PIMS Postdoctoral Fellow- Chandra Rajulapati: On mathematical and statistical approaches to sustainable hydrology.

By Ruth A. Situma, PIMS Program Manager

Chandra Rajulapati is a PIMS -GWF postdoctoral scholar at the university of Saskatchewan. Her research is supported by PIMS and the Global Water Futures. GWF is a pan-Canadian program with the goal of delivering risk management solutions — informed by leading-edge water science and supported by innovative decision-making tools — to manage water futures in Canada and other cold regions where global warming is changing landscapes, ecosystems, and the water environment. Chandra’s research is in every way connected to these issues. We reached out to her in Saskatoon to learn a little bit more about her current work and how it informs current climate policies. Our interview has been edited for clarity.

We are slowly inching out of the pandemic. How are you faring and what have you been up to?

I have been doing alright. Initially I had to make a couple of changes to my routine by setting a clear partition of time between research work and other works. I have been reading books and exercise on regular basis. Reading is a pleasure as well as a great stress buster to me. One of the recent books I read is “The Choice: Embrace the Possible” by Edith Eva Eger, in which she says, we can’t change what’s happening/happened, but we can choose to live at the present, an apt statement in this pandemic situation. Yoga and exercise keep me calm and are stress busters as well.

It’s great to know that you have curved up or partitioned your routine for research and for other thing. Tell us about your research- how did you get into your current area?

Hydrology deals with understanding of how water moves below and above Earth’s surface. I developed interest in hydrology during my undergrad, as it deals with one of the most important, as well as valuable resources on earth. With growing interest in fresh water sources, I have studied ground water aquifers in my masters and changes in precipitation for urban areas in my doctoral degree. After completion of a doctoral degree at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India, I joined the University of Saskatchewan in the fall of 2018 as a PIMS-GWF Postdoctoral fellow.

My research deals with understanding historical and projected changes in hydroclimatic variables like precipitation and temperature at different scales, estimating risk due to extreme events like floods, droughts and heatwaves, and developing sustainable water management systems. Under a changing climate, it is important to understand how frequently we experience extreme events along with their intensity for assessing risk, developing mitigation measures and disaster management. Given the historical evidence of high frequency extreme events around the world due to accelerating temperatures, this work helps in developing operational models for management of hydro infrastructure. It also helps in understanding the resilience of the system to climate variability and extreme weather events.

You were first author in a very interesting and informative paper- Diurnal variability of hydrological variables in urban areas. In the cities that you review, you note changes in temperatures, precipitation and precipitation events. Can you tell us a little bit more about these findings? How can this researched be used to shape climate policy in urban cities?

This was an intriguing paper to write. In this work we studied historical changes in temperature and precipitation for six cities in US and one city in India. We noted a significant increase in both maximum and minimum temperature for all cities. The rate of increase of minimum temperature was at a higher rate compared to the maximum temperature. As a result, the difference between maximum and minimum temperature reduces. Even precipitation extremes were increasing in the recent past compared to far past. With the increase in temperature, precipitation frequency and magnitude increase in most cities, up to certain temperature. The diurnal change (that is change in hourly precipitation) shows interesting results. Precipitation in the evening hours has been considerably increased in the recent past for some cities, this information helps in proactive and adaptive planning to reduce and manage the potential for flooding during peak hours of traffic. The research findings are helpful for urban planners, policy makers, stakeholders, local administrators and government bodies in changing current policies for mitigation and adaptation to climate change, strict measures in maintaining storm water infrastructure, developing sustainable communities and introducing green infrastructure in the cities.

Some results from Chandra’s research on temperature changes in urban cities. Observed yearly average surface air temperature for a) California (1948–2011); b) Chicago (1948–2011); c) Dallas (1948–2011); d) Houston (1948–2011); e) Los Angeles (1948–2011); f) New York (1948–2011) and g) Bangalore City (1969–2011). On an average, an increasing trend is observed in the surface air temperature for all the cities.

You rightly note that mathematical research is really behind a lot of the modelling that you, which informs environmental and infrastructure policy. But how can we draw more interest to the particular issue of water management and security across Canada, especially for those individuals who do not have the technical expertise that you do?

Best way to draw attention towards water management and security is through awareness. Workshops involving stakeholders, local government officials and policy makers is most beneficial in our previous projects. Also local surveys on water issues in their neighborhood, such as, flooding or water logging, condition of storm water network and interest towards sustainable practices like green infrastructure, storm water retaining techniques etc. could be gathered. As you can tell, policy is not my area of focus, but the scientific research many of us conduct is used to inform some of these policy decisions.

Chandra Rajulapati will be speaking at the PIMS Emergent Research Seminar Series, May 19, 2021 at 9:30AM Pacific. Details on her talk (Data accuracy for risk management in changing climate.) can be found here.

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The Pacific Institute for the Mathematical Sciences — a consortium of 10 universities promoting research in and application of the mathematical sciences of the highest international calibre.

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Pacific Institute for the Mathematical Sciences

Pacific Institute for the Mathematical Sciences

PIMS — A consortium of 10 universities promoting research in and application of the mathematical sciences of the highest international calibre.

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