Carnegie Mellon University

Tania Lopez-Cantu

October 16, 2019

Lopez-Cantu Uses NCAR Supercomputer to Assess Climate Impact on Infrastructure

PhD candidate Tania Lopez-Cantu is working on research to analyze potential changes in rainfall extremes at high spatial and temporal resolution for the United States. Her work is investigating how these changes impact local infrastructure systems.

Lopez-Cantu began her research distilling output from climate models that solve large and short scale climate processes. These take place on the Earth’s atmosphere and interact with the land surface and oceans. Her work is dependent upon many elements—including having the required computational power to analyze output from what she refers to as “complex and gigantic models.”

She also requires long-term historical climate statistics to draw clear and data-driven conclusions. “Part of my research focuses on the last link of the chain, which is how climate change impacts human systems. That requires an understanding of each of the previous steps that generated the climate projections in the first place,” she says.

Lopez-Cantu was honored to be chosen as an UCAR Next Generation Fellow this past summer, allowing her to intern at the Capacity Center for Weather and Climate Extremes (C3WE). The UCAR fellowship is awarded to just three students per year in the field of atmospheric sciences and related fields. She worked within the Mesoscale and Microscale Meteorology Laboratory at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado.

Alongside climate scientists that focus on different aspects of climate modeling, Lopez-Cantu focused on a project showing differences between future rainfall extremes. She utilized data sets that provide publicly-accessible future climate projections. “Numerous studies have used datasets to investigate climate change impacts to infrastructure. But they do not account for potential differences in the datasets,” she states.

Lopez-Cantu collected a large amount of data—for the time period between 1950 until 2100—and ran statistical models on a supercomputer. Lopez-Cantu appreciated having access to the NCAR supercomputer located in Cheyenne, WY during her internship. She found that the experience helped her to build business connections and personal friendships. “I had the great opportunity to become closer to the other fellows, which improved my ability to communicate my research to a non-expert audience.” She also became more confident in her public speaking, paper writing, and research communication.

Lopez-Cantu adds that she was excited to showcase her research to a very large and recognized scientific community during her internship—experience that will be extremely helpful as she advances in her academic career.

And she says that she’s grateful to have experienced a summer in Boulder—allowing her to reflect on where she hopes to take her career. “It had a huge impact on the way I personally conduct research. It taught me to keep pushing my limits beyond my own comfort zone by focusing on a single aspect that I want to improve.”