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Kate Marvel    

Climate Scientist & Author

Kate Marvel is a climate scientist and science writer based in New York City. She is an Associate Research Scientist at NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Columbia Engineering's Department of Applied Physics and Mathematics, and writes regularly for Scientific American in her column "Hot Planet."

Marvel's current research centers on climate modeling to better predict how much the Earth's temperature will rise in the future. This work led Marvel to investigate the effects of cloud cover on modeling rising temperatures, which has proved an important variable in climate models. Clouds can play a double-edged role in mitigating or amplifying the rate of global warming. On one hand, clouds reflect solar energy back into space, serving to cool the planet; on the other, clouds can trap the planet's heat and radiate back onto Earth's surface. While computer models have difficulty simulating the changing patterns of cloud cover, improved satellite data can begin to fill in the gaps.

Marvel has also documented shifting patterns of soil moisture from samples taken around the world, combining them with computer models and archives of tree rings, to model the effects of greenhouse gas production on patterns of global drought. In this study, which was published in the journal Nature in May 2019, Marvel and her colleagues were able to distinguish the contribution of humans from the effects of natural variation of weather and climate. They found three distinct phases of drought in the data: a clear human fingerprint on levels of drought in the first half of the 20th century, followed by a decrease in drought from 1950 to 1975, followed by a final rise in levels of drought in the 1980s and beyond. The mid-century decrease in drought correlated with the rise in aerosol emissions, which contribute to rising levels of smog that may have reflected and blocked sunlight from reaching the Earth, altering patterns of warming. The subsequent rise of drought correlated with the decrease in global air pollution, which occurred in the 1970s and 1980s due to the passage of legislation like the United States Clean Air Act, suggesting that aerosol pollution may have had a moderating effect on drought.

Marvel has also studied practical limitations in renewable energy as a Postdoctoral Scholar at the Carnegie Institution for Science. At the 2017 TED conference, following computer theorist Danny Hillis's talk proposing geoengineering strategies to mitigate global warming, Marvel was brought on stage to share why she believes geoengineering may cause more harm than good in the long run.


Jeff Goodell in Conversation With Climate Scientist Kate Marvel ...
Kate Marvel, an associate research scientist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Columbia University. " ...
Meet 15 Women Leading the Fight Against Climate Change
Kate Marvel is one of the 15 Women Leading the Fight Against Climate Change
Her Message About Climate Change: It’s Not Too Late
Kate Marvel is committed to spreading the word about climate science. Her TED Talk on the subject drew more than a million viewers.

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