I am an atmospheric scientist studying climate variability, dynamics, and change. My passion for the atmosphere and our planet stems from my faith and the desire to be a good steward of our Common Home.
My atmospheric passion began in Dallas, Texas, where I caught the “weather bug.” I would spend summers at home watching the Weather Channel during Hurricane Season, and was fascinated by spaghetti models (hurricane track forecasts). Additionally, the ever-changing weather in Texas intrigued me: sunshine in the morning, Tornado Warnings, hail, and thunderstorms in the evening. I would call my parents who would be at work to be careful during rush hour as a squall line was approaching (as if they knew what that meant), or communicate the latest forecasts of an approaching tropical system with extended family in Puerto Rico. My desire at that young age was to make sure my friends, neighbors, and loved ones were safe. This desire that seeks to care and love others is an integral value I carry with me when communicating atmospheric science to public circles.
Some of the most formative years of my life were at Texas A&M University, where I received my B.Sc. in Meteorology. My childhood dream had always been to become a weather broadcaster, however, I quickly realized the weather enterprise had much more to offer. The Department of Atmospheric Sciences at A&M provided me the opportunity to take my understanding and knowledge of the atmosphere outside of the classroom in various ways. I was weather radio broadcasting for KAMU, storm chasing with the Texas Aggie Storm Chasers, a member of the weather balloon launch team, and served as president in the Texas A&M Student Chapter of the American Meteorology Society (TAMSCAMS). I also took the initiative to develop “Weather Updates” a nightly SMS forecast sent to peers for the coming day and also provided notifications of any inclement or severe weather approaching. Outside of the program, I was involved at the St. Mary’s Catholic Center, where I saw the beauty of my faith through fellowship, service, and stewardship. I saw my friends being able to channel their faith values and mission through their profession: ministry, health care, counseling, etc. The formulation of my faith with my passion of the atmosphere led me to ask myself, How can I serve my faith through weather?
I would answer that question during my junior year while working at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) through the Significant Opportunities in Atmospheric Research and Science (SOARS) Program. This summer research program provides historically underrepresented undergraduate-to-graduate students the opportunity to gain experience performing research, to communicate science across various audiences, to network, and to mentor. I was fortunate to work with Justin Small from NCAR, and Young-Oh Kwon and Hyodae Seo from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) working on North Atlantic climate dynamics, specifically the relationship between the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation and North Atlantic Atmospheric Blocking.
Conversing with Rebecca Haacker, the (at that time) director of SOARS, changed my life. She was the first person I ever talked to in the profession about my passion in integrating faith and atmospheric science, as communicating faith is historically taboo in scientific circles. She was thrilled and explained to me the opportunities that faith can bring out of science: findings that have tangible impacts on communities, social science, field campaigns that interact with communities, etc. I saw how I could use the values and mission of my faith (in)directly in climate science when she introduced me to the works of Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist who gives talks on the bridging of climate science and faith and Christine Wiedinmyer’s work on poor air quality via kitchen cooking stoves in West Africa. Coincidentally, the following summer, Pope Francis released Laudato Si, an encyclical on climate change and the moral responsibility to take care of our common home. Energized, I read the document from beginning to end while working at the Earth Systems Research Laboratory (ESRL) under the direction of Sandy Starkweather through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Hollings Scholarship Program. The research at ESRL focused on the Greenland Ice Sheet and the value of radiosonde data in the region for future climate and model diagnostic studies. This work would become my Thesis at Texas A&M University under the direction of Dr. Oliver Frauenfeld.
My undergraduate experience in the weather and climate community inspired me to further my education and pursue graduate school. I pursued my M.A., M.Ph., and Ph.D in Earth and Environmental Sciences at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO) and International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI) at Columbia University. I worked with Lisa Goddard, the (former) director of IRI, Yochanan Kushnir, and Mingfang Ting, all climate scientists who are well-known for their contributions to global and regional climate dynamics, future climate, and consequently its socieo-humanitarian impacts. My research focused on the characteristics, hydroclimate dynamics, variability, and prediction of the Caribbean Rainfall Cycle, which is an important piece of the socieoeconomic stability of the Caribbean due to the region’s high-reliance on rainfall and its susceptibility to hydro-meteorological disasters and future climate. My scientific contributions have provided an improved and comprehensive understanding of the regional hydroclimate of the Caribbean, and the urgency and potential life-threatening impacts of climate change and future weather extremes in the region. I have presented my findings at the Central American and Caribbean workshop on predicting the Caribbean rainfall cycle, where I worked with weather services across the region on utilizing IRI’s subseasonal-to-seasonal (S2S) rainfall forecast products and on understanding my contributions regarding the region’s hydroclimate. After years of challenging research and witnessing my own family in Puerto Rico experiencing power outages and the loss of running water for nearly 200 days from Hurricane Maria, I better understood the urgency of climate change, its impacts towards my family and the communities I work with, and the professional and moral responsibility to take action.
Despite my eagerness and excitement to work on climate science and communication with faith publics, I felt alone. None of the professional Earth Science societies had a formalized space for religious/spiritual scientists and professionals, thus I was limited in finding exposure and guidance as to how to do the type of work I was interested in doing. Furthermore, several social science studies and polling found several religious/spiritual communities to be apathetic or skeptical to climate change and environmental issues, citing a lack of religious/spiritual leaders discussing the issues, a lack of faith circles personally knowing scientists, and the unfortunate politicization of climate change. Seeing an untapped area that would be beneficial for both the earth science and faith, I have taken several initiatives. I developed and chair the Interfaith Committee at the American Meteorological Society (AMS), which seeks to develop community and fellowship amongst members of any spiritual background and provide a means to link the AMS community with faith leaders and faith-environmental based ministries/organizations. I have worked with ASEZ-WAO, GreenFaith, the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado, ILIFF School of Theology, and local places of worship on climate action and justice.
Today, I work at NCAR through the Advanced Study Placement (ASP) Program. I work with John Fasullo, Isla Simpon, and Kris Karnauskas on future climate in the Caribbean, specifically how the rainfall cycle will change under climate change. I also am working with Katy Putsavage, the AMS Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), on building relationships between NCAR and faith communities, as well as developing connections, conversations, and ideas within the AMS Committee on Spirituality, Multifaith Outreach, and Science (COSMOS). I serve as a board member of the AMS Board of Representation, Accessibility, Inclusion, and Diversity (BRAID), which works to achieve full and equitable participation amongst the diversity of the AMS community through advocacy, networking, workshops, leadership within the AMS, and service. I was also a board member of the AMS Climate Variability and Change (CVC) Committee, where I worked on DEI initiatives within CVC.