Michelle Serino

2013 Research Experience for Undergraduates

Correlating oceanic latent heat flux anomalies with cloud fraction anomalies in the North Atlantic Basin

Michelle SerinoI had always dreamed of visiting Seattle someday, so upon receiving my acceptance to the JISAO summer program at the University of Washington, I was very excited!  Because I came from rural Millersville University in Pennsylvania, I looked forward to a completely new experience in a city campus.  As a meteorology major, I was also eager finally to learn about all those “Rainy City” rumors.

I worked with LuAnne Thompson in the Oceanography Department.  We investigated if any correlations exist between oceanic latent heat flux anomalies and cloud fraction anomalies in the North Atlantic Basin.  Much research has already been conducted on the correlations between heat fluxes and cloud fractions, such as that of Minobe et al. 2010*.  However, LuAnne and I were the first to explore correlations between the anomalies.

To begin, we used radiation data from the Objectively Analyzed air-sea Fluxes (OAFlux) project and from the Global Oceans and International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project (ISCCP).  Both of these data sets were measured by a variety of national and international satellites.  Analyzing these data required the use of MATLAB to perform functions such as smoothing and interpolation as well as graphical and statistical evaluations.  To our delight, we found that significant correlations exist between the latent heat fluxes and the high and middle cloud fractions near the Gulf Stream Current.  And there is much more exciting work to be done in the future.

For nine weeks I had opportunities to work with and meet renowned scientists from many interrelated fields.  I became familiar with MATLAB’s syntax and capabilities and I worked alongside the scientists and graduate students in a research environment.  Just as importantly, I received a priceless glimpse into the life of a graduate student, and this experience has further solidified my passion to pursue a research career.

In addition to the academic resources, I took full advantage of the countless sites this state offers.  I hiked Mt. Rainier, traveled to the tip of the Space Needle, ate at Pike Place Market, watched salmon leap upstream, attended a Mariners game, and in the process, formed lasting bonds with the other interns.  If you are still wondering about the rain, Seattle’s summer is drier than you might think!  I hope I have another chance to return, as no other city is quite like it in its weather, people, attractions, and opportunities.

*Minobe, Shoshiro, et al. "Atmospheric Response to the Gulf Stream: Seasonal Variations." Journal of climate 23.13 (2010): 3699-3719.



Michelle's research poster

Click on poster for full-size PDF