CEE Seminar: Harnessing Big Data to Rethink Heterogeneity in Global Hydrology

Engineering Hall 2430 Colloquia Room
Nathaniel Chaney, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Research Associate
Princeton University

Abstract: Spatial heterogeneity plays a critical role in the terrestrial water cycle over a range of temporal and spatial scales. As such, it can have a profound impact on land-atmosphere interactions, food security, water management and biodiversity. Although the importance of heterogeneity is clear, its role in the Earth system remains poorly understood. In this presentation, I will show how the existing petabytes of global environmental data, high-performance computing, machine learning and recent advances in hydrologic theory are enabling a path to address this longstanding challenge in global hydrology.

To illustrate how these tools are advancing our understanding of spatial heterogeneity in the terrestrial water cycle, I will introduce and explore the GFDL LM4-HB land model using a test domain in Southeastern California. This state-of-the-art model harnesses existing high-resolution environmental datasets of the physical environment (topography, soils, land cover and climate) via hierarchical multivariate clustering to effectively and efficiently characterize the observed heterogeneity over land.

I will then present and analyze global offline and online long-term simulations using LM4-HB to explore the impact of the robust representation of land heterogeneity on the global water, energy and carbon cycles. I will conclude by discussing future directions of this work and its potentially important implications for Earth system modeling, numerical weather forecasting, climate prediction, drought and flood monitoring, and precision agriculture.

Bio: Nathaniel Chaney got his undergraduate degree in atmospheric sciences and applied mathematics at U.C. Berkeley. For his graduate studies he moved to Princeton University, where he completed a Ph.D. in civil and environmental engineering under the supervision of Eric Wood. Currently he has a dual appointment as a postdoctoral research associate in atmospheric and oceanic sciences at Princeton University and a visiting research scientist at the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory.