Deeksha Rastogi: Modeling climate extremes for community impact

An international problem like climate change needs solutions that cross boundaries, both on maps and among disciplines. Oak Ridge National Laboratory computational scientist Deeksha Rastogi embodies that approach. She partners with colleagues in many fields, using high-performance computing to understand the human impacts of climate change.

During almost a decade of work at ORNL, Rastogi has used earth system modeling and scientific data analysis to project how climate change is likely to affect electricity demand, hydroelectric power generation, critical infrastructure and human health. Her focus is often climate extremes.

Rastogi’s results can be used to help understand how climate change is likely to impact marginalized communities and vulnerable ecosystems, as well as to inform strategies for reducing those impacts.

“I see myself as a scientist who bridges the gap between the scale at which climate scientists work, and the scale at which human system impacts are felt,” said Rastogi of the lab’s Computational Science and Engineering Division. “I think it’s important to make these connections.”

Climate scientists often use models with a coarse spatial resolution, or large scale, of at least 100 to 150 kilometers (60 to 95 miles). That’s helpful for broad national and international policymaking. But it’s not sufficient for investigating regional and local impacts, such as how climate change could increase heat stress in a specific low-income neighborhood or affect hydroelectric power generated in a particular river system.

Rastogi applies computational methods to model current and future climate impacts at a scale as fine as 4 kilometers (2.5 miles). This is often the scale at which individuals and governments make choices about where to live, what infrastructure to build and what measures will help create resilient communities.