2011 JISAO Research Internship
Atmosphere and ocean variables along the Washington coast
Before I tell you what I did, I must begin by saying how a series of event led me to find out about this program. Last summer, I did an internship in the NWS Office in Memphis. Friends of mine encouraged me to present my research at the AMS Annual Convention due to be held in Seattle in January of 2011. I missed the deadline to submit my research, and I was thinking of not going. A last minute decision made me rethink, so I opted to go as a spectator rather than to present. It was there in one of the activities where I met one of the JISAO scientists along with JISAO Director, Thomas Ackerman, and found out about the program. I decided to apply and voila.
I was assigned to work with Dr. Nick Bond (aka. the Washington State Climatologist) at the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL, for short). We wanted to find a relation between ocean and atmospheric conditions to find out how future upwelling events in the Washington coast will be like. For the first part of the internship, I learned how to program with Ferret (kinda like PMEL’s version of Matlab) in order to carve out a big chunk of data from the files we recollected, in addition to working with Mac and Linux. This chunk runs along the Washington coast, in a region from 46-49°N, and 124-126°W, and it was done for atmospheric and ocean variables such as temperature, currents, and winds. Then, each chunk was averaged so that one value came up per month. The timeline of said data extends from as far back as 1850s up to 2000 for the hindcast (recreation of past conditions) and 2001 to 2100 (and 2300 in some cases) in the forecast (recreation of possible future conditions). I bring this up since we’ll also compare data from the hindcasts with the forecast and see just how these variables change from the past to the future. For the sake of simplifying the process, we only went as far back as 1950 and up to 2100.
With data in my hard drive, I then proceed to do two things: validate the data of the hindcast by comparing to a reanalysis (observations) and then plotting the hindcast and forecast together. This is what te latter days of my experience were spent doing: plots that reflected the changes from hindcasts and forecasts. First, scatter plots that show how close the hindcasts were to the reanalysis we done comparing ocean temperature and air temperature, zonal (u) winds and meridional (v) winds, and ocean temperature vs v winds. We had two of each: one for winter (composed of the months December, January, February, and March) and one for summer (composed of June, July, August, and September).
Long story short: all models agreed that a modest increase of 1.4 degrees Celsius for ocean surface temperature and 2 degrees Celsius would most likely happen. However, models tended to disagree with winds with some forecasting slight to no changes at all. This was important because we thought an increase in winds would be a result of increases in temperature as well.
Now it wasn’t all work and no play. I had 8 weekends to goof off and explore Seattle. For most of my internship, I spent time with Angel Adames, one of the past JISAO interns who came from the University of Puerto Rico as well and was finishing his first year as a grad student. On the 4th of July weekend, we took a trip to Vancouver (neither of us had been to Canada) and it was a great experience. We also went to different parts of Seattle and he introduced me to members of the faculty of atmospheric science and his grad class. I also spent a lot of time with fellow JISAO interns Vivian Underhill and Jake Zaragoza since we were the only three interns living in campus.
One very memorable experience for me was when JISAO director, Dr. Ackerman, and his wife took us to Mt. Rainier. Being a student from Puerto Rico, an island in the tropics, it’s no secret that we don’t get snow so I was very excited to touch snow for the very first time. We hiked through a couple of trails, taking in the mountain air and beautiful landscape the Cascades have to offer. I did get to make a snowball but didn’t get the chance to throw it (as my mentor would say: it’s part of the experience).
Words cannot express how grateful I am of being selected as an intern this summer. It was an amazing experience, not only because of a new place, but because it helped me confirm more than ever that climate is what I’d like to study. More than ever, I am certain that I’ll be applying to become a member of the University of Washington’s freshman graduate in 2013 to continue my career as a meteorologist. Thanks to JISAO, its staff, Washington Sea Grant, PMEL, among others for helping me in this step towards becoming a professional. I had a great time.
Click on poster for full-size image [PDF]