Graduate Award for Excellence to Climate Dynamics PhD

Xiaoqin Yan with AOES department chair Ed Schneider and dissertation advisor Tim DelSole

Xiaoqin Yan with AOES department chair Ed Schneider and dissertation advisor Tim DelSole.

Graduating Climate Dynamics PhD Xiaoqin Yan is one of two COS students chosen to receive the Dean’s Graduate Award for Excellence, which comes with a $1000 scholarship. Her dissertation, under the guidance of AOES professor Tim DelSole, is “A Systematic Framework for Improving Estimates of Anthropogenic Aerosol Cooling”.

Dr. Yan’s thesis attempts to answer the most outstanding question in climate change research: how much will the earth warm in response to increasing greenhouse gas concentrations? State-of-the-art climate models produce a range of answers to this question. Xiaoqin’s thesis project was to constrain each model’s sensitivity to greenhouse gases using past observational data. The biggest challenge with this approach is to account for the cooling effect of aerosol emissions from human activities which have partly “masked” greenhouse warming. Xiaoqin improved upon previous estimates by using optimal filtering techniques and developing a new statistical framework for rapidly exploring variable combinations.

Xiaoqin Yan grew up in a small town in landlocked Sichuan province in southwest China. A two-day’s journey to the coast brought her to Ocean University of China, where she majored in atmospheric science. She then earned an MS at University of Northern British Columbia, where she corresponded with Dr. DelSole about his statistical techniques for measuring changes in the climate. Upon graduation, she will be starting a postdoctoral fellowship at NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Lab, which is on the campus of Princeton University.

Temperature patterns associated with the most detectable anomaly due to aerosols (left) and greenhouse gas forcing without aerosols (right), from Yan dissertation fig. 2.4.