SAFL's Ardeshir Ebtehaj Joins NASA Science Team

Ardeshir Ebtehaj, SAFL Faculty and Assistant Professor of Civil, Environmental, and Geo- Engineering, has recently joined NASA’s Precipitation Measurement Missions (PMM) Science Team, an elite group of researchers using satellites to study rain and snowfall around the globe. As a PMM Team Member, Professor Ebtehaj has received 450k to fund a project titled “Extending Forecast Skills of Global Precipitation: A Deep Learning Framework for IMERG Data Assimilation over Wasserstein Space.”

At its core, this project will focus on better understanding cloud microphysical processes – how clouds lead to precipitation – while creating a more accurate short-term predictive model for mesoscale convective systems (MCS) by integrating global satellite data through artificial neural networks and modern theories of machine learning. Long-lasting MCSs are responsible for most severe weather and extreme floods. Over the United States, intense MCSs account for over 50% of warm season precipitation in the Great Plains and over 40% of cold season precipitation in the southeast. “In many cases, satellite observations cannot be assimilated into the Earth system models because the large differences between observations and model forecasts. I’d like to use satellite data and neural networks to better understand and predict MCSs.” Professor Ebtehaj wants his work on the PMM Science Team to have an impact.

“My hope is that we can reduce uncertainties in prediction of extreme precipitation,” he says. “The hope is to improve forecasting of floods, snowstorms and extreme rainstorms to reduce fatalities and loss of property.”

While Professor Ebtehaj is just now joining the PMM Science Team, he has long been connected to their work. Former SAFL Director Efi Foufoula-Georgiou was part of the Team; she was also Professor Ebtehaj’s PhD advisor, and a lot of his academic success came from the PMM Science Team. “I have everything in my career from the support I have received from the PMM Science Team: my PhD and my research on precipitation,” Professor Ebtehaj says. Today, he is excited to join this elite group of scientists as they continue to conduct critical work on understanding global variability of precipitation. “The PMM Team has started the entire direction of measuring precipitation from space,” Professor Ebtehaj explains. “I wanted to stay close [to the Team] and understand the upcoming challenges. I also think that I have new ideas which can evolve estimation of precipitation from space to the next level.”

In Fall 2022, Professor Ebtehaj will officially embark on his project for the Team. For more on NASA’s PMM Science Team, follow this link.