Updates for the climate from the School of Environment coming soon

Alexandra Mosquera Netzkarsch/Contributing Writer

It is time to talk about the climate again, and to be specific, about the natural climate variability involving the persistence of droughts in southern United States.

In an article by contributing writer Alexandra Mosquera talks about the School of Env. upcoming updates for the climate. Robert Burgman, an assistant professor at the School of Environment at FIU, will be presenting his research about the droughts and how they affect the agriculture, livestock and economics of this country. It will take place on Oct. 23 from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Deering Estate at Cutler.

Burgman started his current research in 2010, funded by a 2010 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration award, with the help of  Ben Kirtman, a professor at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science in the University of Miami, and Youkyoung Jang, post doctoral research associate at FIU, this research focuses on the influence of natural changes in ocean temperatures on severe and persistent drought over the southern United States. Burgman’s interest in the interaction between the oceans and the atmosphere began with the large El Nino event of 1997.

Students and staff of all majors and fields are welcomed to attend this event. Burgman is a motivated and enthusiastic professor who will present the research he and his team have conducted to explain how the drought is affecting agriculture, livestock and economics in the United States.

This research about the persistent drought in the south of the United States took three years to conclude. According to Burgman, the change of the climate is a topic we should care about, as its process keeps repeating itself. Because we might see this happening again in a few decades, we have better chances to prepare ourselves. This process of repetition can be traced back to the 1800s, such as in the 1850s when an extreme drought occurred in central United States. In the 1950s, many people moved to the center of the United States and were unfortunately unprepared.

Meteorological drought deals with changes, such as reductions in precipitation. “For much of the United States, we measure changes in the seasonal, annual or decadal precipitation with respect to the expected value based on the observed record,” said Burgman.“The ocean plays a role in these changes by affecting changes in the atmosphere, which delivers rain to the interior of the country.”

The research about this and other topics regarding the natural climate variability is wide open to graduate students and focuses mainly on regional research compared to broader research. At this moment two graduate students, Peter Washam,  geoscience major who did research on the variations in El Nino and the Southern Oscillation relevant to North American drought, and Heather Vasquez, atmospheric science major, are working with Burgman and he welcomes any student with an interest in this subject and also offers to help students who are undecided with their choice of specific field in environmental studies to find out if this might be their future path.

Elizabeth Whitman is a second year PhD student in marine biology under Michael Heithaus, professor for the School of Environment, Arts and Sciences at Biscayne Bay Campus. Her work focuses on the habitat use and ecosystem role of sea turtles in coastal marine systems.

“This kind of research interests me, both as a scientist and as someone who relies on agriculture for my food supply,” said Whitman. “Since climate change is so hotly debated in politics, it is important for everybody, especially young voters, to educate themselves on all climate related topics so that future voting and policy will be based on scientific findings and not opinions. I also believe that students who attend this event will benefit from hearing about the interdisciplinary nature of this type of research.”


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