Climate Dynamics doctoral student Keri Kodama successfully defended her doctoral dissertation during the Fall 2019 semester. Here she is seen receiving a ceremonial lei from her thesis advisor, AOES Assistant Professor Natalie Burls, after the defense. The lei was sent from Hawaii by Keri’s mother.
Kodama’s doctoral work examined the role of energetics in the evolution of El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO). The force of the wind blowing on the ocean injects kinetic energy into equatorial surface waters in the Pacific. This energy exchange is part of the interaction which also drags deeper, cold water to the surface, making the eastern equatorial Pacific cooler than other parts of the equator. Weakening (“El Nino”) or strengthening (“La Nina”) of this upwelling changes weather patterns around the world, so climate scientists would like to improve predictions of either event. Keri showed from past observations of the equatorial Pacific that measurements of energy input can be used to help predict ENSO swings. Moreover she found that an adjustment to the calculation of the changes in energy input “more accurately captures the energetics contribution related to strong westerly wind events that are frequently crucial to the development of strong El Nino.”