. "The models estimate the probability of rainfall exceeding a specified precipitation level,” she says. “One thing we found is these probabilities are spatially and temporally linked when​ the specified level is lower; however, this link is not seen at more extreme precipitation levels."

With her dissertation defense approaching in May, she points to her advisor, Snigdhansu Chatterjee, for doing a phenomenal job of preparing her and working with her on the research. “If I hadn’t worked with someone who has all these ideas, I wouldn’t have had as much of a leg up,” Lindsey says. “It would have been a huge struggle if I hadn’t had an advisor like him to help get me started.”

Lindsey hopes to see her research have a substantial effect in civil planning and disaster relief planning. “Severe weather has been happening pretty regularly over the last 10 years--we have these huge floods, huge fires, or hurricanes that are sweeping up the East Coast like they never used to,” she says. “My goal is risk mitigation of climate change events based on the data and appropriate statistical modeling techniques.”


This story was written by an undergraduate student account executive in CLAgency. Meet the Team.